Over 500 leaders attended the Fresh Expressions Conference in Reston, Va., March 15-17, 2018. A Fresh Expressions model of ministry is aimed at bringing the Gospel to unchurched and de-churched people who are uncomfortable with visiting traditional modes of church.
The exploration of the Fresh Expressions model of ministry is an initiative of the Office of the General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA, in fulfillment of one of our ministry priorities – to lead our family into new church growth, evangelism and creative service. Over ten percent of those attending the conference were American Baptists from eight regions, many of whom received a Palmer Grant for the purpose of the exploration.
Conference events highlighted testimonies, forums and workshops aimed at inspiring attendees to imagine Fresh Expressions in their communities. Inspiring testimonies came from leaders who are practitioners of Fresh Expressions of ministry in their neighborhoods. Some attendees were brought to joyful tears as they heard of the ways in which unchurched people were impacted with the Gospel. One of the most surprising comments that was shared repeatedly was that a fresh expression of ministry does not take a lot of money to accomplish. A fresh expression does, however, take passion and vision for the lost.
In response to what she experienced, Lori Jennings, a lay leader from GraceCrossing in Phoenixville, PA shared, “The Fresh Expressions Conference was a place that I felt I was surrounded by people that understood me and had the same heart as I do to reach those far from God. Even having that heart, I didn’t know what to do with this passion. I was able to sit through workshops that gave real life, tangible ways to make a difference. It was freeing.” Lori had started a fresh expression of ministry in her church, but didn’t know what to call it or where to find support. The conference and the support of her fellow American Baptists gave her hope and inspiration.
Pastor Isabel Rivera of First Spanish-American Baptist, Nashua, New Hampshire, attended the sessions designed for Spanish speaking leaders. Pastor Isabel is leading a fresh expression in her neighborhood, and she too was struggling for support. She said, “I met lots of people and they were all feeling just like me!” Fresh Expressions national director, Dr. Chris Backert, told us that some of the most exciting new fresh expressions of ministry are occurring in the Latin American communities.
Several of the regions who explored Fresh Expressions will be hosting Vision Days where a Pioneer leader and coach will help them explore the ministry concepts.
To Explore Fresh Expressions: www.freshexpressionsus.org
Fresh Expressions Reflections by American Baptist Executive Ministers
The Steeple to Street conference was energizing! As an executive minister I found the cross currents of denomination, age, gender, race, and ethnicity enlivening. It reminded me of how expansive is Christ’s Kingdom and the “Kingdom” keeps breaking in!
-Rev. Dale Edwards, ABC of Vermont and New Hampshire
Fresh Expressions gives existing churches and groups of churches a method for discovering new ways to express Christ in our changing context. This is a gift to the entire Church.
-Rev. Dr. Robert Cochran, D.C. Baptist Convention
The Fresh Expressions National Gathering provided an excellent overview of what the Fresh Expressions movement is all about. Without a doubt we are living in a new mission era. Embracing this reality leads to a quest for new approaches in church planting, leadership development and evangelistic outreach. These critical topics, and more, were part of the conversations that unfolded through the worship experiences, forums and workshops offered at this conference. This was a wonderfully designed event, enriching in a multitude of ways. I’m grateful that our team was able to participate.
-Rev. Dr. Charles Revis, Mission Northwest
The whole event was wonderful. A number of thoughts keep flowing through my mind that were brought up at the conference. 1. When we think of a church, we think of people coming to it. When we think of a mission, we think of people going out from it. I am starting to think of all of our churches as missions, and all of their people as missionaries. 2. Another comment that keeps me thinking is this one, “we are not planting churches, but we are planting the Gospel”. What I loved about the conference is that the plantings of Fresh Expressions is something that every church can be involved in, and the financial cost would be minimal. 3. The final thing that I heard over and over again was the dependence on the Holy Spirit from beginning to end. Great, but a little scary for those who like to be in control.
-Rev. Paul Gibson, ABC of The Great Rivers Region
The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey is located at the intersection of several major global American cities: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, DC. If the church is to remain vigorously present and relevant in its communities, it needs to have the capacity to reach a new generation of peoples with the gospel but whose language and hearts were not cradled in established, traditional churches – and who will never go to those churches. Fresh Expressions is one of the movements in this new mandate from whom ABCNJ wants to hear and learn. The “Steeple to Street” conference in Reston, VA was an excellent beginning.
-Rev. Dr. Elmo Familiaran, ABC New Jersey (Interim)
View a Video from Next Gen Church (New Jersey) that was featured at the Fresh Expressions Conference: