I'm doing a 'mission-shaped church' module at college this semester - not a bad title for a baptist theological college module I thought, seeing as MSC was an anglican report.
anyway, the whole mission-shaped church/fresh expressions stuff is something that has been on my mind for a long time. when I first started thinking that God might be calling me into ministry I thought that I would probably go for something like OPM (ordained pioneer minister) or some such thing, where your ministry is not necessarily linked to parish ministry as we know it.
my thinking behind this is that my heart is very much for those on the fringe of church, or outside it, who find church an alien concept and struggle with what they're confronted with if they were to walk through the doors on a sunday morning. I want to explore what it means to be church in order to know how far we could or should go in pushing the boundaries of our current church expressions, so that we can be actively missional in our outlook and actions.
I have a worry though. is it possible that by creating 'fresh' expressions (as opposed to what? stale ones?) we simply create yet another christian sub-culture in which people who are all alike can congregate? is it that we are in danger of simply substituting one christian sub-culture for another? white middle-class for skaters/goths/twendies/a.n. other anthropological grouping?
you see I want to see a church which is full of all these types of people, or at least filled with people from the representative demographic of the local community and I have a sneaky feeling that this is only going to be possible from the platform of the local church, not apart from it - not so that things have to take place in the local church building, or are controlled by that church, but so that this is something that is being worked out in partnership with the people of God where they are.
this is, of course, going to be fantastically frustrating for those young passionate ministers out there who will find that the people that God has given them in their local congregation are a complex mix of humanity, some of whom will move faster than a rocket if given a little fuel and some of whom will spend their time trying to tie the rockets down. ho hum, that's local church for you - it'd be fine if it wasn't for all those, well, people.
but as frustrating as that might be, I can't help but feel that that's what God has chosen to use and that he won't abandon those who are still plodding along in bog-standard stale expressions.