Rev. Dr. Michael Beck, author and Director of Fresh Expressions in the Florida Annual Conference, led two days of Fresh Expressions workshops for Iowa United Methodists designed to spark ideas and engage new people.
About 80 pastors and laity attended Monday’s workshop held at New Hope UMC in Des Moines. On Tuesday, Beck spoke with circuit leaders before attending a planning meeting with the cabinet on Wednesday.
“After a long and difficult season, it’s exciting to see Iowa United Methodists excited about future possibilities,” said Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson, Director of Congregational Excellence and New Communities of Faith. “Fresh Expressions is about being the church in the community rather than getting people to attend church. It is not a program, a process, a way to fill the pews or a way to save the church. It is a way to be the church.”
Groups start when a Christian sees those already in their circles through a spiritual lens and asks, “How can I help my friends connect with God?” It is essentially doing something you love together and bringing Jesus with you.
Fresh Expressions began in 2004, emerging from England’s Anglican and Methodist churches. It started because pastors and leaders began recognizing new, organically forming church trends as an opportunity to “proclaim the faith afresh to each generation,” as the Anglican Declaration of Ascent states.
“It starts with listening to God, then loving and serving others,” said Beck. “That’s community—creating space and connection—then sharing Jesus and exploring faith—that’s church—then repeat.”
Beck shared many ideas for Fresh Expressions, including BBQ and Jesus Stories, Farmhouse Sabbath, RV Church, Hiking Church, Bibles and Burritos, Messy Church, Fit and Faith, VR Church, Taste of Grace, and Recovery Church.
The traditional sequence in the church is to believe, belong and behave. Fresh Expressions sequence flips that around to belonging, which leads to believing and behaving.
While not officially called Fresh Expressions, Iowa has similar ministries that reach new people.
This fall, look for more stories about these new expressions of faith. If you want more information, please get in touch with Rev. Dr. Jaye Johnson by e-mailing him at [email protected].