“Fresh Expressions: FXs”
This past week, I spent three days at a pastors’ conference held by the CalPac Annual Conference of the UMC held in Palm Desert. Yes, it was hot. It was 114 degrees.
Dr. Martyn Aikers from Great Britain led the conference, and he talked about what they call Fresh Expressions, or FXs. FX is innovative and experimental faith communities. He talked about various new ways the British Christians were connecting with people outside the Church. The examples he shared were not that different from gimmicks we have heard about in the U.S., but he made it clear that “what” is not important, but “how” we go about creating a community where people can explore their spiritual lives.
Of all the wonderful things he said, I found myself pondering on the shift in how churches address the newcomers. The traditional model was based on a new person entering the church community by accepting the “belief” of the group and then demonstrating “behaviors” prescribed by the group. Once the group approves of the behavior, then they can “belong.”
However, FXs’ inclusion process is different. The effective FXs accept whoever shows up, and the new coming in immediately “Belongs.” Accepting everyone without any conditions is the new beginning point. As an equal part of the community, they experience discipleship through relationships and explore their theological belief system. Then they may or may not adopt behaviors.
I believe we are seeing the death of the Institutional Church Era, and we are once again entering the Good New Era. We are going back to the very beginning and the days of “The Way.” In the days before the organized Church, the followers of Jesus simply shared his message of love and grace. Whoever came to hear the good news in Jesus was accepted. Once the institutional Church came into existence, it started to exorcise people from its community by demanding “acceptable” behaviors. In less than 200 years, the community of Jesus became more focused on the institution of the Church rather than the message of the Church.
We are seeing the decline of the Christian Church. For more than half a century, youn
ger people have been asking for Jesus, but the Church only offered tweaked same old tired institutional Churchism. We peddle outdated institutional doctrines and claim that we know the mind of God. Christians sound like a bunch of fools because we claim that we know whom God will accept and will not. We are living in a world where the people no longer accept the Church’s claim on the social culture, but the Church chooses to remain ignorant.
The decline of the Institutional Church does not mean that God is losing. I believe the decline of Institutional Churchism is the work of God. God is making all things new. God is bringing about fresh expressions of the good news of Jesus. God is calling us to “The Way.”