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Coming Soon: A New Resource from Fresh Expressions UM

By Michael Beck

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A diverse writing team has created a new book, Fresh Expressions United Methodist: A Distinctly Wesleyan Spirit-Led Movement of New Christian Communities that Serve the Present Age.

The team represents the diversity we see in the Fresh Expressions movement. We are a group of people who are black, brown, white, straight, and queer. We span a wide breadth of age; some of the writers are in their twenties; others are… older. (Let’s leave it there for now!) We are clergy and laity. We are adventurers, authorizers, and advocates. We are conventional planters and pastors leading from the center, as well as prophetic entrepreneurs living on the edge.

The book itself is a kind of “blended ecology” in which we speak from the center and the edge simultaneously. We cherish the inherited and celebrate the emerging. Here we seek to “bring forth treasures old and new” (Matthew 13:52), as we synergize the values of early Methodism and Fresh Expressions in the United Kingdom “to serve the present age."[1] We do this through a blend of theology, story, and practical frameworks.

In the first part of the book, we introduce you to the movement, provide an overview, and anchor the work in Wesleyan theology. We explore the four core missional values of Fresh Expressions UM that serve as a compass for our journey toward a blended ecology of church. The grace-centered communities we seek to cultivate are:

  1. Inclusive: They are manifestations of God’s outreaching love, places of healing not harm, environments of grace, “belonging-before-believing” spaces where all are welcome and where the “good news” is good for all and made available to all (Luke 4:18–19). These communities exist primarily for people not currently connected to any church.
  2. Accessible: The communities are close, culturally appropriate, and speak the common language(s) of the context. This value was embodied by Jesus in the incarnation when he came and “made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14 NIV[2]).
  3. Transfiguring: The communities acknowledge the innate “very goodness” in every person and understand how we all are on a journey of renewal. People can be honest about their wounds, challenges, and the progress of their spiritual growth in a community of love and grace. Members are free to process their discipleship journey in an unfiltered and prayerful way that brings real healing (James 5:16). This empowers them for works of mercy and justice in their communities.
  4. Connectional: Methodist Fresh Expressions exist in a relationship with one another and the wider church. They assume the emerging social structure of a networked society in a digital age. This connectionalism resembles the nature of the early church and is particularly evident in the relationship between Jerusalem and Antioch (Acts 15).

We then describe in detail the essential roles needed for the movement to flourish:

Adventurers: The Church of England defines pioneers as people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit's initiatives with those outside the church. Gathering others around them, they seek to establish a new contextual Christian community. In Fresh Expressions UM, we call pioneers… adventurers.[3]

Advocates: People who are passionate about supporting and releasing adventurers. These are people who see connection points and encourage those connections to form. The advocates are essential to growth as they listen to the context, keep the adventurers on track, and seek new ways of flourishing. Advocates ground the Fresh Expressions in deep ongoing prayer.

Authorizers: People who use their role to foster the release of adventurers and to influence the system to be more willing to experiment. Usually, authorizers hold some form of authority within the system. These are the storytellers and the promoters who gather support and share the stories of the adventurers.

Persons of Peace: A “person of peace” is a concept drawn from Luke 10:6. Jesus sends the disciples out in teams of no less than two people to find people who exchange welcome and peace. We join them and do life at their table, eating what is set before us. This puts us in the position of guest—not host. We are dependent on the hospitality of the host, not vice-versa. This may be someone who lets us meet in their home, office, shop, or restaurant. It may be a native of the practice we are forming a community around: yoga, dog walking, fitness, farming, social justice, art, tattooing, or eating burritos.

In Part II of the book, we jump into the loving-first journey. Each author provides practical insight into how we follow the Holy Spirit through an adventure of listening, loving, deepening relationships, sharing faith, helping the church take shape; repeat.

Each chapter is followed by a story from a Fresh Expressions practitioner. The storytellers bring the chapters to life in a new way by illustrating what this all looks like in the field.

To learn more about the book and stay updated with its development and release, register here.

Authors include Bener Agtarap, Susan Arnold, Michael Beck, Tiffany McCall, Heather Jallad, Luke Edwards, Piper Ramsey-Sumner, Jessica Taylor, and Jaidymar and Chris Smith.

Stories in the book were contributed by Steven Johnson, Gena Palacios, Nicole Fike, Juan Julio Paredes, Charles DiRico, Tracy Rose, Brett DeHart, Laura Patterson, Jill Beck, and Nicole Sensini.

[1] Charles Wesley, “A Charge to Keep I Have,” second stanza.

[2] Scriptures marked NIV are from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

[3] Michael A Beck and Leonard Sweet, “Adventuring into New Language and Adventual Expressions of Church,” Discipleship Ministries (November 2022), https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/adventuring-into-new-language-and-adventual-expressions-of-church.

Michael Beck is the Director of Fresh Expressions United Methodist (FXUM) with Path 1 at Discipleship Ministries.

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