The place of worship in fresh expressions
The recommended best practice for those planting a fresh expression, which we call a fresh expression’s journey, recommends that the last phase, not the first, is to establish a regular, public act of worship. Otherwise the danger is that the planting team creates the service they hope the people they want to engage with will like, rather than patiently build relationships and explore discipleship as the process for learning what sort of gathering for worship is appropriate to the members and their context.
The temptation is also to take a complete model of a fresh expression of the shelf, and so bypass the whole process of prayerful discernment, which is the foundation for any contextual mission.
But this doesn’t mean that the planting team cannot have a worship life of its own. On the contrary, it is vital that it does. To pray and worship together is vital for team formation. Initially the planting team will be part of two churches or congregations: the one sending them and the embryo one they are hoping to plant. As the process develops they need to be released to focus fully on the new, while the fresh expression’s pattern of worship, once it has been established. Initially the team will worship in the way most suited to their task, but their task is to plant a fresh expression of church whose worship is most suited to those being drawn to faith through it. Be aware of the danger of establishing a pattern and just assuming that it is automatically transferable. This is partly a matter of being appropriate to culture and context, but also a straightforward matter of size.
The average size of a Church of England fresh expression is 44. What works for a team of six can’t simply be reproduced for 40, unless you are using a cellbased model.
The creation of an appropriate form and culture of worship in a fresh expression is just as much a matter of discernment as the earlier stages of the process. The team will bring their experience and understanding of worship to the task, whether they are aware of it or not, but they should not impose it or their initial pattern on those who join them. Instead they need the skill to shape worship with and for others.