Issue Four: A Fresh Hope Horizon Paper – June 2020          

 

Introduction

Fresh Hope has five strategic themes emerging from our ethos within a 100-year horizon framework. One of these themes is ‘Pioneering’. The primary objective is:

To stimulate, catalyse, broadcast, encourage and resource Fresh Hope Pioneering in partnership with our existing churches with relentless passion and intentional strategy.

This article is proactively offered as a ‘critical motivator’ to assist your church as we seek to raise the priority and profile of pioneering across the movement. Fresh Hope has adopted a partnership model (a shared journey) in order to achieve the mission of pioneering which is to champion new, adventurous and transformative expressions of Gospel communities. This model carries a catalytic hope. The hope is that every church considers how it might replicate, replace or multiply itself to encourage new faith communities to spread across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

No article or strategy alone will cause a movement or network of churches to expand. There comes a defining time in any network where the movement issues a clarion call to its constituents to consider the importance and priority of pioneering for the future church. We honestly believe that a failure to engage in pioneering will ultimately signal our downfall collectively.

This is the time to pioneer. We are passionately issuing a clarion call to pioneer! A clarion that resounds in the hearts and minds of God’s people. A clarion call stirred by the Spirit of God resulting in an unprecedented passion to initiate and birth new ventures as faith communities. Fresh Hope has allocated substantial funds to under-write this strategy. 

We are praying for pioneers and local churches who are convicted of the need to engage in this mission.

Not surprisingly, this call embellishes Jesus’ primary charge and commission to ‘go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’. (Matthew 29:19)   

This mandate has never been more important in our history.  We are on the verge of a new impetus, propelled into a hopeful future as men and women committed to the cause of Christ. The days are upon us, and time is of the essence.

 

Let’s Discuss Pioneering

Pioneering is an ‘adjective’ that implies using new ideas and methods to create a fresh expression or form of something. In our context we use ‘pioneering’ rather than ‘church planting’ to encourage innovation and imagination. We believe that ‘church planting’ is a sub-set of ‘pioneering’ and that pioneering is a better term or definition to encapsulate all that is involved in the establishment of new faith communities.

The goal is to champion new faith communities, not necessarily bound by or reflective of the current forms or styles of church. This is not ‘either or’ in its focus but embraces all styles and forms of church (current and future) into the mix.

There emerges then a critical question, namely: why do we need to pioneer? Primary Answer: the mission remains unfinished until the impending return of the Lord. Secondary Answer: perhaps the church is somewhat stuck, having lost its way and its passion.

The reader will be aware that the year 2020 presents as a remarkable yet disruptive confluence of events. Disasters and global shifts are undermining many of society’s norms and worldviews. No nation, country or community is immune from the cultural revolutions emerging from the sub-soil of a post-secular global pandemic. This pandemic has resulted in disastrous health, economic, community, employment, religious and wellbeing consequences. Our aspirations and hopes are being shaken to the core. To live in these days, is to live in a new emerging reality yet to be fully defined.

Tom Holland in his book Dominion comments on the impact of Christianity within Western-based societies including Australia: ‘To live in a Western country is to live in a society still utterly saturated by Christian concepts and assumptions.…. So profound has been the impact of Christianity on the development of Western civilisation that it has come to be hidden from view. It is the incomplete revolutions which are remembered; the fate of those which triumph is to be taken for granted.’ [1]

The idea that we have rested on our laurels, taken for granted our freedoms, accepted normative cultural principles and seen our mission as complete is cause for reflection and further action. It’s difficult from within the midst of this cultural maelstrom to fully appreciate or interpret the likely consequences of seismic global shifts.   Suffice to say they are either interpreted as a substantive ‘threat’ to our very existence or an imaginative ‘opportunity’ for the church to make sense of its environment(s) and yet again become life-giving and a salve to the moral turbulence and cultural revolutions at play.

If anything, the times we find ourselves in are critical shifts to consider and reconsider the mission of the church, its impacts and its likely relevance (in current forms) going forward. Normally, we would probably find such a conversation too confronting, maybe even too difficult.  As so much is disrupted and deconstructed around us, perhaps now we have a new appetite and impetus for change! This is the essence of fresh hope. This is one reason why we are exploring and advocating our 100-year horizon themes.

‘People in any organisation are always attached to the obsolete – the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are’. [2]

And so, as Paul so aptly reminds us: ‘Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us’.  (Philippians 3:13-14)

A key emphasis within the clarion call compels us to passionately ‘press on’ into proactive, productive, imaginative, pioneering faith initiatives.

 

Essential Mission for the Future Church

The Fresh Hope pioneering strategy has five foundational principles that reflect the essential mission for the future church. This conversation leans into ‘what is yet’ to emerge, as opposed to ‘what currently exists’. Our collective future is a legacy piece that transcends each generation and underwrites the very essence of movement thinking and practice.

Principle 1: Transformational [3]

We seek to create new faith communities that allow the Spirit to transform lives with fresh hope. This principle includes creating communities of faith that seek to transform and renew society and engage in new ways to express church.   Our focus here is practical community transformation. It includes creating new faith communities that are treasured and welcomed by local communities as offering spiritual resources and the abundant life found only through Jesus and His way.

Principle 2: Aligned (Kingdom and Fresh Hope)

We seek to prayerfully and relationally discern what God is already doing in the spheres of influence He has given us, and how we might join Him in those endeavours. We also seek churches and individuals who would join in this calling to work in alignment within the broader vision, mission, ethos and ministry strategies of fresh hope.

Principle 3: Intentional

We intend to focus on specific, strategic growth precincts.  We will do this while simultaneously recognising the serendipitous and often upside-down Kingdom ‘God surprises’; as He leads individuals and churches to other locations and contexts. Our desire is for the Gospel of the Kingdom with Jesus as Lord to be expanded into many and varied new locations and communities. This mission goes beyond individual cultures and demographics and will enable faith communities to emerge in unlikely situations.

Principle 4: Movement Multiplication

We are focused on championing churches that give birth to new faith communities, which give birth to more faith communities. This principle is dependent upon everyone being willing to sacrifice their own needs so as to give away resources. We imagine churches willingly releasing leaders and members to pioneer new faith initiatives and budgeting finances to assist in future mission.

Principle 5: Shared Journey

We desire to walk alongside and journey with churches and individuals who have a call on their lives to join in this vision. We call these people ‘Pioneers’. We seek to add value to those willing to have a go by offering support, mentoring, learning environments and training to assist. This includes prayer and providing financial and administrative resources. This is a journey of partnership and collaboration.

 

A Final Word about Pioneering Eco-Systems

In order to pioneer well (in collaborative partnership), our posture and attitudes must be agile, adaptive and adventurous.  All too often we hold our institutional church structures with a vice-like grip, almost afraid to try new ventures or seek new direction. True renewal over-writes our current reality.

As the disciples sat in discouragement and uncertainty, Jesus often motivated them to change the plan. There is no better example than in Luke’s Gospel chapter 5. 

In this biblical text, Jesus utilises one of Simon Peter’s fishing boats to address a large crowd gathered by the Sea of Galilee. Simon was simply focussed on washing his nets after an exhaustive night of fishing, with no evidence of a catch. Post his own teaching, Jesus beckons the fishermen one more time to be agile, to adapt and to launch into deeper water despite their tiredness and disappointment. The adventure unfolded, and suddenly their nets and their boats were overflowing to the brink of disaster. The resultant celebration was profound and delightful.

We either read this story as an intriguing encounter or receive this as living ‘Word’, able to sharpen our minds and hearts into the realities of God’s ways and God’s mission. For Simon, the encounter was unexpected and not normative. He had no fishing manual or instructions but merely a choice – launch out into deeper waters!  His pragmatic fishing experience was disrupted by a mere direction from a different Master. His experience was profound.

In so many ways this ‘Word’ is organic, akin to an eco-system. 

Eco-systems are diverse and contextual. Their biodiversity includes all things, both living and inert, together in relationship within the explicit habitat. This descriptor works for faith communities: all things together as an organic community in synchronicity with Jesus as the head of the church. 

Eco-systems are fluid and structured and evolve depending on conditions. 

Eco-systems are also in a constant state of renewal and change.

Eco-systems are alive and reflect postures of agility, adaptability and adventure.  

Eco-systems upgrade as their functions become outmoded.

Neil Cole uses the analogy of a ‘software upgrade’ to explore this fluidity:

‘Church is no longer a place to go to, but a people to belong to. Church is no longer an event to be at, but a family to be a part of. Church is not a program to reach out to the world, but a people that bring the kingdom of God with them into a lost world, with a contagious spirit’. [4]

Without overstating the obvious, it is clear that the future church must re-examine its focus, its shape, its priorities, its mission and its capacity to engage with a lost world. The future church will be akin to an organic eco-system where the parts interact and intersect to enable the whole to function for grander purposes. The beauty of eco-systems is that they constantly renew in order to exist and flourish in their surrounds.

In a world that sees the church as reflective of a bygone era, how we illicit permission for leaders to initiate conversations and traction for change is critical. There are inner blockages to this conversation when we prioritise comfort over mission, safety over risk. This requires strategic permission giving, courage and obedience.

Perhaps more than ever, we are so in need of a mere word from the Master – launch out into the deep
Let’s hope and pray we are willing!

 

Discussion Starters for Church Leaders

Thank you for taking time to examine this strategic theme and article. We believe the future of the church is critical and our capacity and ability to pioneer new faith initiatives is a shared responsibility. We highly recommend the books listed at the end of this resource.  We are open to advise you on a key resource for you to study further depending on your context.

In your leadership community, please discuss the current functionality of your church. As you consider your history (to the extent that it is known or recorded), have you ever pioneered a new faith community? If so, please discuss this journey. If not, please identify likely impediments that have precluded this conversation and potential action.

This article is framed as a ‘critical motivator’ for church leaders. Why do you think this is the case?

What would it take to motivate your church to consider pioneering?

Who might help you have a robust conversation with respect to pioneering?

What actions might you take, to keep pioneering on your agenda or a key part of a strategic plan?  What happens next? Who is responsible?

What aspects of this article stand out to you? What in particular resonates? What do you disagree with? Please discuss together.

We have 5 principles we have identified as crucial to the mission of the future church. One of these is partnership (on a shared journey). How open would you be as a church community to a conversation with our pioneering team concerning this strategic theme?  
What benefits do you see from a pioneering partnership?

At the end of this article, we liken the future church to an ecosystem. Do you like this ‘metaphor’? If not, why not? What might ‘launch into deeper waters’ look like for you personally, as a leadership team, and as a church? Who is best gifted to encourage this conversation to continue? What other help or resources might you need? 

Pray together for courage and conviction.

 

Helpful Reading
  • Steve Addison. The Rise and Fall of Movements: A Roadmap for Leaders. © 2019.  100 Movements Pub.

  • Steve Addison & Ed Stetzer. What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World. © 2012 IVP Books.

  • Steve Addison. Pioneering Movements: Leadership that Multiples Disciples and Churches. © 2015.  

  • Windield Bevins. Church-Planting Revolution: A Guidebook for Explorers, Planters and their Teams. © 2017. Seedbed.

  • David Bosch. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission.  20th Anniversary Ed.   © 2011. Orbis Books.

  • Mike Breen. Leading Kingdom Movements. © 2015. 3DM International.

  • Gil Cann. Red Alert: Doe the Future Have a Church. © 2018. Albatross Books.

  • Neil Cole. Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church. © 2010.  Jossey-Bass.

  • Michael Cooper. Ephesiology:  A Study of the Ephesian Movement. © 2020.  William Carey Library

  • Jason Crandall. Proliferate: A Church Planting Strategy for Everyday Churches.  © 2017. Lucid Books.

  • Michael Frost. Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People. © Navpress.

  • Dave Ferguson & Jon Ferguson. Exponential: How You and Your Friends Can Start a Missional Church Movement. © 2010. Harper Collins

  • Andy Hardy & Dan Yarnell. Forming Multicultural Partnerships:  Church Planting in a Divided Society. © 2015.  Instant Apostle.

  • Graham Hill. Salt, Light and a City: Second Ed. Ecclesiology for the Global Missional Community: Vol 1 Western Voices. © 2017 Cascade Books.

  • Alan Hirsch. The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating Apostolic Movements. 2nd © 2016. Brazo Press.

  • James Davison Hunter. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. © 2010. Oxford University Press.

  • Karina Kreminski. Urban Spirituality: Embodying God’s Mission in the Neighbourhood. © 2018 Urban Loft Publishers.

  • Robert E. Logan. The Church Planting Journey. © 2019.  Logan Leadership.

  • Aubrey Malphurs. The Nuts and Bolts of Church Planting: A Guide for Starting any Kind of Church. © 2011. Baker Books.

  • Mark Sayers. Reappearing Church.  © Moody Publishers.

  • Stefan Paas. Church Planting in the Secular West: Learning from the European Experience. © 2016. 

  • Brian Sanders. Underground Church: A Living Example of the Church it its most Potent Form. © 2018. Zondervan.

  • Tom Sine. The New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time. © 2008. IVP Books.

  • Steve Smith & Ying Kai. T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution. © 2011 WIGTake Resources.

  • Ed Stetzer & Daniel Im. Planting Missional Churches: Your Guide to Starting Churches that Multiply. Ó  B&H Academic.

  • Miroslav Volf. A Public Faith.  How Followers of Christ should Serve the Common Good. © 2011.  Brazo Press.

  • R.Woodward & Dan White. The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional -Incarnational Communities. © 2016.  IVPress.

 

Online Resources (simply a taster)

 

Dr. Andrew Ball
Executive Ministry Director

Churches of Christ in NSW & the ACT.

© Fresh Hope Resources 2020.

Level 1 No 3 Rider Boulevard Rhodes NSW 2138

www.freshhope.org.au

 

[1]   Tom Holland.  Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. © 2019 Little, Brown.

[2]  Peter Drucker.  The Five Most Important Questions you will ever ask about your Organisation. 3rd Ed. © 2008.  John Wiley & Sons.

[3]  Article 3 in this series deals with this important principle – See ‘Traction for Transformation’.

[4]   Neil Cole. Church 3.0: Upgrades for the Future of the Church. © 2010.  Jossey-Bass.