A Wesleyan approach to Fresh Expressions

September 23rd, 2020

The Methodist movement was born in the field. John Wesley and those first Methodists joined what the Holy Spirit was up to in the fields with people who largely had no relationship with the church. So, they formed church with them in the rhythms and spaces of their daily lives.

Once again, the Spirit is up to something out in the fields with the “nones” (people who claim no religious affiliation or practice) and “dones” (people who once practiced a religion, but no longer do) of our post-everything society. While Fresh Expressions is an ecumenical movement with churches across the theological spectrum, it is also the most Methodist thing in the world today. In their latest book A Field Guide to Methodist Fresh Expressions, Michael Beck and Jorge Acevedo take the “first principles,” the seeds of Wesley’s organizing principles and practices, and show how the Fresh Expressions movement allows them to be replanted on the new missional frontier.

Jorge and Michael’s latest book is a practical “field guide,” live from the fields where a new Methodism is springing up from the ground. At their upcoming free webinar on Sep 30, 2020 at 2:00 PM, they will discuss principles, processes and practices that can help local churches cultivate new Christian communities right where people do life.

COVID-19 has shown us just how fundamentally the “fields” have changed. Pioneering sociologist Manuel Castells posits that at the end of the second millennium, a new form of society arose from the interactions of several major social, technological, economic and cultural transformations: the network society. We are currently now in a period described as the Digital Age. This is a social structure made up of networks enabled by microelectronics-based information and communications technologies.

In this new societal milieu, how can we cultivate new Christian communities both in the “space of flows” and the “space of places” in a Digital Age? (Flows are the digital means through which people, objects, and information are moved through social space). How do we be missionaries among multiple layers of networks, digital and physical, that intertwine? How does the coronavirus accelerate these challenges and opportunities?

The new missional frontier is one that must include a “blended ecology” of both analog and digital forms of church. A key component of cultivating Fresh Expressions of church is about finding what sociologist Ray Oldenburg first identified as the “third place.” Oldenburg described the “first place” as the home or primary place of residence. The “second place” as the workplace or school place. And the “third place” as the public places separate from the two usual social environments of home and workplace which host regular, voluntary, and informal gatherings of people. Examples are environments such as cafes, pubs, theaters, parks, and so on.

When those places were suddenly closed, pioneers were forced into the digital ecosystem in a new way. Even churches that had a strong online ministry pre-COVID, had to rethink many of their foundational assumptions. Churches with no online presence had a sharp learning curve. Some saw their digital activity as a temporary strategy to get back to “real church.” Many congregations have been carefully planning and returning to in-person worship, only to find significantly decreased numbers of worshipers. The consequences of COVID are yet to be seen, but the initial portrait is dim for the people called Methodists.

Yet, throughout the pandemic, some churches have been able to cultivate new Christian communities even amidst the realities of quarantine, and social distancing… in digital space. Not only have these churches survived, but they have begun to thrive in new and unexpected ways. This challenged foundational assumptions about the virtual somehow being less “real” and that medical services, school, mental health counseling, and yes even new Christian communities can be initiated, grown, and sustained in digital space.

Rosario Picardo and Michael Beck are practitioners of this blended ecology approach, and the churches they currently serve (Mosaic and Wildwood) have consistently found ways to reach new people and grow. Roz and Michael will be offering a practical four-week online academy on “Cultivating Digital Fresh Expressions: How Your Church Can Plant New Christian Communities Online” over at Fresh Expressions US.

They will be introducing some of the concepts from their forthcoming book “Fresh Expressions in The Digital Age.” Participants in the academy will explore the integration of digital and analog forms of church, leadership in a pandemic post-Christendom culture, establish a biblical foundation for digital church planting, formulate a comprehensive understanding of how harnessing emerging technologies have been a key component in missional church movements throughout history. Additionally, the academy will foster competencies in team building, utilizing free technologies, belonging before believing evangelism, and facilitating sermonic conversations.


A Distinct Wesleyan Approach to Fresh Expressions” – Michael Beck and Jorge Acevedo - September 30 at 2pm EST

Cultivating Digital Fresh Expressions” – Michael Beck and Roz Picardo – Four weeks, every Thursday from 3-5pm EST (Sep 17, through Oct 8, 2020) 

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