Worship in a Fresh Expression - Part 1

23 Aug 2020 by Rev Andrew Smith in: Letters, Thoughts, News

What worship in a fresh expression might look like

From Rev Andrew Smith
Presbytery Minister - Congregation Futures

Last week in this article space we considered how our experience of church during these COVID times helps us realise how church is exclusive. For example, when worship services switch to online because we can’t meet face to face, those who don’t have the technology or “know how” to connect online are excluded. This makes us wonder about the ways our church services pre-COVID were exclusive.

Mike Moynagh suggests that the only way to make the Christian church more inclusive is to increase the kinds of Christian communities. That is part of why Mike is so keen about Fresh Expressions of Church. He encourages fresh expressions of church so that less people are excluded from Christian community.

There are lots of new experiments and adventures to journey through in starting a fresh expression of church. The free Godsend App (you can download it by searching for 'fx godsend' in the App Store or Google Play) will help walk you through them and offers great help along the way. Often, however, church folk being introduced to the idea of fresh expressions have questions for a long way down the road of adventure about what worship might look like in a fresh expression. Indeed, the worship life of a fresh expression is often a long way down the road. There is much to learn along the way about authentic loving service with people that isn’t about manipulating people into faith in Jesus Christ. Still, through fresh expressions there will be people who the Holy Spirit draws to gather around Christ, and it is worthwhile at the outset beginning to imagine what gathering around Christ in worship might look like.

So, imagine that through the fresh expression you have grown in relationship with a dozen or so people. Perhaps as you look and listen for the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives you get an inkling that one or two have interest sparked in them about a greater depth in life that looks like a spiritual yearning. The time might arise to invite them to join you in looking into the life of one of the greatest spiritual leaders the world has known. You could give an invitation to read together accounts about the life of Jesus and respond to some simple questions in what is known as “Discovery Bible Study”. This would be the beginning of gathering around Christ in worship. Here are some suggested questions from the Godsend App:

  • If the story happened today, what would it look like?
  • What is it showing or telling me?
  • Could it make a difference to my life? How?
  • In the next session: Did it make a difference? How?

Godsend also has what it calls “Deep Talk” questions:

  • What do you like best about the story?
  • Where are you in the story?
  • What would you like to change in the story?

Another set of questions in Godsend is based on lectio divina:

  • What does the story say that everyone should understand?
  • What does the story say to me, today, and to my life?
  • If God exists, what would I want to say to God in response?
  • How can I be a better gift to others as a result of pondering this story?

Another set from Gosdend about Kingdom questions:

  • What’s the passage saying that would make life more God-like?
  • Where can we see signs of this God-like living round us?
  • What could we do individually or as a group to increase these examples?
  • In the next session: What have we done and what were the results?

Another version of Discovery Bible study uses the following questions:

  • What does the story tell us about God/Jesus/Spirt?
  • What does that story tell us about humanity?
  • If the story is true, what difference does it make to me?
  • Who else needs to hear this story?

You don’t have to wait until you are a long way down the road of a fresh expression to experiment with this form of worship. You can have a go at it now with people who are already part of your church. In fact, that may feel like a safe way to ease yourself into this kind of worship. 

One of the congregations in our Presbytery is looking at using questions like these in new small groups in the course of the week during these COVID times. It fits really well with them as a way of gathering in worship with people who are not connecting with online worship. They are considering using the Gospel lectionary readings as a guide for the stories they will look at each week. There is nothing stopping them from creating their own list of Gospel stories to work through week by week.
You could have a go at this as well. And you never know – there might be a friend of yours who has some spiritual yearnings. It could become the right time and opportunity to invite them to join you and a couple of other friends in looking into stories about the life of Jesus.