Category Archives: Fresh Expresions


So again its been a while since I last blogged. (new years resolution not going so well so far!)

But I thought I would try and get back into it as some folks do give me nice messages when I do ! Thank you!

So recently I got to thinking about what we listen to. By that what I mean is I think it is harder and harder these days to actually listen to very much that has any real meaning. Advertising is a multi billion pound industry that craves your attention every moment of every day. We are targeted so well that we cannot fail to see, hear and inwardly digest tons of info that we don’t really want, (heard any tunes in the adverts from you teenage years recently? BOOM! They want you to feel good and remember their brand)

So as someone who spends his living talking to people about life’s BIG questions how, where and when do I start? I mean stuff has to be new to get peoples attention, the NEW iPhone, that’s cool, people will listen to the rhetoric about that because its brand new, but think about what people who say if Apple started running ads for an iPhone from 2 years ago…. lets say the iPhone 3gs that is just so out of date. no one wants to hear about that!

But the 1st generation iPhone that’s kind of retro, “I remember them, they were so cool at the time…. I remember when I got one of those…”530201361437PM_635_Apple_iPhone_first_gen

So start to speak to someone about faith, about a man who lived over 2,000 years ago…. Retro cool? Not really !

Religion has a bad wrap these days, and TBH it’s understandable, some wierd people are doing some crazy things in the name of faith. It’s enough to put me off. But most of the people I speak to have an opinion about faith one way or another. I haven’t met many people who have never really thought about things, but the forums for debate, for a proper in depth discussion for a safe place for people to ask questions and listen just don’t exist.

I guess what I am saying is… I have a question and the question is this – “How, where and when should faith be engaged?”

There is no possible way the Church can engage at the level that Apple does, neither, in my opinion should it. But there are millions of people out there who do want to engage on one level or another, “What would work for you?”




Lessons from the seaside…

Reflecting on the developing Fresh Expressions in Bridlington that I was part of, one things has struck me recently, and that has been that when it comes to Fresh Expressions of church we should not be so quick to defend and justify them.  It is an easy trap to fall into, especially for the pioneer who will have ploughed a lot of blood, sweat and tears into birthing a new community.  Of course everyone wants newly formed Fresh Expressions of church to be successful in reaching those who have no connection with either faith or church.  We want them to look good, but it is easy to miss the reality of authentic markers of church.  There is also the fact that at times we might want to measure how well they are doing by comparing them to other inhered forms of church to see how well they are getting on.
One of the hardest things i find when it comes to critiquing fresh expressions of church is that the only yard stick we have got is one that seems rather inadequate for the job.  (the tools no longer fit the situation) tools such as critiquing new communities using orthodoxy and doctrine as a way of interpreting what is going on.  Whilst these issues are important they might not always be easily recognisable in the way we might want to understand them
For example, one of the comments of the Fresh Expressions in Bridlington was that it seemed that we never actively preached the gospel, in as much as there was no recognised reading and expounding of the scriptures.  I believe the question therefore is one that can be found in the Psalms, at a time when God’s people found themselves in an unfamiliar place, with no recognisable markers to order their sense of God. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?”* (the foreign land for us, this time being cultural rather than geographical.)
What we did do is take a hermeneutical approach to exploring issues in the news.  Exploring, sharing and debating the topics that everyone was facing.  It was through this way of engaging with each other that conversations of faith, ethical, moral, and spiritual ideas were put forward and critiqued and pondered by those who did not profess a faith based world view. This was often messy, with view points being aired and language used that may make some people feel shocked or offended by.  Indeed I often asked myself the question “what would people say if they thought this was church?” Of course this was an environment  in which everyone was welcome and all views were encouraged to be shared.  They would be challenged at times and although there were never any serious consequences the debates would get heated.  It was messy and I as the pioneer constantly felt vulnerable about what it was we were doing.  With questions like “is this church?” “are these men seeing and hearing the teachings of Jesus?” “can we see authentic signs of the Kingdom here?”  and always in the back of my mind were the voices of those who would criticise no matter what we did.
But on reflection, I believe that if a Fresh Expression of church is authentically engaging with and creating disciples then it will look most of the time anything but successful. Just like the disciples, and the early church.  In fact I would go so far as saying that a mark of authenticity would be that the community would be very fragile, messy and most of the time in crisis.  I say this not only from my own experience but also reading Paul’s letters to the early church. (1 Corinthians 1: 10-17**)  Most of the time sorting out the issues that were arising as new disciples worked out their faith in a messy and uneasy way.  There is an album by the band Dubh called ‘Fractured, broken and beautiful’, I believe that this sums up the church in every place and not just Fresh Expression communities, but this is what we want.  A church reliant upon the saving grace of God though the continued work of the Holy Spirit.


* Psalm 137:4
**10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Nice Cross, what does it mean????

So the European court of human rights has today ruled that it is OK for Christians to wear crosses at work See Here.

Not exactly a ground breaking revolution! But i dare say it would have been news (at least in some smutty tabloids) if the decision had gone the other way.  The fact of the matter is that i don’t believe that it matters if you are allowed to wear a cross or not.  If it offends some people then surely is serving the purpose it is designed for (‘designed’ being the word as most of these hideous pieces of jewellery have fake diamonds and gold designed into them).  The cross should be offensive it is not meant to be anything other.  It was the most barbaric way of killing someone, and the truth of the matter is that Christ chose that death over everything else for a reason.

I personally don’t wear a cross, or have a fish sticker on my car.  Other than the sign of my priestly office i would hope no one would look at me and think ‘Christian’ mainly because i would hope i don’t need these signs and trinkets to prove that i am trying to live a life that calls me to love God and all of those around me.  Basically, well done those who want to wear their crosses at work and have taken this as far as the highest court in Europe. I sincerely hope that you put the same effort into fighting poverty and injustice, I hope that you stand up for the rights of people of all religions and none, who loose their lives everyday because of their beliefs in what ever issue they believe in.

Here is Pete Rollins saying it far more eloquently than me….

Espresso scripture podcast number one!

A few years ago I stated a small project called ‘Espresso Scriptures’. It was a short email that i sent out every Monday morning, a kind of thought for the day, but a little cooler than what you might hear on radio 2.  They seemed to go down really well with people who wanted to explore faith but wouldn’t really know where to begin when it came to opening scripture, after a couple of years i collected them all together and approached the wonderfully creative guys at Poost who agreed to publish them all in a short book.  After the launch and publicity things seemed to settle down and other projects like the beach huts took priority.

But after the new move up to Middlesbrough and time to think about fresh ideas i have spent some time talking things over with a top bloke called Revd Matt who does a similar job to me over in Hull and asked him if he fancied doing something creative along the lines of what i had done before.  So we thought we would have a go at doing some Podcasts.  Our main aim was to produce something that people who would not consider themselves people of faith would warm to, and it would hopefully allow conversations and questions to come to life, so……

So here is the 1st Espresso scripture podcast about prayer.  Please let us know what you think !

(the sound quality on this one it not top notch as we recorded it not realising i had left a CD in the Cpu drive!!! Oops!!!)

twitter: @espressoscript



M4a Mac/apple version

Mp3 version

The dust of the road brings new life….

So i have spent today in Birmingham, meeting up with some other pioneery types as we become associate missioners of Fresh Expressions.  As well as learning what the role involves, we all took something along with us that would spark us off to tell our story.  This was the most amazing part of the day, listening to others peoples stories of being in really hard places but perceiving and seeing God at work.  A couple of things really stood out for me, one chap said

“Weakness is important to mission” and then told a story of a time when he had to face his brokenness in public and how it actually allowed him to connect with people in a real and fresh way.Image

Another gem came from someone talking about how Jesus would allow the journeys from place to place as a way of allowing those around him to understand his teaching.  “The truth would emerge from the midst of conversations.”  This reminded me of the XY Lad’s church approach to ministry.  That in the midst of our debates and (often heated) conversations truth would emerge, without the need of an expert or herald of truth, but simply and delicately and at times almost as a whisper.

I was struck by a tweet i fell across this morning from  @SimonGuillebaud (someone i don’t know) which read “Christians have bumper stickers and catch phrases; believers have creeds and promises;disciples have scars and stories.”