‘Fringe’ expressions in global cities? (Andrew Jones)

Andrew JonesAndrew Jones explains why he's starting fringe expressions in global cities.

In recent weeks I have been in three of the world's largest cities – Hong Kong, Beijing and London.

While there I met with friends who are working in Tokyo and Seoul. Over the next year I hope to visit a dozen more of these ridiculously large, sprawling, intimidating metroplexes. Some of the most exciting models of doing church and ministry differently (and sometimes more effectively) are happening in these places.

Here are some thoughts I've had so far about the associated challenges:

Countryside. To reach the cities we also need to reach the countryside. Beijing's population has swelled by a further six million people recently to reach 19 million, mainly due to the number of workers arriving from rural areas. These workers leave their families behind and many of them only return once a year, usually during the New Moon Festival. If we apply all our resources to the cities and forget the countryside, we might see families devastated in the process.

Institutions. It is not fair to say that incarnational and organic models of church are opposed to institutions because many of them are starting institutions of a different form. Instead of starting a church institution, they start a kingdom-principle-oriented social enterprise or micro-business and then allow spiritual community to form around it. These structures allow greater financial sustainability as well as fluidity for the communities to function as church, even if they cannot gather as such.

Monastic. Urban monastic models of church, and their modern-day counterparts that look less like monasteries but function the same way, are increasingly effective in the urban environments of global cities.

Rich and poor. Reaching cities means working with both rich and poor at the same time. The poor need resources, empowerment and justice and the rich have resources, power and justice to dispense. Bringing them together is essential and it is in these moments that the church becomes church. A missional focus allows both groups to work together.

These fringe expressions of church will go where no fresh expressions or missional communities or emerging churches have gone before

Many of the 50 holistic fresh expressions of church that we want to help young leaders start and develop over the next year will be in global cities.

We will do this by partnering with leading mission organisations and denominations. Our aim is that the new church/mission structures will act as role models for church planting in the toughest parts of the world. As well as being highly effective fresh expressions of church and mission, these new communities will bring a lasting, holistic impact. Through:

  • social enterprise and micro-business they will move their ministries towards long-term sustainability.
  • social justice ventures they will touch the needy in their cities in measurable ways – ie, a spiritual, social, financial and environmental impact.
  • social media streaming they will contagiously share their story to leverage their experience and compel others to follow their examples.

Sneaky, huh?

These 50 new communities will be fresh expressions of church but, also, because they will intentionally position themselves to impact those on the fringe, we will call them 'fringe expressions.'

By fringe, I mean the cultural fringe (alternative, non-churched, victimised), the economic fringe (poor, needy, vulnerable), the geographic fringe (church-unfriendly areas and countries) and the spiritual fringe (NOT your father's old-time religion) where traditional church efforts make little progress.

Or, in other words, they will go where no fresh expressions or missional communities or emerging churches have gone before.