Inclusivity and fresh expressions (Cris Acher)

Cris AcherCris Acher reflects on inclusivity and fresh expressions.

I've always been a bit apprehensive about the 'belong, believe, behave' model of discipleship, as people's perceptions of 'behave' vary so much, and I wonder if this is an issue in fresh expressions? Reflecting on my own experience, I would say that a fresh expression begins with loving service. To love and to serve is the calling of all Christians and the church catholic (universal), but so often we have loved and served with the agenda of drawing people in to us and assimilating them into our model. 

Cross cultural mission that leads us into loving and serving and which builds community where people interact, must be, by its very nature, inclusive. In that process of starting a fresh expression we build a community where people are themselves, a safe place where people are not judged but seek to learn and grow together. That learning and growing is in dialogue with one another, with the expectation that in dialogue either party is open to spiritual evolution. As a result of that precious dialogue and relationship with those outside of the church, I have not always toed the traditional church line as I have sought to serve and love those around me both in Christ and in a manner meaningful to them.

What does it mean today to behave? Who gets to decide?

What I have discovered and had the privilege of helping to build are rich communities, full of diversity, life and colour, filled with the creative Spirit as all are included, and all gifts are used. That is not to say that I haven't challenged those with behaviour that is destructive to the community and beyond, or indeed to themselves. But in contrast to a traditional church, my inkling is that there are some people who are given responsibility and leadership roles in fresh expressions who would I fear be discouraged, judged or ignored in more traditional churches.

So I am pondering, can all who seek to follow Christ be part of fresh expressions? What does it mean today to behave? Who gets to decide?