Mixed economy and succession: Scarborough Deanery

Michael Moynagh draws out the learning points from the story of Scarborough Deanery.

The Deanery is far from being wealthy, but

they decided to channel their resources in a different and more creative way.

When a minister retired, they redesigned the post and appointed a pioneer to catalyse fresh expressions in the area. If the inherited church wants to become more missional, it must create missional posts to enable this. Otherwise, if we keep on doing what we are doing, we shall go on declining as we are doing. As Sam Foster says, Scarborough did what any group of local churches could do.

Some ministers fear that a local fresh expression will sheep-steal from their congregation, or weaken it by siphoning off individuals with key gifts. Sam met these fears head-on by recruiting individuals who would not leave their local churches but be advocates of fresh expressions within them. In other contexts, many fresh expressions are led by lay people who 'blend' their church experience; they worship in their fresh expression but also in their parent church from time to time. Nowhere does the New Testament say that you cannot belong to two local churches!

Sam refers to missional communities whose members not only meet together, but are active in local mission as a group. This illustrates how fresh expressions are challenging the inherited model of personal mission. The church traditionally gathers for worship on Sundays and then disperses as individuals through the week but often it is very difficult to do mission on your own. You need to do it with other Christians who can pool their gifts and support each other. Jesus did not do mission alone. He gathered a group of disciples round him. Fresh expressions, like the missional communities Sam refers to, are modelling a Jesus-based community approach to mission.

Sam talks about the need for something new, alongside the existing church. This is one way that the church can be a gift to the world. Through the Spirit, the church offers the gift of community with Jesus. Like any gift, this must suit the recipients. Would a bottle of wine be much of a gift if the other person was tee-total? Offering community appropriately could mean inviting someone to an existing church. But other people will need something different. If a church meets at a time, place and in a style that is inaccessible, it won't be a gift because it cannot be reached. In these cases, the gift of the church will take the form a new community with Jesus – a new expression of church that is available. Fresh expressions offer Christian community to people who find existing congregations practically and culturally inaccessible. They echo communion: a piece of the church is broken off to become a new community, which is shared with others.

Sam is thinking ahead. She knows she will leave at some stage, so she is already thinking about equipping leaders to continue her work. She is copying Jesus: raising up others to take forward the mission. Growing into Christian leadership is a key way that individuals mature in their faith. Fresh expressions will disappoint in the long term if not enough attention is paid to home-grown leadership.

Worship and accountability: St Benny’s

Michael Moynagh draws out the learning points from the story of St Benny's.

It took two years of listening and loving and serving (see A fresh expressions journey) before the team at St Benny's started an act of worship. Compared to some fresh expressions, this was quite quick. Perhaps the speed was in part due to Nick's and others' willingness to be upfront about their faith. Nick's comment about authenticity is telling.

They seem to have been growing several communities, for example 'Storytime', the 'coffee shop' and the Community Café. There are many questions. Will it prove fruitful to start a single worship service for people from all three communities? Will the different communities have enough in common to gel together as one (worshiping) community? Is it harder to attract people to an event where they neither know a significant proportion of the others involved, nor do they all know each other? Might it have been more effective to develop small stepping stones to faith within each of the three communities?

'Storytime' for the primary school children seems a great idea. Might the leaders keep that cohort together when the youngsters go to secondary school? As the cohort gets older, might the leaders start a second group for children coming up behind? And, in time, a third group for children behind the second one? Older children could help with the younger ones and gain leadership experience. Think what this might look like after ten years – a chain of age-based groups, each growing in the faith!

Nick refers to the burden of always being inspected. Accountability should not be like that. It should be a process of shared discernment, seeing what the Spirit has been up to and what the initiative is being called to next.

A fresh expressions journey can provide a simple framework. Those exercising oversight and the fresh expression's leaders might ask: 'what stage of the journey have we reached? Is it time to think about moving to the next stage? What should we do to make that happen?' The appendix in Being Church, Doing Life (Michael Moynagh, Monarch Books, 2014) describes this more fully.

Pioneers rightly complain: why don't inherited churches receive the same degree of outside scrutiny?

Illustrating a fresh expressions journey: The Ark at Crawcrook

Michael Moynagh draws out learning points from the story of The Ark at Crawcrook.

The Ark at Crawcrook is an especially interesting story because it is a fresh expression within a business – Christian business-owners please note!

We are told that The Ark is '…taking us in surprising directions'. That is typical of many fresh expressions which are a form of 'ecclesial entrepreneurship'. Research shows that improvisation is a vital part of the entrepreneurial method.

The Ark follows A fresh expressions journey.


It loves and serves people through its business activities (as well as in other ways).

It builds community as the Christian core develops one-to-one relationships with customers and volunteers and through its Facebook community;

There is also a community-building dimension in its CCCC course (exploring discipleship), where conversations are encouraged and participants can take the discussion in the direction they want. There's no doubt that relationships deepen as people talk.

The leaders sense that a published course won't work, so they create their own. Then they allow the participants, in effect, to re-write the sessions. This is contextualisation at its best – and simplest.

The leaders keep following the Spirit and the Spirit tears up the rule book – about baptising new believers into a congregation, for instance. This is nothing new; The Apostle Peter's rule book was torn up when he met Cornelius, for instance! However, the leaders are not just being pragmatic. They reflect theologically on what they are doing by drawing on the resources of the outside church, not only on local theological expertise but also on the history of the church as they think about community. Rather than pulling away from the inherited church, the leaders are being resourced by it.

Illustrating a fresh expressions journey: Xpressions Café

Michael Moynagh draws out learning points from the story of Xpressions Café.

This story is a good illustration of A fresh expressions journey.

A fresh expressions journey

Loving and serving involves creating a 'third place' – in Expresso – for people to meet.

Community begins to form among those who meet each other in the café.

A path to exploring discipleship exists for those who want to do so, either by going to Expressions or Explore – both of which are followed by the 'end service', while anyone can join the planning team. Both halves of the journey are connected.

Leadership is being handed over as individuals come to faith, as we can hear from 'Male interviewee 2' who has become a regular churchgoer and is starting to lead the 'end service' as part of his discipleship.

How people are taken on further in their discipleship is not described. How are they enabled, as individuals and a group, to serve people outside the fresh expression? Is thought being given to loving and serving people who are unreached by Xpressions Café and starting a further fresh expression – among people in a residential home, for example? If the inherited church is called to reproduce, presumably the same applies to fresh expressions when they are ready.

Reframing the role of pastor

Michael Moynagh seeks to reframe the role of pastor.

Do you feel called to the pastoral ministry rather than to start new types of church? If so, your pastoral gifts may be exactly what fresh expressions of church need.

Most likely you are not the right person to start new Christian communities in the daily lives of your congregation. That's because you are not with your church members through the week.

But you can support your lay people as they do so. You can be a sounding board, an encourager, a source of probing questions, a warning voice, and an advocate for what they are doing, especially to others in church who do not understand.

Pioneers often feel fragile. By trying something new they risk failure, which can make them anxious. If they are 'ahead of the curve', they may feel misunderstood or unappreciated. What they need are good pastors who understand them, sympathise with the ups and downs of the task, and provide a listening ear.

In particular, pioneers often make an identity journey. God may use their unease with existing church to call them on a journey of faith, like Abraham. As they psychologically break free of the church they are used to ('It's possible to be church in a different way', they realise), the Spirit leads them on a path to a new view of themselves.

Instead of just being a member of an existing congregation, they begin to see themselves as the founder of a new gathering. Perhaps they start to identify with others who are starting new expressions of church. As they do so, they travel away from existing church.

But paradoxically, many also crave affirmation from the church they are psychologically leaving. They want reassurance that what they are doing is acceptable and they won't be rejected.

This is where good pastors come in. Ministers can use their pastoral gifts to understand the hesitancies and tensions involved in this identity journey, and offer much-needed support. In other words, you do not have to be a pioneer yourself. You can be a pastor to those who are. Your care and backing can release those in your congregation who feel called to start a fresh expression.

Might you go further? Where practical, might you offer to be a pastor to these new communities? Might you be a referral person for individuals with pastoral needs? Might you visit from time to time, and as you get to know the community care for some of its members?

To encourage fresh expressions, you don't need to be a gifted change agent, nor gifted in up-front leadership, nor have pioneering experience. All you need are the gifts to encourage others to have a go, to gently and wisely hold them to account, and to let them come up with the answers.

Evaluation: part of spiritual discernment

Michael Moynagh seeks to reclaim evaluation as a spiritual discipline.

Evaluation has had a bad press in the secular world. Frequently targets are imposed from outside, are not owned by those involved, and privilege some stakeholders (such as funders) over others – often those served by the initiative. Surely we do not want the same culture creeping into the church?

A different starting point is to see evaluation as a part of spiritual discernment. The purpose is far more than assessing whether financial support is justified. It is to discover how the Spirit has been at work.

Evaluation becomes a process of recognising fruitfulness – not merely once a fresh expression of church is established, but at every stage beforehand.

A conversation can be fruitful if you learn something or get to know the other person better. An 'experimental' barbecue can be fruitful even though hardly anyone shows up: a throwaway remark during the evening may give you another idea to try.

Fruitfulness goes beyond the outcomes of your initiative. It includes signs of the Spirit at work during the journey.

As a fresh expression comes to birth, evaluation can be based on the fresh expressions journey.

A serving-first journey

A fresh expressions journey

Often you will not know what each stage looks like till you get to it. Even so, having this map may help you to see the direction of travel and provide a framework for evaluation as you go along. 'God has led us to this point in the journey. Where have we seen the Spirit at work? What fruit can we recognise? Where might we be heading next?'

Discernment becomes a matter of imagining concretely what the next stage will look like. Evaluation helps the team to assess whether these expectations have been met.

The appendix to my new book, Being Church, Doing Life: Creating gospel communities where life happens contains an illustrative list of 'evaluation' questions that a team (or those with oversight of a fresh expression) might ask at each stage of the fresh expressions' serving-first journey. In Being Church, Doing Life I have included both qualitative questions and, for those who like numbers, quantitative ones.

But what happens when a fresh expression nears the end of a serving-first journey? What might evaluation look like then?

You may want to adopt a different framework. You may want to base your evaluation on the four interlocking sets of relationships that should be at the heart of any expression of church and are centred on Jesus:

  • Uprelationships with God;
  • Out: relationships with the world;
  • In: relationships within the fellowship;
  • Of: relationships with the wider Christian family (the gathering is part of the body of Christ).

At the start of the year, members of the community might imagine what growth in the next twelve months might look like in each of these four sets of relationship.

For example, in relation to the 'Of' relationships, the community might agree to introduce holy communion and ask the minister to preside to strengthen its link with the parent church. Members might also decide to listen during the year to three podcast talks in their worship as another way of connecting with the wider church.

Evaluation will be the prayerful process of looking back, thanking God for the fruit you prayed for, recognising perhaps the absence of certain fruit and possibly identifying fruit that you did not expect. Again, in my book I have highlighted questions that a community – or those with oversight of it – might ask in relation to each of these four sets of church relationships.

And a final thought. If fresh expressions start doing this, might it become a model for the rest of the church?

How the mixed economy develops

Michael Moynagh explores how the mixed economy develops.

Phil Potter has likened the 'mixed economy church' to rivers and lakes. Rivers flow, bubble with energy and bring new water into lakes. Lakes are deeper and more tranquil. Just as rivers and lakes need each other, new forms of church flow into the existing Church and are enriched by its depth and traditions.

Blended church

In some cases, the mixed economy develops when new believers have a blended church experience. They attend both a fresh expression and an older church. There is nothing in the Bible to say that you can’t belong to two local churches! Rather than consumerism, this is about commitment – to more than one Christian community.

Shared events

A second form of the mixed economy is shared events between the fresh expression and its parent church. If the new community has come out of an existing congregation, its members will have a richer church life if they combine with the parent for social events, study groups, short courses, outreach or occasional acts of worship.

One place to start might be for a fresh expression to look out for opportunities to serve its parent church. Might it provide the refreshments for a church study day, for example? There is nothing like loving kindness to open others' hearts.

Church at large

A third expression of the mixed economy occurs when emerging Christians connect to the church at large – through events run by local churches together, or through regional and national conferences and training events, or through accessing Christian resources and making Christian connections online.


Fourthly, the mixed economy develops when new Christian communities cluster together. In an English cathedral city, a small team hosts a monthly Sunday breakfast for people in the neighbourhood who don't attend church. Up to 60 have crammed into a house! Around the breakfasts are other events, such as ice cream parties in the summer and chocolate parties in winter.

When individuals start to ask questions about spirituality and faith, they are invited to a weekly meeting at which the core team eat together, plan, pray and study the Bible. If the person enjoys it, they are invited on to the team. Within two or three years, the team grew from 8 to 18 people. It multiplied into two cells. The cells meet together from time to time.

Picture the scene after five years. Some of the cells will no longer be new. They will represent an existing church. As new cells keep being added and cluster with these older cells, they will give birth to… a mixed-economy church.


If you lead a fresh expression, keep connecting to the wider body! Existing churches may be refreshed and energised by the new life you bring. Your fresh expression may be deepened by the wisdom and experience of established churches. It can be win-win for everyone.

Flying with two wings (Michael Moynagh)

Michael Moynagh asks why the church is flying with only one wing.

The church has been flying with one wing when it comes to making disciples. It is high time it flew with two.


The traditional wing has involved withdrawing from the world for short periods. Believers have withdrawn into God's family in Sunday worship, small groups, conferences and retreats to be immersed in the Christian story. With their faith deepened and invigorated, they have re-entered the world to serve God.

This model has deep roots in the Christian tradition. Indeed, it's what Jesus did. At times he withdrew from the crowds and instructed his disciples privately, as in Matthew 13.36-43. Christians need special times together to be formed in the faith.

But what happens if the church flies with this withdrawal wing alone? Christians gather to be spiritually nourished, but then they scatter to live out their faith as individuals. Practising the faith on your own can be difficult.


Alongside the withdrawal model of making disciples, fresh expressions of church are showing how believers can take the church with them when they engage with the world. As they join fellow Christians in serving others in a segment of their lives, they learn discipleship where life happens.

Discipleship through communities that are engaged with life makes sense for all sorts of reasons. Here are just three of them:

  • it is what Jesus did. Jesus taught his followers not only in private, but in public – at the frontiers of life. In Luke 6.20, for example, he deliberately turned to his disciples to teach them, even though a large crowd was standing by (verse 17);
  • relying solely on the withdrawal model ignores how personal identities are shaped by families, networks, neighbourhoods, workplaces and other relationships outside the church. These identities frequently come to the fore at the expense of our Christian identities. Belonging to a Christian group in the midst of life can remind us that, important though these other identities are, our supreme identity is in Christ. This will affect how we live;
  • withdrawal into the church brings together Christians from a variety of backgrounds – a big plus – but often churchgoers do not fully understand one another's everyday lives. 'Their situation is so different to mine' someone might think. So it becomes difficult to help each person apply the faith to the specifics of their context. Application tends to focus on principles rather than 'how to' in a particular situation. By contrast, Christian communities in life contain people from the same setting. Individuals are better placed to support each other in applying the faith to their shared circumstances.

A challenge

One danger for fresh expressions is that they lapse back into the inherited mode of flying with one wing.

A community formed in a café might witness effectively to the café's hinterland. People discover Jesus. They turn to the community for teaching, worship and other resources that will deepen their faith.

Relying on a withdrawal model of Christian formation, the community gradually evolves into an ordinary 'church' that happens to meet in a café.

To avoid this, new believers can be encouraged where possible to join with one or two other Christians and start further communities among their friends and contacts. Through these new communities they can learn how to engage in faithful Christian practice in another part of their lives. At the same time, they might periodically withdraw into the café community to be soaked in God's story.

They would fly with two wings, which must be better than one!

Urgent! We need to transform the denominations (Michael Moynagh)

Michael MoynaghMichael Moynagh warns that we urgently need to transform the denominations.

In their book on missional innovation and entrepreneurship, The Permanent Revolution, Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim comment that the UK's Fresh Expressions movement has only marginally impacted the denominations. Fresh expressions have yet to be thoroughly owned by them.

This has already sparked an energetic online debate through Michael Volland's view piece but the question still needs to be asked, should the denominations being doing more to support fresh expressions of church – and if so, what?

Hirsch and Catchim may well be too pessimistic about the current situation. Some of the denominations have made substantial strides in embracing fresh expressions. The Methodist Church, for example, is writing fresh expressions into many of its policies, practices, standing orders and job descriptions. We know some dioceses are doing this too.

Even so, it is clear that we have a long way to go before fresh expressions are deeply embedded in the existing church. The situation is more dire than many realise. Unless the denominations act more urgently, the window of opportunity could soon close.

Even now, a big problem is that senior managers in the denominations don't have the time to push forward the mixed economy agenda – fresh and inherited expressions of church existing alongside each other in mutual support.

They are swamped by urgent maintenance questions ranging from employment and other policies, to new appointments, to initiating and managing re-organisation (read downsizing), to fire-fighting crises.

The problem is about to get a whole lot worse. On current trends, between 2015 and 2030 huge numbers will drop out of church as the baby-boom generation passes away. The need to manage contraction and to re-organise will increase exponentially. Senior managers will have even less time for encouraging fresh expressions.

Fortunately, as money and time become increasingly constrained, not all is lost. Here are some relatively 'easy wins' to advance the mixed economy.

  1. As posts become vacant, include 'encouraging fresh expressions' in the job description of the new holder. If this was done steadily and consistently for denominational and local-church appointments, a revolution would eventually occur in the direction of a denomination's ministry.
  2. Of course, those newly appointed would need support and advice on now to encourage fresh expressions. Each denomination or diocese should, therefore, appoint one person – in a new senior post – with the task of forming 'learning communities' among clergy and lay people who are encouraging or catalysing new types of church. Participants would meet three or four times a year to learn from each other's experiences, set goals and hold each other to account for seeking to achieve these goals. Church planters in Europe have found these communities to be very fruitful. 'Fresh Expressions Advisers', who convene such groups, should themselves be networked nationally (as is beginning to happen) so that they can learn good practice from one another.
  3. Fresh Expressions Advisers will need increasing financial support as the number of mixed-economy appointments grows. In the Church of England at least, this support should be funded from the rents of some of the clergy houses that are no longer needed due to the falling number of stipendiary ministers. Decline would fund growth.

These proposals could transform the denominations in the medium to long term. Where this has not already happened, they would require the switch of only one post in the denomination or diocese from maintaining inherited church to fresh expressions. Is this too big a price to pay?

Fresh expressions are not the only aspect of the church's mission, but they are playing an increasingly vital role.

Statistical evidence – gathered by Church Army's Sheffield Centre – from Canterbury, Leicester and Liverpool dioceses show that fresh expressions now represent approaching one fifth of the churches in those dioceses. A growing number have been around for more than five years.

Dioceses and denominations that intentionally support fresh expressions do see fruit. They reconnect with and serve parts of society that are outside the church's orbit. So why not take some relatively simple, but bold steps and clear a path for fresh expressions?