John Wesley’s early ministry led him into the fields of Bristol to the preach to the poor and working-class. Up until he accepted this invitation from George Whitfield, Wesley had only preached in the sanctuaries of the Church of England. This field preaching, in many respects, was what we might call today, a ‘Fresh Expression.’

What is a Fresh Expression?

Fresh Expressions is a missional model of outreach that seeks to be “a form of church for our changing culture, established primariy for the beneit of people who are not yet members of any church.” It was developed by Anglican and Methodist churches in England based on Jesus’ sending of the 72 in Luke 10 and launched in 2004.

When asked about the number of Fresh Expressions Pfrimmer’s Chapel has launched over the years, Rev. Tim Johnson, Lead Pastor, and Jeannie Bedel, Executive Assistant and Director of Pfrimmer’s leadership initiative, hem and haw, unsure of how to quantify a number. In 2021 alone, there have been at least nine.

Pastor Tim said, “We are a small country church, that’s really all we are. I could tell you what the number is of people who meet in this chapel upstairs on Sunday morning, and it’s really not all that impressive. But what you don’t see are the multiple, multiple, multiple expressions of organic moves of the Holy Spirit.”

Diving into their DNA

Rev. Tim Johnson credits learning and cultivating their DNA as a foundational part of these numerous Fresh Expressions. It took five to seven years for Pfrimmer’s Chapel to understand and develop their DNA. The church has since spent more than two decades discerning God’s leading into new arenas of ministry. 

Pfrimmer’s Chapel dug into the history of their church to explore who God has created them to be. They learned about the church’s founder, John George Pfrimmer, served in a variety of vocational roles in the community such as farmer, judge, physician, miller, and minister. These recollections informed a realization for Pfrimmer’s Chapel, that within their God-ordained church DNA was a call to be out in the community. 

A hopeful move of the Spirit

This has made Pfrimmer’s Chapel ready to respond to needs in the community, hearing them as God’s invitation into an organic, hopeful move of the Spirit. When the local YMCA struggled with staffing issues, the church volunteered to staff it for a week. Instead of running their traditional Vacation Bible School that saw the same group of children and families, they started something new with a community VBS. 

For churches considering exploring Fresh Expressions, Pastor Tim and Jeannie are nothing but encouraging. “One of the beautiful parts of Fresh Expressions for us, is it draws in a sort of fresh wind or fresh breath. There is this energy that comes from doing ministry uniquely. So if you’re tired and you’re worn out and if your frustrated, Fresh Expressions lives up to its name. It can bring freshness and not just to you, but to your people,” said Pastor Tim. 

Dreaming God-sized dreams

Jeannie shared about a culture of permission giving where the congregation feels empowered to join in the work God is doing, emboldended to dream God-sized dreams about where and with whom God is forming a new kind of church. 

For Jeannie, the dream started years ago as she felt God was calling her to start a center to disciple people to live on mission for God. After prayer and waiting on God to open the right doors, The Joshua Center was born. At the Joshua Center, lay and clergy who are feeling God’s call to build God’s Kingdom are trained and sent out, perhaps to even start a Fresh Expression where they work or live or play. 

Reflecting on this culture of permission and equipping disciples, Ed Fenstermacher, Associate Director of Church Development, said, “The church also not only raises up disciples, but it trains and equips them and then sends them out—each person living out his or her unique calling. The result is that the church has sent an astounding number of people to serve outside the church in all sorts of ways—from a goat-herder gathering with her goat-herder friends for a time of worship, to sending people out to start faith communities in places like Alaska, Columbia, Nepal, and Haiti. Although it’s located in a small building at the edge of a creek in rural southern Indiana, Pfrimmer’s Chapel truly exemplifies Wesley’s motto of the world being its parish.”

Others in the congregation are also dreaming. One family holds regular gatherings with their neighbors, none of whom are connected with the Church. These regular meals have grown to include reading the Bible and praying together, an organic Fresh Expression where people are being formed and discipled. 

The Pfrimmer’s Chapel team advises others exploring Fresh Expressions to: Dream big, start small, go first. 

When John Wesley received the invitation to field preaching, he was unsure about going. He came to believe that saving souls, even beyond the walls of the Church, was at stake. From Whitfield and Wesley’s willingness to follow the organic movement of God to field preaching, the Wesleyan revival began, and the movement of Methodism was born, which is in all of our DNA.

 

Are you interested in exploring Fresh Expressions or cultivating the DNA at your church? Reach out to Ed at ed.fenstermacher@inumc.org to connect with Church Development. Or, read more about INUMC’s resources for Fresh Expressions.