Friday, April 12, 2013
the challenges in fresh expressions
“For the essence of modernity is economic development, the vast transformation of society precipitated by the emergence of the capitalist world market. And capital accumulation … requires the constant revolutionising of production, the ceaseless transformation of the innovative into the obsolescent.” (Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember (Themes in the Social Sciences), 64)
This raises the question – how much of fresh expressions is simply a reflection of capitalism? Are new forms of church simply a reflection of a cultural privileging of the search for the next new thing? Are we replacing the ever changing fashion hunt for clothes, gadgets, machines, neighbourhoods, with the fashion hunt for churches, spiritual experiences, worship ideas?
This, in a nutshell is a significant challenge to fresh expressions. We are all deeply enmeshed in this cycle, this economy. Our culture has deep and powerful subterranean currents that push us to prize innovation, the new.
As my family joke to each other as something new distracts us in the shops: “Oh, shiny.”
In our pursuit of mission, we need a depth of cultural analysis, an ability to more clearly recognise the deep and powerful subterranean currents that carry us as individuals and communities. The cultural tools to do this can be found in the world of mission, which has 2,000 years of experience in reading cultures.
We also need a theological understanding of gospel and culture, and awareness of the multiple postures by which the church in history has engaged with the deeper currents of culture. Mission history is a rich resource for such insights, for again, it has 2,000 years of seeking to find the Spirit in the outworking of cultures.
As we have these conversations, we can begin to frame a divine economy, a way of seeing our past, the places we walk, the people we engage that is neither free market capitalist nor historic rural idyll.
Armed with cultural awareness, mission insights and a theology of God, we might then begin to work toward a richer theology and missiology of fresh expressions.
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