What’s in a name?

In the first part of our Leaders Away Day last Saturday we looked at what different ministries and congregations were. What I have begun to realise is that if we don’t have a clear common understanding of what we expect from a ministry or congregation then it is very easy to be pulling in differing directions and have different expectations of it.

So, on Saturday we looked at three types of ministry/congregations that we can have. It was good to have the discussion and to get some great feedback.

Now the ideas wasn’t to say that one was better than another or that we need to make certain ministries or areas into certain types. The key was that understanding helps us be more effective for God’s Kingdom and that where there might be confusion that a discussion can be had by those involved to create clarity.


LakeWe have discussed the idea of a lake as an image for much of church before. This is an attractional form of church and is the most prevalent model around. This has the idea that we build a great church or ministry and people will want to come and join us. One of the most successful examples of this model is Holy Trinity Brompton which puts a big emphasis on this model and its church planting strategy is predicated on finding church buildings in prominent places and replicating their style.

The advantages of the Lake are that it is in a settled place and that it can be a great place to grow and deepen peoples journey of faith.

The key disadvantage is that it relies on people coming to us and that often this has problems connecting with people outside the circle of faith.

River Ministries

RiverAgain we have discussed the idea of a River as a form of ministry before. This has sometimes been called the “engaged method”. The key idea here is that it is connected to the Lake form of church but can go much deeper into the community and connect with people who wouldn’t otherwise have any exposure to the message of Jesus. It does rely on people then making the transition back to the lake (or at least the potential). Part of its aim is to refresh those parts of the community that has little interest in church.

Some of the key markers are that there is a listening and serving processes that occur in this form of ministry. Attached with this is also a desire and willingness to introduce Jesus into the ministry and into the conversations – not heavily or in a dogmatic style – but without embarrassment.

The advantages of this form is that we can see so many different forms of serving and caring without the sense that we are losing our Christian identity and with the ability to nourish our own roots and life of faith in the Lake. It also allows us to reach out into different cultures and segments of society. The key disadvantage here is that we still need people to make, what is often for them, a large leap to join the Lake form of church with its specific culture.

Fresh Expression of Church

Fresh ExpressionFresh Expressions of church different in that it is even more missional! In a Fresh Expression of Church there is a listening to the needs and the culture of the community that you are reaching out to and then there is a a serving of it and an introducing of Jesus to them. In this case any church that arises will be culturally relevant to them and seek to help them hear the Gospel in their language and culture. In other words it isn’t a bridge back to the main lake. This will become their church and expression of faith in which people should grow and mature in their following of Jesus.

There is a simple but effective video that the Fresh Expressions teams have produced that is well worth a view about what a Fresh Expression of church is (and isn’t!):

So where does this leave us?

It means that for some things there isn’t a label that naturally fits but for much of what we want to do these labels can be helpful to achieve clarity and see what God is calling us to – as Jesus said (Mark 3:25) “If a house is divided against itself, the house cannot stand”. So, it is important that ministries and congregations are clear as to what they are being called to by God so that there isn’t a division that hurts and damages God’s work amongst us.

Now, this doesn’t mean that there is a set answer as to what each ministry or form should be but what was interesting was that there were three identified on Saturday where there was uncertainty enough to merit a discussion amongst those involved to ensure that they knew what they were being called to.


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