Pioneer ministries and fresh expressions of church


Thursday 4 November 2010

VentureFX pioneer star of Wi Ad

We're honoured that VentureFX pioneer Simon Sutcliffe, working in Hanley, Stoke on Trent, stars in the latest Nintendo Wi Advert  You can follow Simon's blog by clicking on the VFX Hanley link at the side of this page.

Monday 24 May 2010

Wider network of VentureFX

We've been feeling for a while that, as well as the 20 core VentureFX projects, the scheme might be able to develop the capacity for supporting other pioneer projects that would value being part of the VentureFX network and resources as they develop.  It might help pioneers to feel that they are embraced and affirmed by the wider VentureFX scheme as well as being able to draw on elements of training, coaching, networking, resources and so on. We'd love to have some feedback as to how useful this might be, so if you have thoughts or ideas please leave a comment or email Ian

Thursday 20 May 2010

Tubestation story hits The Times!

Tubestation, the fresh expression of church relating to surf culture in North Cornwall was featured in a half-page article in The Times on Saturday (15 May 2010). 

It's a great article and highlights what amazing things God is doing in and through Tubestation.  VentureFX is partnering with Kris and Henry from the Tube, as they break new ground in a nearby location called St Merryn.  It's going to go under the name of Esta and will be seeking to form a relevant way of being followers of Jesus in that community.  The official launch will be in early July, so more details later.  We believe that the energy and vision of the Tubestation leadership is going to enable new and exciting things to come to birth in St Merryn and we are excited about this opportunity to work with them.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

VentureFX at ECG

VentureFX presence at ECG made a valuable contribution to the event.  Simon was busy all week and did a great job, together with Anthony Clowes, of hosting the nightly debate on various issues.  Ian was helping to staff the Methodist and VentureFX stand and had a number of worthwhile conversations.  We hope that next year the group of VentureFX pioneers will be able to play quite a significant role at the event.  One of the most memorable moments was the response to Martyn Atkins' sermon in the Theatre, when many people came forward to acknowledge that they shared a 'divine disquiet' about church and the need for church to be changed and renewed for mission.  Elaine Lindridge lead us in repeating the prayer of the Cuban church, 'Lord, prepare us for death or renew us!'  Challenging words to pray, but it could be a transformational prayer if we mean it.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

VentureFX project in Hanley, Stoke on Trent

The second VentureFX project to be launched is in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent. Simon Sutcliffe is our pioneer currently based in premises in the centre of Hanley at the heart of the city's vibrant nightlife. Simon is a Methodist Minister who has experience of fresh expressions and of reaching the young adult age group and he is beginnng to establish relationshps wth people in the area as he listens to what God is saying and what will be the most effective way of developing a Christian community in that context.  Read his blog by following the link at the right-hand side, and please pray for Simon and those who will work with him.

Wednesday 24 March 2010

New Monasticism

'The restoration of the Church must surely come from a new kind of monasticism, which will have only one thing in common with the old, a life lived without compromise according to the Sermon on the Mount in the following of Jesus.  I believe the time has come to gather people together for this.'

Could have come from any of the recent books, papers and conferences on the subject of Fresh Expressions and new monasticism.  Actually it is from a letter written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer to his brother on 14 January 1935!  It is quoted by Ray Simpson in his recent excellent book, 'High Street Monasteries' (Kevin Mayhew, 2009). 

The book is well worth a read for those involved in pioneering fresh ways of being church as it includes a really useful survey of the older and more recent expressions of monasticism, describes some contemporary examples, and offers a vision for the future.  I love his idea of 'Villages of God' and the diagram on p.102 is brilliant. It's quite a slim book and a bit pricey at £9.99, but worth getting hold of.

Friday 19 March 2010

Breakout gathering for Pioneers

There's a great gathering for Pioneers happening in July called Breakout which should be well worth going to if you are a pioneer or lead a fresh expression of church. John Drane and Kate Middleton are speakers, as well as Ken Clarke, Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh. But probably the greatest value for practitioners will be the support and networking opportunties. VentureFX is a full partner with Fresh Expressions and Church Army in putting this gathering on and we are hoping for around 100 or so people to come. Pass the word along, but do emphasise that it is for practitioners because that is the real value of the event.  It's at Kings Park, Northanpton from 5-7 July 2010 and more details are on the Breakout website.

Monday 8 March 2010

Did you know ...

Ninety percent of the British people rarely or never enter a church for any truly religious purpose ... What of that tragic sixty per cent who have no point of contact with us, and desire none; who are living entirely secular lives, who are profoundly ignorant of Christianity and quite sceptical as to its relevance to their needs? 

A quote from a recent book on contemporary mission in the UK?  No, a quotation from 'The Report of the Eastbourne Enquiry on "The Local Preacher and Evangelism"' published in, wait for it ....1949!

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Pioneer ministry is for the long haul

A couple of extracts from the Rowan Williams interview with Tim Nash mentioned in the previous post:

TN: We’ve got friends who are involved in various fresh expressions of church and it doesn’t always seem to sit that well in a particular diocese. Do you think that traditional church will always be seen as the real church as you already mentioned and fresh expressions will be seen as being on the eccentric fringe, and what can be done to free fresh expressions up from that image?

RW: I think it’s unavoidable that at the moment for a lot of people there’s the sense that this is the real stuff and the rest is just flannel. There are two things which I think the church has done officially to counter that in recent years. One is making it possible for bishops to create some space and so by giving what we call a Bishop’s Mission Order - to say, look there’s going to be some space there for some new things to happen, we’re not going to load this down with all the expectations of, you know, paying your assessments to the wider church and going through the hoops of administration. This is experimental territory. And a Bishop can say that’s going to happen.

We’ve also got now pioneer ministries in the Church of England, people who have been identified as having a calling to entrepreneurial, groundbreaking ministries and we recognise that we ordain them into those ministries, not just into the parish system. It’ll take a while but those are some of things in place to help make it a bit more mainstream.

TN: I was going to ask you about that, because I come from a Methodist tradition and they’ve started to recognise that these new forms of church take a long time to embed and to become financially sustainable and they’ve launched a number of 10 year funded projects. Is that something that the Church of England will be doing?

RW: That’s absolutely right and that’s part of the background that we bring to it as well. I think the partnership with the Methodist Church has been important for both churches, in fact. We’ve all learned from this process. But, yes, the assumption that you’ve got a new project and somehow it ought to be paying its way within three years, …well, …reality check! It’s not going to happen. And it may never happen and sometimes a project will blossom and then wither for all sorts of reasons which aren’t discreditable -it’s done its work, it’s sown some seeds. So, the long haul – deep breaths, I think – that’s very important.

Interview with Rowan Williams

I happened across a very interesting interview with Archbishop Rowan Williams.  He's talking to Tim Nash of the Nottingham-based missional community, Nomad.  Some interesting comments about the significance of fresh expressions and the 'little team' of people who are guiding it.  I was particularly heartened by his acknowledgement of the Methodist Scheme and our intention to support our projects for a period up to 10 years.  It's great to have his backing for the concept that pioneer ministry needs to be supported for the long-haul not the quick fix.  Tim's a Methodist and sounds like he's doing a great job in the Nottingham area.  There's some more podcasts on the Nomad website with some VERY interesting people!

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Jonny Baker at Windermere

Noticed that Jonny Baker is leading a three-day event on pioneering mission at the Windermere Centre in the Lake District from May 3-6. Anyone thinking about the possibility of getting involved in this kind of work (maybe through VentureFX) might consider booking in to explore what it is all about.

Monday 22 February 2010

First project starts in Sheffield

The first VentureFX project to get underway is in Sheffield.  Working in the Handsworth and Ecclesall Road areas, Ric Stott has begun to work with a small team to pioneer work with 20 - 30 years olds using arts-based activities.

Ric has art training and sees this as an exciting and creative way of reaching people who don't normally come to church.  Already there has been significant interest in what Ric is doing, and new opportunities are opening up all the time. Ultimately it is hoped that some kind of fresh expression of church will develop but for the moment Ric is trying to make links and establish relationships. 

Please pray for Ric and this project.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Seven Promises

You may have heard that CMS (Church Mission Society) has become an acknowledged community of the Church of England and Jonny Baker has recently blogged about the implications of this.  As a mission community CMS is now able to do some things that it wasn't able to before which will give it greater freedom to encourage pioneer mission and to develop a new training programme for pioneers.  As part of the establishing of the community seven statements have been formulated which community members adhere to as a rule of life and I thought it was worth mentioning them for us all to consider:

1. I want my life to be about mission
2. I believe God is still working in this world
3. Mission isn't someone else's job, it's mine
4. I want to live for Jesus every day
5. I realise I need fuel for my journey
6. I want to help my local Christian community keep mission a priority
7. I want to regularly renew my mind and spirit

They strike me as being a pretty good statement of what we should be striving for!

Sunday 17 January 2010

Rob Bell UK tour

Many people have drawn from Rob Bell's books and Nooma DVDs for their inspiration in taking a fresh and creative approach to exploring faith.  Rob Bell is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan and has written a number of influential books such as Velvet Elvis, Sex God, and Jesus Wants to Save Christians. He is on a tour of the US West Coast, the UK and Australia and New Zealand during the spring of 2010.  The tour is based on his new book, Drops Like Stars, and is an exploration of the complex relationship between suffering and creativity. The UK dates are 14-19 March and take in Belfast, Stoke on Trent, Swansea, London, Southampton and Perth. If you are near any of those venues I'm sure it would be worth getting along.  Tickets are £10.50 and can be booked online at:

Friday 15 January 2010

Project applications - form available

If you are thinking of submitting an application for a VentureFX project in your circuit or district, please note that the application form is now available as a download from the website (link at the right-hand side of this page). The closing date is 23 April and the Project Selection panel will meet on 24 May 2010 - Wesley Day!

Thursday 14 January 2010

New ventures in new directions

On finishing Al Hirsch's 'The Forgotten Ways' (which I highly recommend) I was quite awe-struck by a quote from Karl Barth in his final chapter. It comes from Barth's 1959 letter to a pastor in the German Democratic Republic who was anxious about the fate of the church under communism. His comments about the need for the church to look for new ventures in new directions seems highly relevant for mission in post-Christendom, postmodern culture.

No, the church’s existence does not always have to possess the same form in the future that it possessed in the past as though this were the only possible pattern.

No, the continuance and victory of the cause of God which the Christian Church is to serve with her witness, is not unconditionally linked with the forms of existence which it has had until now.

Yes, the hour may strike, and perhaps has already struck when God, to our discomfiture, but to his glory and for the salvation of mankind, will put an end to this mode of existence because it lacks integrity.

Yes, it could be our duty to free ourselves inwardly from our dependency on that mode of existence even while it still lasts. Indeed, on the assumption that it may one day entirely disappear, we should look about us for new ventures in new directions.

Yes, as the Church of God we may depend on it that if only we are attentive, God will show us such new ways as we can hardly anticipate now. And as the people who are bound to God, we may even now claim unconquerably security for ourselves through him. For his name is above all names…

[Letter to a Pastor in the German Democratic Republic, in How to Serve God in a Marxist Land (New York: Association Press, 1959) pp.45-80]

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Hinde Street lecture

I've just caught sight of the publicity for a series of lectures at Hinde Street Methodist Church, London.  They are being given by Morna Hooker and Frances Young, with the general title of 'What Mission?  Urban Discipleship.' The one which stuck out was on 16 March at 7.30pm, Frances Young's lecture is: 'The Challenge of "Establishment" - Did a Christian Empire help or hinder?'  This could be a very useful lecture for those interested in the impact on mission of post-Christendom.  If you are within striking distance of London it might be worth going along.  More details from or check out the website  Other lectures are on Feb 23, March 2, 9 and 23.  All at 7.30pm.

Projects about to launch

On Monday the Projects Selection Panel met to look at all the project proposals which came in.  It is fantastic to see what creative and exciting ideas people are working on and I wish the scheme could support them all!  It was tough having to make choices, but we decided on 5 projects and we hope that these will be able to be launched very soon.  We have pioneers lined up for all but one of them, so things should be able to happen pretty quickly.  It's too soon to publish the details - the news is still filtering through to the circuits and districts concerned - but we hope to be able to give those details within a couple of weeks.  Please pray for the pioneers as they prepare for some amazing new experiences on the roller-coaster ride that is pioneer ministry.  See the panel at the side of this page for closing dates for the next selection round both for projects and pioneers.

Thursday 7 January 2010

Growing Jesus-community in a postmodern world

Bart Woodhouse offered this reflection on the challenge of forming Christian community among unchurched young adults at the recent pioneer selection conference.  Bart and the project where he is working (The Beacon, near Dartford) were recently co-opted into VentureFX to bring experience and learning as the scheme develops):

It is my world not some foreign place
It is a Facebook account and my hourly status
It is the corporate machine seeing how hard they can push
It is the blog I read, and the one I mean to write
It is the politician’s word-spinning promise
It is a police force that I don’t trust
It is the family that I don’t know
It is the Buddha on my mantle piece
It is the crucifix around my neck
It is the intoxicating paradox of blended of ideas
It is both the mortgage and the endless demands in red
It is the wanting of “wanting”
It is the need of my next “Bench Hoodie”
It is X Factor
It is Strictly Come Dancing
It is the celebrity in me
It is a thumb straining text conversation
It is a numb feeling of condemnation
It is a haemorrhaging meaning – a fractured truth
It is a world of choice – my human right
It is the condom I need to wear
It is the next viral scare
It is my hunger for experience
It is my virtual X-Box life
It is my longing to be deeply known
It is my fear that I’ll be on my own
It is my pursuit of an accepted identity
It is the company of my iPod shuffle - knowing what song I need to hear
It is CO2 emissions and my energy saving kettle
It is my fifth holiday with Ryan Air
It is my SMART car parked on my drive
It is a Coldplay lyric haunting my vulnerable head
It is a sense of hopelessness – being out of control
It is global poverty sanitized and always elsewhere
It is the science of “Dolly” the cloned sheep
It is globalisation – homogenisation
It is an American cultural coup d’├ętat
It is the uneasiness with “Modern Britain”
It is a fleeting thought about the BNP
It is an embarrassing adolescence that seems unable to end
It is a world I hate
It is a world I love
It is a world I don’t trust
It is a world that no longer has a sense of its future

And to create a Jesus community in this world existing on its own event horizon:

It is to listen and listen some more
It is to hear the Spirit
It is to hear the whisper of GOD IN THE WORLD!
It is to listen to the cry of his missional whisper – Kingdom!, Grace!, Hope!
(can you hear it?)
It is to recognise the red-eyed face of God at mission and join in!
It is to listen to the robust and needful questions in this world
The “why?”
The “who?”
The “what?”
The “where?”
It is to listen to the complexity – the hopelessness
It is listen as a conversation partner
Familiar and yet different
It is being part of a penniless community of lottery winners
It is imagination
It is Spirit dreaming
It is a conversation with no final sentence
It is to create a place of
It is a dangerous place, an edgy place
It is arguments
It is difference
It is Relationships
It is encounter
It is transformation
It is community!

Simply it is an out stretched hand, and invitation to discover “why you are who you are” and to step into the rhythm of the Kingdom life, that because of the cross, has forgotten how to stop…

I hope you will find this useful for your own reflection on pioneering ministry in this culture.  It isn't copyright but please ask Bart before reproducing this material.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

What was Jesus doing for 30 years?

I'm in the process of reading Al Hirsch's 'The Forgotten Ways' (Brazos Press, 2006) and finding it very stimulating in terms of orienting the church for cross-cultural and incarnational mission. I suppose I should have thought of this before, but haven't:

'The fact that God was in the Nazarene neighborhood for thirty years and no one noticed should be profoundly disturbing to our normal ways of engaging mission ... it says something about the timing as well as the relative anonymity of incarnational ways of engaging in mission' (p.133)

It just underlines the need for long-term commitment to presence within the community where we are trying to mission - pioneer ministry needs significant time spent in listening and exploring and discerning (what the community is saying - what the Holy Spirit is saying).  It also reminds me that we don't always have to work quite so hard as we sometimes do at being noticed.  Making a noise and making our presence felt can sometimes be counter-productive.  Simply being with and alongside people without banging a drum can be equally if not more effective - no one noticed that God was in the neighbourhood for thirty years, but the ground was being prepared for people to notice his saving activity when it came.