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Re-imagining Rural Church

Mission Statement

Background

A higher proportion of people in the countryside attend church than in any other environment in Britain. Churches are frequently highly visible and at the heart of village life.

However, church life in many rural areas is weak and growing weaker. Why?

  • Because there has been a great break down in the stability of rural village life contributed to by greater mobility, the reduction in agricultural employment, the increase in tourism and population shift which affects all village-based institutions.
  • Because consumerist attitudes lead more Christians to choose to travel for the church experience they want, leaving Christian witness weaker in their own local rural community.
  • Because many rural churches are tied to buildings/ structures which are not always well-shaped for mission.
  • Because many rural churches are locally rather than network based and do not have within small congregations the resources to do effective mission among all the people groups present in their locality.

So under-churched groups and communities in rural areas continue to challenge Christians to engage in pioneering and creative mission. Rural Expression is one response to this challenge. The language we use:- We have discovered as part of this journey that we have many friends who have a similar heart but that the word we use can cause misunderstanding and confusion. In defining our focus we debated the use of geographical terms such as area vs sociological terms such as network. We must recognise that most rural areas have some expression of church so to talk of unchurched/under-churched rural areas is contentious. The term ‘networks’ encompasses much of what we wanted to say but as a term was not as easy to comprehend as part of a public statement. We have chosen to use a dual expression of “groups and communities” to include people who are drawn together by profession, interest, felt identity, social structures or family situation and also not to precluded the possibility of geography (i.e. sub areas within our villages, towns and parishes) whom are not represented in or being reached by existing churches.

 

Mission Statement.

Rural Expression is a Rural mission initiative that recruits, equips, deploys and networks self-financing teams pioneering creative and relevant expressions of the Christian church among under-churched groups and communities in rural areas. Rural Expression:

  • Is a pioneering mission initiative.
  • Works only in the rural areas.
  • Is concerned with under-churched groups and communities.
  • Aims to plant new churches, gatherings and congregations.
  • Operates through self-funding teams.
  • Encourages creativity and experimenting.
  • Is not interested in imposing models of church but looks to teams to work in complementary ways to existing forms of church in the area.
  • Works in dialogue and fellowship with other Christians, groups and churches.
  • Provides pastoral support and training.

Rural Expression is a pioneering mission initiative. Our purpose is to call Christians into mission activities in areas that are recognised as frontiers of mission work today, and to operate in an innovative way.

 

Rural Expression works only in the rural areas. There are many mission opportunities in other places, but this is our focus. Rural Britain has radically transformed socially and culturally in recent decades, and represents one of the most challenging and exciting environments for mission today.

 

Rural Expression is concerned with under-churched groups and communities. We do not wish to compete with others, to work with groups of people, which are already strongly represented in existing churches. We are interested in the gaps, the groups of people whom are not being reached by existing churches. These may include…

• the invitation of a local church or regional organization (diocese/association/circuit etc) to plant within a certain group or area of need.

• following on after the closure of a church building or the ceasing of an existing congregation – where there is still a viable community or group to re-plant within.

• the invitation/call of local Christians or a local community to work and plant within a clearly defined group or area of need.

• where, after research and dialogue with churches and local community, a group/initiative would be of clear benefit a) to bolster the resources of local Christian work b) to provide a distinct and complementary avenue of mission to that already taking place.

 

Rural Expression aims to plant new churches. Although we engage in various forms of mission, our primary purpose is to establish new gatherings and new communities of faith that will proclaim and demonstrate the gospel.

 

Rural Expression operates through self-funding teams. We recruit and work through teams but we do not provide financial support for these teams. Each team is responsible for its own support.

 

Rural Expression encourages creativity and experimentation. In many rural areas established forms of church are only working for a small part of the population. Teams are expected to think in fresh ways, to dare and dream, to explore new ways of being church.

 

Rural Expression is not interested in imposing models of church. There is no one model of church that we advocate. Teams are expected to listen very carefully to the local community and to discover ways of being church that are rooted in the culture of the particular groups or communities they are trying to reach.

 

Rural Expression works in dialogue and fellowship with other Christians, groups and churches. We recognise the importance of existing expression of church and witness in rural communities and our purpose is not to compete or be critical. We are committed to being an encouragement to other Christians and the community. Where approaches to mission differ we will seek to maintain an open dialogue, to pray for one another, and to support each other. Where mission is already happening we will seek to complement.

 

Rural Expression provides pastoral support and training. We recognise that rural mission is demanding and that this approach is high-risk and long-term. We provide strategic and pastoral support, and a programme of ongoing training.