Chris Backert Fresh Expressions Interview PGE 17

The challenge of Christianity and Christian churches in the United States and Europe is that traditional churches and denominational organizations are struggling. The gap between growth of the population as a whole and the number of those identifying themselves as Christians is increasing. In addition, attendance in ‘traditional’ denominational churches has been on the decline for over two decades. Hundreds of churches each year are closing. The result of the decline has created strain on denominational agencies. Since individual church budgets have declined because of the decline in attendance, denominational organizations, dependent upon church budgets, greatly have had to reduce their own staff, ministry, and budgets. These declines and closings are happening across the denominational and theological spectrum. As the other-than-Christian population continues to outdistance the Christian population, there is a rise in the numbers of those identifying themselves as the ‘nones,’ meaning that they do not identify with any organized religious group. ‘Spiritual’ but not ‘religious’ is a common expression of identity.

What does all of this mean for Christianity and for churches and denominations in the United States? How is God moving and leading during this time? What are we as Christians and churches supposed to do and to be in the context of these challenges? These are the sorts of questions to which we all, as Christians, are seeking to find answers. Consequently, there is, in an ironic way, or maybe even in a divinely providential way, a shared (dare I say ‘united’) conversation going on among us across the Christian spectrum.

Some, like Stanley Hauerwas, make the case that as Christianity and the Church become less connected to, disentangled from, and disassociated with the dominant culture and politics of the nation, the better able they are to be more truly Christian the church, since the dominant culture and politics of a nation is always corrupting.

Others, in seeing every problem and challenge as also an opportunity, envision, with eagerness, the possibility of the flourishing of new creativity within and from churches and Christian organizations. There is great deal of experimentation taking place. One such effort is Fresh Expressions. It is an effort that began in England, but has also taken root here in the United States.

My guest is Dr. Chris Backert, who is the National Director of Fresh Expressions US. In addition to his role as National Director of Fresh Expressions US, he serves with the Baptist General Association of Virginia in the area of growth and venture development. He also serves as National Director for both Ecclesia, a US network of missional churches, as well as Missio Alliance. Previously, he served as pastor of New Life Christian Fellowship, a large university congregation in Blacksburg, Virginia and has been involved in the planting of three new congregations. Chris holds a D.Min. in Missional Church Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary.

You can learn more about Fresh Expressions, Chris, and his work at the Fresh Expressions’ website:

In addition, an excellent book that gives a thorough understanding of this creative effort and how it is done is: From the Steeple to the Street: Innovating Mission and Ministry through Fresh Expressions of the Church by Dr. Travis Collins who is Fresh Expressions’ Director of Mission Advancement and Southeast Regional Coordinator.

The music for this episode is from a clip of a song called ‘Father Let Your Kingdom Come’ which is found on The Porter’s Gate Worship Project Work Songs album and is used by permission by The Porter’s Gate Worship Project. You can learn more about the album and the Worship Project at