A formula for fresh expressions

Published April 1, 2012

MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE “We need to be more imaginative about what God is calling us to do,” says the Rev. David Male, VCP conference keynote speaker. One U.K. community is thinking of establishing a church in a laundromat, he said.
Photo: Blend images

DIANA SWIFT continues her coverage of the recent Vital Church Planting conference held at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto. The event was co-sponsored by the Anglican diocese of Toronto, Fresh Expressions Canada and The Wycliffe College Institute of Evangelism at the University of Toronto.

Rarely do equations pop up in discussions of church planting, but one certainly did in the Rev. David Male’s presentation at the recent Vital Church Planting conference in Toronto. In talking about church pioneers and their re-engagement with society, he shared the following missional mathematics formula: D x V x R x FS > PC.

Translated to the context of fresh church expressions, it means: Dissatisfaction (with current church) times Vision (imagining how a better church might look) times Resources (people, time and funds creatively sourced by all available means) times First Step (take it!) must be greater than Perceived Cost.

Male, who teaches pioneer mission at Ridley Hall in Cambridge in the U.K., and founded The Net, a successful pioneer church in Huddersfield, U.K., said team building is critical. “A team is really, really important. Starting with the Holy Trinity through to Christ and his followers, mission is always in the plural.”

Next, the process of starting a new church must include loving and listening to your community, then serving its specific needs. Only after this should Christian discipling and mature worship take place. “Love, relate, create,” is one of Male’s teaching slogans. We should be asking ourselves, “How do we love as Jesus loved?” not “How do we get more people into our services?” he said. “You will be halfway there if you understand that the mission of God has a church, not that the church of God has a mission,” he said.

Male urged delegates not to retreat within the comfortable walls of their churches but to embrace whole-life discipleship and engage people in different areas of their lives in individual communities, where many people are wanting to talk about the meaning of life. “Re-imagine what church is. The possibilities are endless,” he said, noting that one U.K. community is thinking of establishing a church in a laundromat. “We need to be more imaginative about what God is calling us to do.”

An effective missional team will have members with a wide variety of gifts, he said.

This team needs innovators and idea people, but it also needs bridge builders, “who can take and refine mad ideas and help them become reality.” Also needed are the persuaders, who take an idea from the pioneer team and get the support of the whole church.

The missional church must also be willing to take risks. “It’s okay to fail,” said Male, noting that James Dyson, the designer of the cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaner, produced 520 prototypes before he succeeded. “The biggest danger is to take an idea off the shelf and go do it by the book in your community. Every community is different.”

Allow time to build trust by exploring one another’s reasons for joining the team, by celebrating and relaxing together and by reaffirming your commitment to common goals and values, suggested Male.

Finally, an effective missional team must constantly review, refine and revise its plan in light of what God is calling it to do. “Even if you’ve grown from two to 50 members, don’t just kick off your shoes and relax,” Male said.

For more Vital Church Planting Conference stories, see


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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