Dear ABCNJ Community: This is a copy of a letter that I am sending today to all of our ABCNJ Pastors. I wanted you to have an advance copy of it so that you can have more time to pray about your response! - Rev. Dr. Lee B. Spitzer, ABCNJ Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor
Have you ever dreamed of starting a new kind of church or ministry that might reach out to people that do not come to your church? Are you eager to explore "out of the box" ideas for being "the people of God in community" in the twenty-first century? Are you willing to take a radical risk for Christ and the world he died for?
At this year's ABCNJ Annual Session (which was attended by over 700 people!), we announced a new regional initiative to discover how we might create and support new kinds of Baptist churches that can reach out to people who do not identify with the church as it currently exists and functions.We are partnering with a movement called Fresh Expressions US, which is an extension of the original renewal movement that began in Great Britain. As the attached announcement indicates (see below), we are forming a Mission Shaped Ministry Learning Community that will journey together for a year. The 5 Saturday meetings will be hosted by First Baptist Church in Hightstown, and the two retreats will be in Maryland (other learning communities will be with us at the retreats). This opportunity is for both pastors and visionary lay leaders.
ABCNJ participants in the Fresh Expressions Learning Community will help fashion our region's Fresh Expressions vision, initiate bold new initiatives, and serve as a support group to encourage others to experiment. ABCNJ clergy will receive an ABCNJ Academy course credit for completing the year's journey. I am pleased to share that Rev. Mia Chang, Senior Pastor of NextGen Church in West Windsor (an ABCNJ new church start), has agreed to volunteer as Coordinator for our Fresh Expressions Learning Community.
There are two ways you can join ABCNJ's Fresh Expressions Mission Shaped Ministry Learning Community. First, you can register through the Fresh Expressions website. The cost is $750 plus lodging for the retreats. The group is open to all who wish to participate.
Second, you can apply for an ABCNJ Fresh Expressions scholarship. ABCNJ is offering up to twelve $500 Fresh Expressions scholarships, which should cover about half of the total costs of participating in the learning community. These scholarships are available to both pastors and lay leaders. We would strongly encourage your church to cover the balance. Scholarship recipients must be active members of an ABCNJ congregation, and lay leaders will need the recommendation of their pastor. To apply, email me at email@example.com and affirm:
- You are an active member/leader/pastor of an ABCNJ church (tell me which one!).
- You are willing to make a sincere commitment to attend the 2 retreats and all of the Saturday sessions (block the time off now in your calendars!).
- You have a deep desire and passion to launch a creative new ministry or new church focusing on people the church has a hard time reaching, and you are willing to encourage others to do so.
The deadline for applying is November 1, 2012. We are looking to sponsor a diverse group, and especially desire participation from emerging leaders (who are between the ages of 20-40). We will notify applicants of our decision by November 8, 2012.
Partnering with ABCNJ as We Pioneer New Initiatives
The Fresh Expressions initiative is just one of many examples of how ABCNJ is striving to help our churches and pastors become more spiritually healthy and faithful to God's call. This is possible due to the generous and ongoing financial mission support of our churches and pastors. We are offering the Fresh Expressions scholarships by faith, believing that God will provide ministry resources from our supporters.
There are a number of ways you can partner with us as we launch Fresh Expressions:
1) Make sure that your church sends in its United Mission and ABCNJ Region offerings! 2) Your church may wish to send in a designated offering for Fresh Expressions, so that we can offer more scholarships and help launch the resulting new ministries. The designation on the check should read "ABCNJ - Fresh Expressions." 3) You may wish to provide a ministry offering as an individual "Friend of ABCNJ." You can either give a general gift to the region or designate support for "ABCNJ - Fresh Expressions."
Thank you for your support!