"Fresh Expressions

Fresh Expressions - 2014 Learning Cohort


Loving people who can't be reached by "Church as usual"
ABCNJ is seeking 12-20 lay people and pastors who dream of reaching their communities for Christ.  Nominee names, addresses, and email should be sent to
 Dr. Lee B. Spitzer using the form below no later than December 15, 2013.  This opportunity is only for members of ABCNJ congregations which are in covenant with the region.

About the Cohort

The Opportunity

Be part of a year-long learning community which will challenge you to explore your passion.

The Call

We are seeking risk-taking Christ-followers with a passion to connect with an unreached  group or community.

The Goal

Develop a vision and strategy for reaching an unreached group of people for Christ.

About the commitment

The Cost

$1000 total, ½ the cost will be covered by an ABCNJ scholarship.  The cost is broken up as follows:

  • $750 registration
  • Approximately $250 for transportation and retreat lodging

The Retreats

  • January 17 – 18, 2014
  • November 21 – 22, 2014

The Saturdays

  • February 22
  • April 12
  • June 21
  • August 23
  • October 18

Submit a Nominee

Note: You may nominate yourself

To submit a nominee, please send the following information to lspitzer@abcnj.net:

  • Nominee name
  • Nominee eMail
  • Nominee address
  • Reasons why you feel the nominee would make a good addition to the 2014 learning cohort

The nature of discipleship - Freshly Expressed


Fresh Expression’s second gathering was held at the First Baptist Church of Hightstown.  One of the key subjects centered on discipleship.   A quote from Missiologist Alan Hirsch's The Forgotten Way was central to the conversation,

When dealing with discipleship, and the related capacity to generate authentic followers of Jesus, we are dealing with that single most crucial factor that will in the end determine the quality of the whole-if we fail at this point then we must fail in all the others.
As we consider fresh expressions of church, it is crucial that we reexamine how discipleship is developed in our ministry context.  Many people view discipleship as simply a component of church life, especially for new believers.  It may be limited to Sunday school classes, books, lectures, conferences, and other forms of formal, institutional instructions.  While these methods of discipleship may be helpful to spiritual formation, they are not the only ways. These forms of training usually take place within the confines of a classroom where students are merely passive recipients.  Discipleship, as Jesus demonstrates is one that is modeled and embodied by the leader.  The students in a trusting and genuine community follow in the steps of the leader/mentor.  As Jesus and his group of twelve journey together, understanding of the Kingdom of God and their role in their community become more evident.  In the context of authentic relationship, discipleship takes shape.  For Jesus, it is an intentional, purposeful labor of love.   Effective and fresh expressions of church in our context, then, will be the fruit of discipleship.  May, we, the leaders, humbly walk together with our students and experience the power and glory of our living Lord.

Associated Baptist Press covers Fresh Expressions


ABCNJ's Fresh Expressions is featured in an article by Robert Dilday on the Associated Baptist Press Site.

Fresh Expressions, a movement which aims to help churches engage postmodern culture through new creative communities of faith, has taken the next step in its development with the launch this month of its first learning communities in the United States.

The two communities, called Mission-Shaped Ministry, are based in the Washington and Trenton, N.J., metropolitan areas. More than 50 people gathered Jan. 18 for a combined initial retreat at a church north of Baltimore.

Follow this link to read the rest of the article at ABPnews.

Expressions, Starting Fresh


On Friday, January 18th, the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey’s Fresh Expressions Team embarked upon a new journey. The two-day retreat in Forest Hill, Maryland was an exciting and inspiring time of learning, fellowship, and worship. Comprised of 29 pastors and lay leaders from various churches throughout New Jersey – the diversity of age, cultural background, expertise within our group reflected the richness of the ABCNJ family. The retreat consisted of teachings centered on the theme of being missional in our ever-changing cultural landscape. Being missional refers to participating in the “missio dei.” We were reminded of the true definition of mission:

It is not that the church has a mission in the world, but the God of mission who has a church in the world. The God of mission roots mission in love- it is outlandish, radical- even scandalous love.

Mission, then, is to listen, observe, and discover what God is doing in our world and “joining in” with Him. It is to go beyond trendy evangelistic strategies, quick membership growth, or gimmicky programs, but to become a “mission shaped church” where God’s mission lies at the heartbeat of our faith community.

The members had opportunities to share how God was moving in their own hearts, church, and community, and expressed hopes and dreams to serve in fresh and innovative ways.

For me, the most poignant moment occurred during the corporate prayer time. Many of our ABCNJ teammates lifted prayers on behalf of our un-churched and de-churched friends and neighbors, and for our commitment to the mission of God for our region. It was truly a spirit-filled gathering and a hopeful beginning for our Fresh Expressions journey.

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ABCNJ - Fresh Expressions Initiative

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 lspitzer@abcnj.net and affirm:

  1. You are an active member/leader/pastor of an ABCNJ church (tell me which one!).
  2. 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!).
  3. 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!

Fresh Expressions


Rev. Dr. Chris Backert, the national coordinator for Fresh Expressions US, came all the way from Richmond, Virginia via Amtrak on April 17, 2012, to dialogue with the ABCNJ Regional Ministry Team and Bridge Pastors about planting new kinds f churches.  Fresh Expressions began in England, whee over 2,000 Fresh Expressions projects are underway (sponsored by Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and other denominations).

On March 15, Dr. Spitzer attended the Fresh Expressions National leaders meeting in Virginia.  he believes that the Holy Spirit is encouraging Jesus' disciples to embrace new ways of reaching people.  That's what Fresh Expressions is all about.

Chris Backert posed the key questions underlying the Fresh Expressions movement: "What are we doing about those people who do not go to church?  How will the Holy Spirit use us to reach them?"  He noted that in New Jersey, only 13.5% of the population attends church on a given Sunday.  Only a small minority of the other 86.5% is open to traditional church life.  Accordingly, a Fresh Expressions church outreach starts with a strong missions focus, a willingness to re-imagine how a church is organized, and a commitment to both existing and new forms of church.