Fresh Expression House of Studies

Fresh Expressions

God invites us to join in the work of the Holy Spirit to bring about renewal, whether of individuals, congregations, the Church universal or all creation. As we deepen our study of Church Renewal at United, we are introducing Fresh Expressions programs for visionary leaders who are called to cultivate transformational Christian communities.

A fresh expression is a missional, contextual, formational and ecclesial form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of those who are not yet part of any church. Thousands of fresh expressions are emerging across the globe. Inherited congregations involved in their cultivation are experiencing forms of revitalization, in what has been called a “blended ecology of church.”

Whether you are ready to expand your ministry through the Doctor of Ministry or grow your leadership through a certificate program, you will receive instruction from practitioners in the Fresh Expressions movement to equip you for cultivating fresh expressions of Church and engaging in the work of Church Renewal.

Through United’s Fresh Expressions programs, students will explore:

  • fresh expressions and pioneer ministry in a post-Christendom culture
  • the missional church movement
  • contextual intelligence, missional church planting and trends in local ministry
  • diverse cultural, religious and linguistic contexts of ministry 
  • adaptive skills for a new missional frontier
  • practical renewal skills like cultivating teams, maintaining focus and establishing biblical strategies for ministry
Launching August 2020

Doctor of Ministry Focus Group

— Fresh Expressions and Church Renewal —


This cohort, the first of its kind in the US, is created for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs passionate about leading local churches in mission on the edge. United’s Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program is a professional degree for religious leaders ready to expand the area of ministry to which they are called. In the Fresh Expressions and Church Renewal focus group, join a cohort of your peers to learn from mentor Michael Beck and graduate assistant Jorge Acevedo. United’s mentor-based DMin program provides feedback, academic guidance, and ministry support as you develop an original research project for your unique ministry context.

Learn More about United’s DMin

Mentor: Rev. Dr. Michael Beck is Director of Re-Missioning for Fresh Expressions US and Cultivator of Fresh Expressions for the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church. Michael and his wife, Jill, are co-pastors of Wildwood United Methodist Church, where they direct addiction recovery programs, a jail ministry, a food pantry, an interracial unity movement, and a network of thirteen fresh expressions that gather in places like tattoo parlors, dog parks, and burrito joints. Michael earned a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and a Doctorate in Semiotics and Future Studies at Portland Seminary with his mentor Dr. Leonard Sweet. He is co-author of A Field Guide to Methodist Fresh Expressions (with Jorge Acevedo, Abingdon, 2020) and the author of Deep Roots, Wild Branches: Revitalizing the Church in the Blended Ecology (Seedbed, 2019).

Graduate Assistant: Rev. Jorge Acevedo is Lead Pastor at Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Southwest Florida. Grace Church has grown its attendance from 400 to over 2,600 in the past eighteen years and is recognized as having one of the largest and most effective recovery ministries in America, with over 700 people involved. Jorge received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Asbury College and earned a Master of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary. He was ordained a Deacon in the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church in May 1986, and an Elder in May 1990. Jorge is co-author of A Field Guide to Methodist Fresh Expressions (with Michael Beck, Abingdon, 2020) and the author of author of Vital: Churches Changing Communities and the World (Abingdon Press, 2013).

Planning for Anticipated Release in Fall 2021*

Master of Divinity Track 

— in Fresh Expressions —

For most people, the church as we know it has become inaccessible. The days of a professional minister caring for a flock of already-Christians is largely over. With the emergence of post-Christendom, the time of the missionary-pastor has arrived. The only way to make church accessible is through the formation of new Christian communities in the spaces and rhythms where people do life. The present-future is a blended ecology of both inherited and emerging forms of church. This was a realization made in the landmark Mission Shaped Church report (2004). All existing churches must now become church-planting incubators, and every Christian can be involved in this work. 

We are developing a new Fresh Expressions track, currently in planning for anticipated release in the Fall 2021 semester,* which proposes to focus study in United’s Master of Divinity program to prepare church leaders for the world that currently exists. Graduates will become proficient in pioneer ministry and the cultivation of fresh expressions of church.

In addition to United’s core courses in Bible, History and Theology, Practical Theology, and Contextual Ministry, the MDiv track in Fresh Expressions may include the following specialized courses:

Fresh Expressions of Church and Pioneer Ministry
The purpose of the course is to provide learning experiences in which students encounter, critique, and hone each other’s thinking about missional, contextual, formational, and ecclesial forms of church (fresh expressions). Examines the history and theology of the Fresh Expressions movement. Students are challenged by the reading and writing assignments to reflect on what the Church of England describes as pioneers… “people called by God who are the first to see and creatively respond to the Holy Spirit’s initiatives with those outside the church; gathering others around them as they seek to establish a new contextual Christian community.” An exploration of entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial giftings, effectual and causal logic, as well as praxis for incarnational church planting will be explored. 

Deep Roots, Wild Branches: The Blended Ecology of Church.
This course is an exploration in missional ecclesiology. Most pioneers will serve in established denominational or inherited systems. This requires the development of a special intrapreneurial gifting. “Mixed economy/blended ecology” pioneers work from the base of inherited systems to cultivate missional ministries: caring for the center, while experimenting on the edge. The concept of re-missioning, as well as methodologies and praxis for this activity will be explored.

Unlocking Contextual Intelligence
The purpose of this course is to learn about and explore the cultivation of Contextual Intelligence (CI), which refers to the ability to accurately diagnose a context and make correct decisions regarding what to do. The Tribe of Issachar possessed this distinct kind of intelligence. In a time of great transition and change, they were able to accurately diagnose the context (“read the signs”), and effectively apply their knowledge (“know what to do”). Unlocking CI has been shown to be a critical competency for leaders across multiple fields, a framework will be suggested for application in the local church.  

21st Century Discipleship, Evangelism, and Preaching
The purpose of this course is to explore the phenomenon of discipleship multiplication, evangelism, and preaching in the mission-shaped church. Pioneer ministry requires team-based, strengths-oriented, apprentice systems of discipleship. The biblical, historical and theological roots for the transmission of the Gospel will be explored and modern methods and challenges will be explored. Evangelism as a form of habitus, a concept dating back to Aristotle but greatly expanded in the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, will be explored. Students will also be challenged to consider how mega-shifts impact the practice of communicating the Gospel. A fresh set of skills will be explored for facilitating sermonic conversations, including semiotics, recoding, translation, and contextual theology.  

Cultivating Fresh Expressions of Church
This course explores the “how” of cultivating fresh expressions of church. The metaphor of “essentials for the journey,” will provide a framework, comprised of four components: 1. Compass (the four essentials: missional, formational, contextual, and ecclesial); 2. Map (the fresh expressions process of listening, loving and serving, building community, exploring discipleship, church taking shape, do it again) 3. Food for the journey (the scriptures and how to engage them with not-yet-Christians), 4. Destination (the four sets of interlocking relationships that define a mature fresh expression—the four marks of the church—one, holy, catholic, apostolic).

* Plans are subject to change

Learn More about United’s MDiv

Non-Degree Professional Development

— Certificates and Continuing Education —


Fresh Expressions Learning Communities
Over approximately 8-9 months, Learning Community cohorts meet for two weekend retreats, monthly connection and support through coaching. Teams and individuals discern and implement intentional steps toward developing fresh expressions of church appropriate to their unique contexts. The FXLC is a great opportunity for both pioneers, supporters, and permission givers to ignite new communities of faith. Upon completion United Theological Seminary will confer 5.0 CEU’s. Click to view a schedule of upcoming Learning Community opportunities or request one near you.

Pioneer Leadership Academy (Coming in 2021)
The Pioneer Leadership Academy (PLA) is an immersive, year-long, cohort-based training process that certifies lay and clergy leaders to cultivate fresh expressions of church. Through a mixture of both class-based and peer-to-peer learning, along with guided in-context experimentation, participants will become proficient in pioneer ministry.  Upon completion, United Theological Seminary will confer a Certificate in Fresh Expressions and Pioneer Ministry and 8.0 CEUs. Download and complete the 
PLA Application (PDF).

Resilient Church Academies (Next Session Begins August 3)
Resilient Church Academies (RCA) are month-long experiences of in-depth equipping for church leaders around timely needs facing the church in this tumultuous season.  This is some of the best “just-in-time” training available for church leaders today.  Learn from leaders like N.T. Wright, Keisha Polonio, Tod Bolsinger, and Laceye Werner and engage with topics such as Digital Ministry, Navigating Change, Dinner Church, Dialogical Preaching, Contextual Intelligence, Trauma Healing, and much more.  The next session of the Resilient Academy launches in August and multiple CEU options are available for each track and master-class sessions.  Learn more and register today.

Other Options
Fresh Expressions US and United Theological Seminary continue to iterate timely resources for the complexity of ministry in this season.  Check back often for new offerings available digitally or in your area.

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