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Newfrontiers
Newfrontierslogo.jpg
Founders Terry Virgo
Type Neocharismatic church network
Founded 1990
Headquarters United Kingdom Brighton, UK
Area served Worldwide
Employees 10
Members 600+ churches
Motto "A worldwide family of Churches, Together on a Mission."
Website http://www.newfrontierstogether.org/
Registered Charity number: 1060001

Newfrontiers (previously New Frontiers International) is a neocharismatic apostolic network of evangelical, charismatic churches founded by Terry Virgo. It forms part of the British New Church Movement, which began in the late 50s and 60s combining features of Pentecostalism with British evangelicalism.[1] Other streams of the British New Church Movement with which it shares some features include Together, Ministries Without Borders, and Life-Links. Groups like Pioneer, Ichthus Christian Fellowship and Vineyard are more distantly related. Newfrontiers is rapidly growing and claims to have 600 churches in forty nations worldwide.[2] Newfrontiers describes itself as "an international family of churches together on a mission to establish the Kingdom of God by restoring the church, making disciples, training leaders and planting churches." Its theology is distinctively Reformed. Newfrontiers is committed to building churches according to "New Testament principles." One of the slogans of the movement has been "changing the expression of Christianity around the world," which is based on a prophecy given by Paul Cain (the Latter Rain revivalist) to the movement in 1990.[3] Some critics believe that Newfrontiers and other British restorationists are claiming too much when they speak of "restoring the church."[4]

Contents

History

Newfrontiers began out of the ministry of leader Terry Virgo who grew up in Brighton, England. Virgo had been disillusioned as a young Christian by traditional UK churches, but after being baptised in the Spirit a desire grew for the church to return to its New Testament expression: both biblical in doctrine and in experience. He became pastor of a church on an estate in Seaford, and was influenced by the teaching of the British Restorationist Arthur Wallis. Wallis believed that a return of the charismatic gifts, such as prophecy and speaking in tongues, to the traditional denominations was not sufficient. Instead, a more thorough restoration of church life to a New Testament pattern was necessary. Particular attention was given to the Ephesians 4 ministries of apostle, prophet, evangelist and pastor/teacher, and organisational elements led the analysis of what it meant to be a New Testament church.

Originally operating under the banner of Coastlands, later the name was changed to New Frontiers International, and then Newfrontiers. Initially, Newfrontiers consisted of churches primarily in southern England (mainly Sussex, Kent and South London) but also in other nations. Involvements in church care and oversight began in India, Mexico and South Africa. Newfrontiers now has churches across the British Isles and in every continent of the world. The growing network of churches that relate to Virgo have formed a close working relationship focused on mission, church planting and church oversight.

Style of worship service

Music often takes the form of soft rock, using drums, keyboards and electric guitars (see contemporary worship). As with many charismatic churches, the service is free flowing and members are encouraged to participate with public contributions of prayer, Scripture reading, and spiritual gifts. During a typical service, time is often equally divided between music and preaching. Preaching will be Reformed, Evangelical, and Bible focused, with the goal of applying biblical learning within the contemporary world.

Newfrontiers churches have traditionally placed a low emphasis on buildings. In doing so they have moved away from the traditional view of equating the church with the venue. Instead they have emphasised that church is defined by the community of believers that gather together to worship. Consequently Newfrontiers churches meet in a variety of venues, with the building having less significance than in traditional church denominations.

Music

Newfrontiers is known for its music and worship worldwide. Artists, musicians and producers such as Stuart Townend, Lou Fellingham, Cathy Burton, Martin Cooper, Paul Burton, Mark Edwards, Phatfish, Dave Fellingham, Kate Simmonds, Paul Oakley, Simon Brading and Evan Rogers have emerged from its work, and others such as Matt Redman and yFriday have been heavily involved with its ministry. Newfrontiers also uses music from other movements, such as Vineyard, Hillsong, Soul Survivor, New Wine, and American artists like Chris Tomlin and Paul Baloche.

Evangelism

Newfrontiers believes that evangelism is most effective in the context of a strong local church where each member participates, the gifts of the Spirit are present, there is joy in caring one for the other, a desire to make a difference in society and to reach those in need. Because of this strong emphasis on church led evangelism, the movement differentiates itself from agencies focusing on evangelism outside of a recognizable, locally led and organised church (often referred to as parachurch bodies).They are also strong proponents of the Alpha course.

Bible weeks

The logo used for the Stoneleigh Bible Weeks

Newfrontiers was strongly shaped through Bible weeks. These were conferences gathering UK charismatics/restorationists to hear preaching from various apostolic figures and international speakers. The Downs Bible Week ran for a decade from 1979 and gathered up to 20,000 people at its height. Expositional Bible teaching and lively worship were major features of the event. After a break from the Downs Bible weeks of a few years, Newfrontiers started the Stoneleigh Bible week in 1991 in Coventry, England. The event gathered up to 26,000 delegates from around the world for teaching and celebration. Stoneleigh was stopped in its tenth year after the leadership believed God to be leading them to concentrate more on planting and growing churches. Now leaders in Newfrontiers and students and 20s gather annually for "Together On A Mission" at The Brighton Centre in July. Regional events, titled "Together At..." are held around the country to replace the bible week that existed before. In addition, Newday ,an event primarily aimed at 12-19 year olds, has a similar blend of worship, teaching and celebration aimed at youth. This is headed up by Terry Virgo's son Joel Virgo.

Leadership

In each local church, leadership is expressed in a plurality of local (male) elders, often with multiple staff. The raising and training of local leaders to run cell groups (often now called "life groups" or "small groups"), worship teams and other ministries is seen as a priority. Newfrontiers runs an annual international Together On A Mission leaders conference where thousands of church leaders come from around the world to gather for a mix of Bible teaching and lively worship services. This conference in Brighton runs concurrently with Mobilise for students and Christians in their 20s and attracts, in total, over 4,000 people a year including people from other denominations. The combination of these two events is now called "Together On A Mission".

Male and female

All Newfrontiers churches hold to a complementarian position on gender similar to that promoted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. This means that women are not allowed to occupy positions of governmental leadership within the local (or wider network of) churches, such as eldership or apostolic ministries.[5] However there is no prohibition of women leading in any other capacity, and many women operate as worship/cell leaders and/or prophets and evangelists. There is evidence of women preaching; this is said to occur "as long as it does not undermine their husband", although there is no clear definition of what this means. One example was when the wife of David Stroud (Phillipa Stroud, Director of the Centre for Social Justice), who oversees the UK stream of Newfrontiers churches, preached at "Together At... North" in 2006 in the main meeting.

Criticism

Exclusivity

Although Newfrontiers churches and members frequently maintain contacts with the wider community, there have been expressions of concern, principally by others in similar branches of Christianity, at the reluctance of the organisation as a whole to accept external assessment. For instance, John Buckeridge, senior editor of Christianity magazine, interviewed Terry Virgo for its July 2009 issue and was surprised at Virgo's request for "extensive changes and edits" to the interview prior to publication.[6] As early as 1986, sociologist and church historian Andrew Walker wrote of Newfrontiers that "the situation seems slightly analogous to Japanese business practices: they… export with great success, but import virtually nothing from anybody else".[7] A recent illustration of this was when semi-official Newfrontiers' blogger Adrian Warnock[8] closed the blog to comments following debate challenging Newfrontiers' complementarian position.

At the Newfrontiers Brighton conference in 2008, prominent evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll criticised Newfrontiers' apparent lack of clear strategy for post-Terry Virgo leadership and the dearth of clear expressions of their beliefs regarding basic doctrines such as ecclesiology and the Holy Spirit[9]. The observations on leadership was acknowledged by Terry Virgo at the following year's conference, although the way in which they were addressed was markedly different to the outline Mark Driscoll suggested[10][11].

Newfrontiers have begun to publish theological papers to address the second concern on their website. Members also point to other evidence of looking beyond their own network, inviting speakers such as Rob Rufus, CJ Mahaney, Timothy J. Keller and Mark Driscoll amongst others to address their conferences in recent years. Similarly, as a result of involvement in the New Word Alive conference, Hugh Palmer, Anglican vicar of All Souls, Langham Place spoke at Jubilee Church, London in January 2009.

However, open debate of such criticisms remains confined to more informal environments. For instance, from March to July 2009, the online Ship of Fools 'magazine of Christian unrest' discussion forum hosted a long debate about Newfrontiers,[12] addressing theological, structural and other concerns. The discussion included contributions from current and former members of Newfrontiers itself.

Spiritual abuse

Allegations of spiritual abuse within Newfrontiers have been made in a number of internet discussion forums including the one operated by Reachout Trust, most recently in 2009.[13] In April 2009, the Journal of Beliefs and Values[14] published an article reporting on a 2007 study which "set out to examine the psychological type profile of Lead Elders within the Newfrontiers network of churches in the United Kingdom and to compare this profile with the established profile of clergymen in the Church of England". One of the conclusions of this academic study offers some support for such allegations:

"There is a toughness about this style of leadership that is unlikely to be distracted by opposition. The disadvantage is that this style of leadership can leave some individuals hurt and marginalised for what is seen by the leadership as the overall benefit to the organisation."[15]

See also

References

  1. ^ Andrew Walker The Theology of the 'Restoration' House Churches in David Martin and Peter Mullen (ed) Strange Gifts? A Guide to Charismatic Renewal (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984) 214
  2. ^ Official site, accessed 22nd December 2008
  3. ^ William K Kay Apostolic Networks in Britain: New Ways of Being Church (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2007) 260
  4. ^ Nigel Wright The Radical Kingdom: Restoration in Theory and Practice (Kingsway: Eastbourne, 1986) 118-119
  5. ^ http://www.newfrontierstogether.org/Groups/111315/Newfrontiers/Magazine/Current_Issue/Newfrontiers_Vision_and_Values/Our_Seventeen_Values/Our_Seventeen_Values.aspx, value 8
  6. ^ http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/features/terryvirgo.aspx (subscription required)
  7. ^ Walker, Andrew Restoring the Kingdom: the Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement 2nd Ed (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986) 317
  8. ^ http://adrianwarnock.com/
  9. ^ http://adrianwarnock.com/2008/07/toam08-mark-driscoll-on-missional_10.html
  10. ^ http://www.janga.biz/terryvirgoblog/?p=888
  11. ^ http://adrianwarnock.com/2009/07/toam-session-8-what-future-holds-for.html
  12. ^ http://forum.ship-of-fools.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=70;t=014107;p=1
  13. ^ http://www.reachouttrust.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=2701
  14. ^ http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/13617672.asp
  15. ^ Francis, Leslie J., Gubb, Sean and Robbins, Mandy(2009)'Psychological type profile of Lead Elders within the Newfrontiers network of churches in the United Kingdom', Journal of Beliefs & Values,30:1,61 — 69. URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13617670902784568

Further reading

  • John Fleming Bind Us Together: To Be the Church That Jesus Really Wants (Seaford: Thankful, 2007)
  • John Hosier Christ's Radiant Church (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2005)
  • Terry Virgo No Well-Worn Paths (Eastbourne: Kingsway, 2001)
  • Andrew Walker Restoring the Kingdom: the Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement 4th Ed (Guildford: Eagle, 1998)

External links








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