Relational Mission is the sphere of churches within the Newfrontiers family led by Mike Betts. It carries Prayer, Mission and God’s heart for the poor in its DNA. In this short interview Julia Miller shares on some of these aspects of Mike’s sphere of ministry.
Through an exciting initiative, Enough, churches across this international sphere join together through the worldwide web to pray, thus mobilising thousands of people in effectual prayer. It is a very interesting model that others might wish to copy.
Everyone a witness is an attempt to help churches engage evangelistically in their local communities in Word, Works and Wonders.
God’s heart for the Poor
Pathways from Poverty is an expression of God’s heart for the poor which seeks to help local churches engage with those who are poor or in need. This initiative provides information, knowledge and skills training to help churches in their local ministries. Working both in the UK and elsewhere, particularly Kenya and Northern Europe, Pathways from Poverty is seeing churches take on new vision and practice to bring the love of God in very practical ways to people who are in some ways struggling in life.
What happened when Terry Virgo ‘handed over’ Newfrontiers?
Recently I was speaking with someone who had contact with another stream of churches. That person was commending Terry and Newfrontiers for the way in which succession had been handled when Terry handed over the responsibility for the Newfrontiers family of churches in 2011 to about 15 men who had demonstrated apostolic gifting and ministry. He said that, as a result of what they had observed, his stream of churches was adopting a similar philosophy of ‘sons’ growing up to become ‘fathers’ who would lead the next generation.
On arriving home I found this interview in my inbox. Terry had been invited by David Holden to speak at the ‘Newground’ Leadership Conference and shares his perspective on the process and developments over the past five years. It is a helpful reminder for those who know the history and also will inform those who have become part of the wider Newfrontiers family during the last five years.
Summer Bible Weekends
The Newground Conference is just one of many events that have taken place in recent months and during the summer there have been many Bible Weekends both within the Newfrontiers family of apostolic spheres and outside. I very much enjoyed visiting one, Westpoint, the Weekend held by the Commission sphere led by Guy Miller. The weather was good and over 3000 people really enjoyed the outdoor fellowship that this allowed.
The Holy Spirit was there!
It is hard to report interestingly on these occasions as any report seems somewhat lifeless compared with what was experienced by those attending. Somehow writing about meetings infected with the Holy Spirit is not the same as experiencing Him and worshipping Jesus live!
There is much I could comment on, such as the inspired morning Bible Readings on Job led by Phil Moore, and the importance of seeing what God has given you and making full use of it, based on the story of the woman filling jars of oil in 1 Kings 4, preached by Mark Jobe from Chicago.
The one session I particularly want to highlight was when Guy shared the vision for the next season for the Commission family of churches. Using the analogy of enjoying each piece of art in an art gallery by looking carefully and intently at it to grasp the painter’s heart and mind, Guy urged us to keep our eyes open to what God is doing; without faith it is impossible to please him.
Drawing from the story of Abraham and Sarah Guy drew our attention to three ‘canvases’ entitled ‘Going not Knowing’ (they went out not knowing the destination); ‘Wearing yet Bearing’ (despite old age they still believed God for a child); ‘Seeing and Believing’ (as Abraham looked up to the stars).
Building on this story, and coming out of many months of prayer, discussion and planning, Guy shared the vision for the next five years ‘To transform thousands of lives through hundreds of churches in tens of nations’.
There was a real sense of ‘it seems good to us and the Holy Spirit’ among those present and there was tangible endorsement of both the vision and Guy’s visionary leadership expressed through an amazing offering which more than doubled last year’s. What a kick start this will give to the next phase of an exciting journey!
All of the talks from Westpoint are available for downloading on the Commission website.
Looking for holiday reading? Recently a friend lent me a copy of Shane Claiborne’s book The Irresistible Revolution, first published in 2006 but which has now been updated and republished. Good move! This is well worth reading if you are prepared to be challenged about how radical you are in your walk with God.
Off to India
Shane Colborne is no ‘ordinary’ Christian (I wonder what one would look like?). But he does believe that living out the Christian life should be challenging and radical. Having been challenged by some of his college friends who used their spare time visiting people who were homeless in the city he set out to start his exploration of radical Christianity with a visit to Mother Theresa in Calcutta. Living and working among those who were dying on the streets, some having leprosy, who had been taken to the Home for the Destitute and Dying he began to see what it was like to be seen by society as an ‘outcast’.
Returning to USA he spent a year in Willow Creek during which he intentionally searched out the poor in Chicago. This gave him the opportunity to contrast the lives of the comfortable rich (relatively speaking) with those of the poor, and also to study some theology around poverty.
At the end of the year Shane, with friends, started to live in community as a way of exploring ‘living as an ordinary radical’. This came to be called the Simple Way. It included not only sharing amongst themselves but also interacting intentionally with those who have often been rejected by society such as those living on the streets or under the influence of life-controlling substances. They also visited and befriended people in prison, some on death row. This brought them into the sphere of advocacy where they often successfully spoke up those who could not speak up for themselves.
Jesus was homeless
Throughout the book Shane roots his reasoning and actions in scripture. He constantly refers to Jesus’ own lifestyle and points out that he, too, was often homeless, relying on the love and good will of others.
9/11 had a big impact on him, particularly meeting some who lost friends and family. This in part led him to determine to go to Iraq. There he encountered a different expression of Christianity, one that showed forgiveness rather than the belligerence of many Christians in the United States who supported the ‘war against terrorism’. He was challenged by local believers who believed ‘if you pick up the sword you die by the sword’ – and then said they would pray for the church in the US to be the church.
In his final chapter ‘Crazy but not alone’ Shane reflects on whether the experiment he and his friends have undertaken to live in a radical way is crazy or whether the craziness is in fact among those (us?) who live around them. You will have to read this book to find his conclusion. But in response to a skeptic asking ‘What makes you actually think you can change the world?’ one of his friends replied ‘Sir, if you will take a closer look at history you will see … that’s the only way it has ever been done’.
I commend this book to you. The author has an engaging way of writing often including amusing quips and ‘throw-aways’ (sometimes with a few barbs) that show he is very human and loves life in the midst of often difficult and dangerous circumstances. You will enjoy it and have reason to reflect on your own lifestyle.
Since many will shortly be going on holiday/vacation I am taking a few weeks off from these posts. Have a relaxing and refreshing time and see you in the autumn/fall!
How did it start?
Several years ago Martin was invited to set up an initiative to help UK-based churches to engage more effectively with those who are poor or in need in their local communities. Adopting the vision statement -
To see the Church in the UK be a champion of the poor and a means to healthy communities across the nation
- Martin and a core team have worked tirelessly to develop strategies for Social Action, Social Justice and Social Enterprise.
In many ways they have ‘punched well above their weight’; they have developed a network across many streams and denominations, have entry into places touching national strategy for the poor, and have served many churches directly or indirectly in helping raise the excellence of their ministries.
This has been one of the key ways in which they have served churches. There is a good website packed with resources and a regular emailed newsletter. Through this regular updates are given on a host of topics affecting both policy and practice. Martin also writes a blog (see this one on Brexit) and a book has also been published ‘The myth of the undeserving poor’ which has received widespread acclaim.
Research projects are on-going. Ones on ‘Early years’ and ‘Debt’ are complete, and another on the older generation is in progress. They have also published details of other people’s research on the website which provides a good foundational resource for anyone wanting to become involved in a particular sector.
In addition to the annual conference – an excellent opportunity for training and networking – several more specialist conferences have been held. Materials from these are available on the website. Register here for this year’s conference
Geoff Knott has carried out bi-annual surveys across the UK to show what is happening. These are thorough, and valuable tools to help with planning.
Interview with Martin
Recently I had the privilege of joining a day consultation and took the opportunity to interview Martin. In addition to telling us about the vision and practice of Jubilee+, including prophetic direction that God has given and working with other streams, Martin also spoke about the possible impact of Brexit on the poor. This is an interview definitely worth viewing.
Gains and losses
In recent weeks I have sought to give an overview of some of the apostolic spheres. The feedback has been very encouraging. People clearly seem to enjoy catching up with other members of the Newfrontiers family. So I was particularly delighted to learn recently that a new website has been launched.
The transition five years ago was essentially positive – to see Terry Virgo’s reflections on this go to my last blog – but it did also have some negative aspects. Particularly, ‘decentralisation’ and the necessary closure of the Magazine resulted in easy access to news from around the world substantially evaporating.
A hunger for news
This desire for information from across the spheres still existed in the hearts of many people who have enjoyed the international fellowship. So, I am sure that many will welcome this new site and I strongly commend it to you. (Nb I have not been personally involved and can take no credit. I am just passionate to help people to continue to pursue the on-going mission to advance the Kingdom).
Attractively designed, the site combines a brief history of Newfrontiers, starting with Terry’s own conversion in 1956, with a statement of the Values and Beliefs, access to resources and various news items. There is also news from around the spheres which I am sure will increase as the site develops further. In due course there are also plans for the site to provide details of churches so that visitors and people relocating can find a Newfrontiers church.
Nb By clicking on each heading below you will be taken to that part of the site
The timeline from 1956 gives the history marked out by events that took place; Terry’s own conversion, The Downs and Stoneleigh Bible Weeks, the formation of Terry’s first Apostolic Team, Leaders Conferences, the establishment of Apostolic Spheres, and so on.
Values and Beliefs
‘We are a group of apostolic leaders, who, together with our teams and churches, are united on global mission by core values and genuine relationship’
These are being outworked through
- Church Planting
- Training Leaders
- Equipping Apostolic Teams
- Ministry with the Poor
- Going to the Nations
The leaders are profiled and an explanation given of a ‘light touch’ (my words) coordinating group led by David Devenish to consider and promote those things that can produce greater benefit by being pursued together, such as occasional gatherings of these apostolically gifted men, sometimes with their teams and other leaders.
News is always popular! Here you will find news from across the spheres – an area that will give you great encouragement! I believe that weekly updates are planned.
There is a huge repository of resources to be found in this section. Audio and Video downloads, Books, sign-posting to the Archive of all the Newfrontiers Magazines and so on. A real treasure trove. You can order resources direct from this part of the site.
So, I urge you to take some time to browse this site. It will be time well spent.
The start of it all
In 1980 Terry Virgo was urged by a friend, Bryn Jones, speaker at our second Downs Bible Week, to draw together a team of men around him. Terry was beginning to travel widely within the UK from his base on the south coast, Seaford, and needed others to share the load and complement his ministry.
A team is formed
In September that year a team of seven met for the first time. A name was required; ‘Coastlands’ was agreed. The prophet Isaiah uses ‘coastlands’ to denote the ends of the earth, a reflection of our heart to fulfil the Great Commission. But, being on the south coast of the UK, the name suggested a local rather than a worldwide vision; this caused confusion. So after about five years the name New Frontiers was taken. Subsequently this became New Frontiers International (NFI) and then Newfrontiers.
Over the next three decades the number of churches becoming a part of the family of Newfrontiers increased to several hundred, either through adoption or planting. Also, active involvement across the nations steadily grew to over fifty.
Transition takes root
In 2008, at the Together on a Mission (TOAM) leadership conference in Brighton, UK, one of our speakers, Mark Driscoll, surprised us all by publicly charging Terry with handing over Newfrontiers within five years. We had been planning succession for some time but now we felt God speaking to us through Mark to bring our thinking into focus. We started to plan more intentionally to a five year timetable. We felt there would be three years of planning and two years of implementation.
Who would succeed Terry as leader of the Newfrontiers family? After much prayer and discussion we recognised that in a natural family as a father grows older his sons rise up to be fathers themselves. A father cannot be replaced by another father of the same sons. We felt this principle should apply to the family of Newfrontiers. So at TOAM in 2011 a team of men who had themselves demonstrated apostolic ministry around the world were given the ‘right hand of fellowship’ (Gal 2:9), prayed for, and charged with forming their own autonomous and interdependent relational spheres of ministry while remaining networked under the name Newfrontiers. These were not necessarily to be geographical but, like the spheres that developed around the early apostles in the New Testament, would be based on relationship.
Five years have now passed. After an initial ‘shake-down’ period the new spheres are well established and growing. Many have planted churches, some into new nations. There are probably now well over 1000 churches across these spheres in over 70 nations.
Recently, while with Terry, I had the opportunity of asking him for his perspective on how this transition has worked out and whether he felt the new spheres were functioning well. I hope you enjoy listening to his reflections.
Days of Prayer
I have recently had a chance to join yet another apostolic sphere of Newfrontiers, this time for a couple of days of prayer. What a joy! This pattern of prayer for leaders was established in the ’80s by Terry Virgo and has been the engine room of much of the blessing that has been enjoyed both in and through the family of Newfrontiers churches for decades.
I also took the opportunity to interview Guy Miller – see below.
Around 120 leaders gathered in Bournemouth under Guy Miller’s leadership including leaders from Serbia, the Philippines and the Middle East. We were also joined on Skype by Mike Shore from Portugal who led us for a whole session in prayer for Portugal and Spain. It was exciting to hear of and pray for the six churches and church plants that are taking place there, some having arisen through ministry with the poor. Praise God for being able to use current technology to enjoy ‘family-live’ across the nations.
The first session was given over to worship and the sense of God’s sovereignty was almost tangible. Mark Landreth-Smith, currently church planting in Newbury, reported of an extraordinary surge of salvations in The Gate in Reading with a reported 1000+ being prayed for with many receiving Christ on the streets in less than two weeks. It seems there is something quite special going on among many Baptist churches in the UK.
Guy then shared his personal story within the context of his time in Newfrontiers’ churches as a way of sharing his vision for Commission for 2020 and beyond.
Planting in other nations
I always get excited to hear of fresh initiatives in other nations. Stories were told of effective ministry in India, Nepal, the Middle East, Portugal and Brazil. Miro Fic, a leader from Serbia also held our attention as we heard of his energetic ministry into eight Balkan nations, building networks, publishing 80 titles of books in 10 years (previously there had been only three!), feeding 200 weekly for 3 months from a church of only 12 people and describing some remarkable healings which had opened up families to receive the gospel. It was a privilege then to join in prayer for the various ministries and churches he is involved with.
The final session was given to praying for Westpoint, the long established Commission Bible Festival held annually at the end of August. There was great faith for this event with its exciting and interesting programme. Earlier in the two days one leader had described how God had called him to church plant in another nation at a previous Westpoint and was now on the verge of relocating with his family after a season of preparation. That is what it is all about – worshipping and listening to God and then responding in obedience. I shall certainly be visiting!
While with these leaders I took the opportunity to interview Guy. I hope you enjoy hearing from his perspective what is going on and is planned.
Footnote about the poor
Commission churches are very active in their ministries with the poor. I encourage you to visit their website to read and watch videos about some of the exciting things they are doing.
PJ Smyth was one of the men at the Together on a Mission conference in 2011 for whom Terry Virgo prayed as he passed over the baton of leadership of Newfrontiers to men who had already demonstrated apostolic ministries.
Recently PJ convened a conference in the UK for the leaders of his sphere, Advance. As well as those churches in the UK who look to PJ for oversight, participants came from across five continents including the USA, Africa and Australia.
PJ and his wife, Ashleigh, will shortly be relocating from Godfirst Church in Johannesburg, South Africa, where they have been pioneering for the past 11 years, to lead Covenant Life Church, Gaithersburg, close by Washington DC. In this interview PJ shares some of his story and vision.
When Sam Amara, a lecturer in Hebrew and Greek languages in the Pentecostal International Bible Seminary in Nigeria, met Simon Pettit from Jubilee Church, Cape town in 1997 he gained a new understanding of the doctrine and practice of grace. As a result he planted a church, Riches of Grace, in Lagos.
Recently I had the joy of hosting him in my home having last visited him in 2010. I was greatly encouraged to learn of the progress made in both the church and the school which he and his wife started, now numbering 70 children from 3-15. This interview will allow you to be as envisioned and informed as I have become over these days including some insights on some of the challenges faced by the church in that culturally challenging nation.
Due to the growth that has taken place since Newfrontiers was re-expressed in 2011 as several apostolic spheres it has been difficult to keep in touch with the blessing of news from across the movement. When, from time to time I have published occasional news as I have become aware of it, this seems to have been appreciated. Now seems a good time to do so again since, at this time of year, several of the UK-based apostolic teams have events during a short school holiday.
Click on the logo to see this short review video.
Personally I was at the Norfolk Showground where Steve Oliver, who has recently relocated from Dubai, launched Fusion 2016.This is the first Regions Beyond event for all UK-based churches and I commend the organisers for all the thorough planning. Gathering over 1100 it was a very encouraging launch of a new initiative.
On the opening evening Trevor Payne, who is based at Hope Church in Orpington, welcomed us by reminding us that fusion is a process for combining different elements together through the application of heat. I think he had the Holy Spirit in mind rather than the chilly wind outside! Then Steve shared with us a prophetic word brought by Rob Rufus 20+ years ago that we were entering a season when time would be speeded up – 7 years would become like 7 months, 7 months like 7 weeks and 7 weeks like 7 days. Steve felt that that season was now near.
The theme of Fusion 2016 was Pioneers. Ray Lowe spoke challengingly, with current examples of those who, in our midst, are living radically and have taken non-conventional decisions for the gospel’s sake. He particularly cited Donna Bloomfield whom he had requested to send an answer to the question ‘Why do you go to Burundi?’ (which is one of the most dangerous countries to visit at present and is bottom of the UN’s poverty list of countries). He read her response which was both moving and challenging and resulted in many being prayed for that they would become more ‘sold out’ for the gospel.
Looking good but being ineffective
Later, Steve reminded us that we are here to change the world! He urged leaders to develop those who are rising up and to beware of getting distracted by pursuing excellence of meetings etc at the cost of making disciples. Beware looking good but being ineffective.
He also shared the purpose of the offering which reflected the need to break further into other nations, particularly helping to buy a piece of land in one ‘closed’ country.
Daniel Macleod from Orpington asked the question ‘Do you want to be a fire starter?’ Drawing from the story of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush he urged us to see that we need the fire of God to be effective and radical. We are to start fires wherever we are.
There were seminars on ‘Taking the City’ and ‘Israel’ which, like all the ministry, can be found by clicking here. There was also excellent ministry for the children.
Sadly the weekend had to be closed early due to weather but despite this a very solid foundation was established on which to build in future years.
As I write, Mike Betts is holding his international leaders conference in Norwich at which Terry Virgo and Edward Buria are speaking. I was particularly pleased to have the chance to meet up with Edward and Fridah who arrived in Norwich while I was still in the area. We enjoyed catching up on the ‘missing’ four years since my last visit to Kenya.
As always it is inspiring and faith building to speak with Edward and Fridah, learning on this occasion of their on-going establishment of churches across Kenya and beyond, and the continued efforts to alleviate poverty and respond to the effects of drought.