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.