One of our speakers at the first two Downs Bible Weeks in 1979 and 1980 was Bryn Jones, visionary and apostolic leader of Harvestime, later to become Covenant Ministries International (CMI). He had pioneered much through the ’70s and had taken a lot of ‘flack’ for his stance on the baptism of the Spirit, teaching about the five-fold ministries of Ephesians 4 being relevant for today, and so on. To some extent we were caught up in his slipstream.
During Downs 80 Bryn told Terry how he had been observing his ministry and was concerned on two fronts: first that he was in danger of ‘burning out’ and second that he needed complementary gifting around him to share the burden of ministry. He advised him to follow what he himself had recently done; he had formed an apostolic team. (It is worth mentioning that ‘apostolic’ would have been expressed in a whisper in those days. It was a very emotive term as people made the accusation that anyone with apostolic gifting was making themselves out to be like the apostle Paul!)
A Team is born
Through August that year Terry prayed about this concept. (I have come to learn over many years that Terry does not make decisions until he has clearly heard from God. What security that has brought me.) He then wrote letters to six of us to invite us to join him in team relationship.
And so it was that in September 1980 a team of seven men met in Terry’s home (L to R: David Holden, Richard Haydon-Knowell, Henry Tyler, Ray Lowe, Alan Vincent, Terry Virgo, Nigel Ring). Terry had recently moved within the county of Sussex from Seaford to Hove to help another burgeoning group of believers to plant a church, the Brighton and Hove Christian Fellowship. That team had friendship contact with about 20 churches at that stage and all the other members, apart from myself, were leading churches in the south east of England (I was leading a research team in the National Health Service as a professional engineer).
We took the name Coastlands from Isaiah 41 which in some translations uses this term to refer to the ends of the earth. However, this name was misinterpreted by many, Brighton being on the south coast of England, and we changed the name to New Frontiers, being more descriptive of our vision. Later this become New Frontiers International (NFI) and then, following the closure of the Stoneleigh Bible Week in 2001, Newfrontiers.
Friends – not ‘professionals’
My friendship with Terry has been such a joy. God knit our hearts together many years ago and I am delighted that it continues to this day. I think our friendship spoke to others as well. In July 2002 Christianity+Renewal Magazine published an article called Double Act in which they graciously wrote warmly about our relationship, and some other ‘duos’. To be called to work together in this way has been a privilege.
That comes to the end of my personal ‘take’ on the start of Newfrontiers. Maybe one day I will take the story further but other snap shots of history do exist in books by Terry Virgo, such as No well-worn Paths. There is also a summary on the Newfrontiers website. But, with the expansion and diversity of the Newfrontiers family that God has graciously allowed no single history would be possible.