Come with us and we will do you good

I hope my non-newfrontiers readers will forgive me for a few posts reflecting a little on the group of churches I am part of. Today was the final day of the final Together on a Mission conference, as newfrontiers moves into an exciting new phase.  

I have to confess I am something of a sermonoholic. I must have listened to thousands in my lifetime. I used to have boxes and boxes of sermon tapes in the garage (still have some I can’t bring myself to part with even though I have no cassette player anymore). One of the sermons is dated 2nd May 1981, and is by Terry Virgo, when he came to visit the church I attended (West Street Baptist Church in Dunstable) for an “All Saints Night”. I was five years old at the time, so I can’t say I recall it vividly. The text was Num 10:29, “Come with us, and we will do you good”. It’s a sermon I know he has repeated in several places (including his final talk at TOAM 2006), but I suspect this was one of the first times he brought the message. I’ve uploaded it so you can have a listen below:

[audio:Terry Virgo – Come with us.mp3]

My next run-in with what was to become newfrontiers was a visit to some friends Hove in 1987. We attended their church in the morning (sadly I can’t remember who spoke but I’m pretty sure Dave Fellingham was leading worship), and in the afternoon I was told they were going on a “witness march”. It sounded like the most deathly boring and cringingly embarrassing thing for an 11 year old to do on a Sunday afternoon and I almost opted out of it. But what I experienced that afternoon left a lasting impression on me. It was an early one of Graham Kendrick’s “March for Jesus”. I loved the songs, and held on to the song-sheet for years afterwards (probably still have it somewhere). I still instinctively start playing “The Lord is marching out in splendour” whenever I pick up a guitar. Here’s a photo I took on the day:

Hove 1987

I had very little contact with newfrontiers after that – our church was part of a different apostolic sphere (or under different “covering” as it was called at the time), under the remarkable Ern Baxter. The Bible weeks we attended linked up more with Barney Coombs from Basingstoke and Bryn Jones from Bradford.

It wasn’t until 1999 that I had my next real run-in with newfrontiers. I agreed to go to Stoneleigh Bible week, taking a handful of young people from my church, although I was fairly cynical and suspicious of the charismatic movement at this stage, believing most to have lost their evangelical commitment to the Bible. My prejudice was blown away as men like Dave Holden, John Hosier, John Groves, Greg Haslam, Dave Devenish, Simon Pettit and Terry Virgo himself hit successive home runs with outstanding Biblical exposition. It restored my faith that churches of “Word and Spirit” really could exist (hence the title of my blog).

So when we moved to Southampton in 2001, I wanted to at least give the local newfrontiers church a try. Almost 10 years ago now, we joined KCC, a church actually located in Hedge End, which we fell in love with immediately. It had recently moved into a new auditorium seating 300 and this Sunday will be our first meeting in our new building seating well over 1000 and we are excited to see what God will do with and through us in the coming years.

It struck me as I listened again to Terry’s talk, “Come with us and we will do you good” that that is exactly what has happened for us. I am so grateful to God for linking us up with a group of churches who love the Word and are filled with the Spirit. I love the emphasis on church planting and mission to the ends of the earth that permeates the movement. I am well aware that no local church or group of churches is without fault, but I have to say that even given my tendency towards cynicism, this is a family of churches I feel privileged and proud (in a godly kind of way) to be associated with.

My advice to any Christian who finds themselves looking for a church is to find a group of people who love God and have a big vision for seeing the earth filled with his glory. It will do you good and you won’t regret it.

6 thoughts on “Come with us and we will do you good

  1. This is an AWESOME post Mark, and completely agree with every point. I am so grateful to share this history with you and know we agree so much theologically! You had more contact with newfrontiers than I did (although apparantly Mum and Dad tell me we did go to the Downs Bible Week once – was that a church event pre-Anglia?).

    I’ve got the audio of Terry’s message at West Street too and love it. Particularly when he struggles with the OT words and suggests Stanley could read them better!

    Great to see you albeit briefly at Brighton – it’s been too long!

  2. thanks Dan. Yes, I believe I was at Downs (or was it Dales) Bible week in 76 as a baby. Can’t remember anything much before the Anglia Bible weeks though. I love the way Terry talks with such faith in that sermon about how we were going to impact the nations, and now 30 years later we can see the fruit of that conviction.

  3. Wonderful post Mark! Seems we have a very similar history with NF. I too have always loved listening to Terry teach. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Come with us and we will do you good

    We have lots of good friends in NFI and I know that there are good things in these churches. I have also benefitted from Terry’s ministry.

    It does sadden me however that my initial response to the title of you blog was ‘unless you are a woman who feels called to key church leadership’

    I don’t say this cynically but with genuine sadness that your fine churches struggle at this point.

  5. Hi Alan,

    Thanks for commenting & for doing so in a gracious way. It is impossible to blog anything about newfrontiers without someone bringing this subject up 😉

    I don’t want to start an argument, but I would like to say that I feel genuinely proud of the many outstanding women of faith I have encountered in newfrontiers churches, who are advancing the kingdom in incredible ways, are very significant leaders in their own right (even if you don’t count them as ‘key’ leaders).

    If eldership is the sine qa non of a meaningful life of service to God, then the vast majority of believers (both male and female) have missed out.

    What I believe is needed is a healthy emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, a genuine openness for all to use their spiritual gifts, and perhaps most importantly, a missional mindset that recognises that having an official job title in church is not a necessary precondition to being used by God – there is more than enough to be getting on with instead of worrying about whether you are given the exact role you wish for in church life. This applies equally to men and women.

  6. Thanks for your response Mark.

    Ditto about not wanting to start an argument.

    I know that in the grace of God women will do great things.

    If it were just about eldership that would be one thing but I recall Wayne Grudem bring lauded some years ago at the conference when saying that women should not preach.

    BTW – I have four incredible daughters; two of whom are in key church leadership so I suppose i am biased on this one.

    Take care


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