Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Why I'm happy to lead a Newfrontiers Church

Sometime ago I was trying to think of something to write and I began to write about why I wasn't a member of another denomination. I can't remember why, possibly started by the idea that we shouldn't plant more churches because we have enough of them already or something similar.

In addition the 'Warnock wars' between Newfrontiers most read blogger (Adrian Warnock) and one of Methodism's most ardent bloggers (Dave Warnock) are always interesting and thought provoking. I'm sometimes in agreement with one or the other, though it's almost impossible to agree with both of them at the same time.

But I've decided that defining myself negatively (why I'm NOT something) should at the very least come after defining myself positively (why I AM something). So I thought I'd write down for my own benefit as much as anyone else why I'm happy to belong to the family of churches known as Newfrontiers.

  1. They care passionately about the glory of God - Worship is such a high priority, leaders are urged to see their priority as first being before God, whether we always succeed or not but we honestly try to glorify God. Getting leaders together 3 times a year to pray and fast together for 2 days at a time is good for us. I'm stirred and challenged to live for the audience of one.
  2. They care passionately about the mission of God -Evangelism and church planting are right at the top agenda. We want people who don't know the good news of Jesus Christ to know and to place their trust and lives in His hands. The gospel is central. If we're going to boast of anything, then let's boast about Jesus.
  3. They care passionately about caring for the poor and needy - When I first encountered Newfrontiers this was pretty lacking to be honest, but in 1998 they responded to this sermon to 'remember the poor' and they did. Now nearly every church is involved in some way, local, national, international. Last week their leaders were reminded not to let this one slip into the background. I'm glad to be with a compassionate people who want God's justice.
  4. They care passionately about the Word of God - You might not agree with every interpretation, that's ok. But they value understanding it, reading it, studying it, remembering it, meditating on it and at times wrestling with it. No point building big if you're going to build shallow.
  5. They care passionately about the presence of God - I'm sure there are degrees of charismatics and we definitely have our lunatic fringe and that's just the leaders. But there's a genuine desire for the Spirit of God to empower the church, to respond to the prophetic, to see signs and wonders (especially in the area of healings). I'm glad we realise that this is about God's empowering and not anything special about us.
  6. They know how to give generously - I can't honestly say I think Newfrontiers as a movement have really got the idea of simplicity but they have got a grasp of generosity. The roar and eruption of 6000 teenagers this summer praising God because together they had given £112,000 was just hair-raising. Millions of pounds have been given every year for church planting and caring for the poor, plus countless stories of sacrificial giving for significant building projects. This is always stirring and if we can add to that a genuine appreciation of simplicity, the generosity should only increase.
  7. They're learning how to make big calls - The numbers of people moving their families around the nation and nations to respond to the call of God on their lives is deeply affecting. It's not an easy thing to move your family to St Petersburg or Istanbul or even to another town or city but people are willing to go. I love that spirit of adventure and willingness to risk it all for Jesus.
  8. They value relationships - Friendships are important, that's a high risk strategy - it hurts more when it goes wrong, it's slower and less dynamic. But being relational and organic isn't a bad thing. I appreciate the friends I've made and the input they've had and I appreciate the shared values we have and supporting each other on mission.
  9. The humility of their leaders - Men like Terry Virgo have taught me so much about humbly depending on God, on seeking him in prayer, on holiness, on grace on serving Him. I'm grateful for the chance to learn and serve with these men and women.
I think those are good reasons and I'm sure there are others - passion for Jesus, his church, the poor and willing to make an effort for all of the above. Newfrontiers isn't perfect and in reality is just a small fraction of the church in the UK with 220 churches and even smaller around the world 600 or so in 50+ nations. But where I have disagreements and differences there is a strong belief that we can do more together than we can apart.

Some Newfrontiers websites:


Blue, with a hint of amber on 3 December 2008 at 11:21 said...

Good post and I am pretty well in agreement.

I would love to know who you consider our "lunatic fringe" to be!

I would also like a similar discussion which looks at the potential weaknesses of newfrontiers. I think we could learn from that too.

Peter Kirk on 3 December 2008 at 17:48 said...

Thanks, Phil. As one of the two Anglicans and four non-NF readers of this blog (according to the poll so far), I really appreciate this endorsement of NF and all the good things you are doing - despite my issues with the people I have in mind as your "lunatic fringe". I am happy to be able to say that I am a member of my own local Anglican church for much the same set of reasons - we are at least working seriously on all these areas. But we Anglicans have a bigger and better "lunatic fringe" than you do!

Phil Whittall on 3 December 2008 at 22:22 said...

Thanks Dave and Peter, I knew that by focusing less on doctrine and more on attitudes that plenty of people could feel the same about their own church. I guess my question to you Peter is while true of your own local church I wonder how far you'd apply it to the Anglican church? Diocese? Communion?

And as for the lunatic fringe, well they help make life interesting don't they?!

Anonymous said...

It's always great Phil to hear someone thoroughly enthusing about their church, while neither minimising it's weaknesses nor bigging ourselves up at at the cost of belittling others. Nice post. One more thing it would be great to see - you describing NF as "we" rather than "they" :-) And that is from a non NF-er (albeit a very close friend)

Phil Whittall on 7 December 2008 at 20:04 said...

Thanks Marcus, fair point. It should have been a 'we', old journalist habit.

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