INTERVIEW – John Lanferman of Newfrontiers USA

Linda and John LanfermanNext week the main Newfrontiers International conference of the year starts. To whet your appetite, I thought I’d share the transcript of an interview I did at Together On A Mission 2007 with John Lanferman. The audio for this interview is also available here.

John oversees a team of leaders who serve the churches in the Newfrontiers—USA family. His primary focus is leadership training, church planting, and supporting churches in the States. John and his wife, Linda, are a part of Jubilee Church in St. Louis, Missouri. His blog is at http://johnlanferman.blogspot.com/.

If you can’t make it to this year’s TOAM conference, I will once again be live-blogging it right here. It’s still not too late to arrange to listen to one of Mark Driscoll’s other speaking engagements in the UK.

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Adrian
Hi everyone. This is Adrian Warnock here again. I’m here at Together on a Mission, together with John Lanferman. John leads the work of Newfrontiers in the USA. I would like to ask him a little bit about the conference, and also his work overseas, because I’m aware that a lot of you are probably thinking, “Well, this Newfrontiers thing—it’s all well and good because it’s over in the UK” — where things are perhaps a little bit different. So, John, first of all, how are you enjoying the conference?

John
I think it’s magnificent. The preaching has been outstanding. The worship is amazing. God’s presence is here. He is speaking personally to people. He’s speaking to us as a family of churches as well. It’s wonderful to welcome 53 different nations into this setting.

Adrian
Yes, I think it’s so important to underline that, isn’t it, because people probably think, “Oh, it’s just a British thing,” when really it’s almost like a world conference, isn’t it?

John
Absolutely, it is. And just to make connection with people and find out what’s happening in their nations, and to see that we’re really on the same page as it relates to the kingdom of God. There’s not really a national distinction there when it comes to that.

Adrian
Yeah, I know. It’s been great. Some of the preachers have come from South Africa and . . .

John
Absolutely.

Adrian
You’ve got guys from Africa, other parts, all over, haven’t we here?

John
Yes, it’s wonderful.

Adrian
I guess really as well, this conference is perhaps a little bit different to some other conferences, isn’t it, in terms of the family feel. I don’t know how easily we can get that across to people who are at home reading the blog.

John
I think that’s the interesting thing. When you come together and you see people, and some of the people, of course, we know as well. But even in meeting new people, there’s a sense of community that seems to be automatic, and it’s just great to see people mixing it up, enjoying each other.

Adrian
Yeah, I think that’s right, because that doesn’t happen everywhere we go in conferences, does it?

John
No, I know some conferences that you may visit, and some I’ve visited in the US — I mean, you arrive. If you don’t know anyone or if you have a friend or two, you’re really not connected. There’s not a sense of togetherness on the mission . . .

Adrian
Yeah . . .

John
. . . and you break off, you go to lunch, or you go to your hotel room. There’s a sense of — you’re there to pick up information primarily and download information that maybe you can employ in your own situation.

Adrian
Yeah.

John
But here it’s a totally different feel.

Adrian
That’s right. And there’s all these kind of little mini-meetings going on in all the breaks, isn’t there? I mean, the little breaks sort of get eaten up, don’t they?

John
All the time.

Adrian
(Laughing). And we’re sitting here and we’ve got what? I don’t know—another hour or so?—before the next session. And you squeeze in a meeting, don’t you?

John
That’s right, you do.

Adrian
But it’s good fun.

John
So it’s a pleasure, I think, as well, the in-between meeting times to connect relationally, talk to each other, find out what’s going on. It’s all part of the whole package.

Adrian
Yeah, exactly. John, I particularly wanted to chat with you because you head up the work of Newfrontiers in the USA, and so many of my readers are from that nation. So, are there many other Americans here at the conference?

John
Yes, there are several actually. We have four of our own local elders from St. Louis who are here, and some of our other staff members as well. But besides that, across the nation, we have representatives who lead churches that are here with us.

Adrian
So are there many Newfrontiers churches in the US?

John
Actually, there’s not at the time. We now have 23 churches in ten different states, but it was just a few years ago, like ten years ago, we had 7 churches in one state . . .

Adrian
Right.

John
. . . so these were churches that already had a history. Terry [Virgo] came over and spent a couple of years and left. It was in that setting, then, that we began to actually formulate who we were together, come together with a real sense of mission. We have church
es that have a history, and we’ve been drawn together around Terry, and around the mission there, but obviously there are residual issues, so I think in the first few years there was a need for us to really come together to construct that all through, which we did, of course, and now we’re planting churches all across the nation.

Adrian
Okay, excellent. How do you decide where to go and plant a church?

John
I have, on my laptop, 100 cities, and I won’t be content until the top 100 cities in the U.S.—87 per cent of the nation’s population reside in these cities—so, one by one, we want to tick off these cities. When Newfrontiers started in the US, we were primarily a rural movement. We didn’t have any churches in any major cities. So, first of all, to come together around a mission and then begin to train leaders and set up training programs, to begin to envision people, and then see people move from the rural settings—although we’re very, very grateful; we’re still planting the rural settings—begin to make that big step into city centers. Kansas City was our first church plant; St. Louis (the one I led) was our second plant, and now we are in seven major cities. We’re in Seattle-Tacoma. We’re in Boston. We’re in Chicago. We’re in Nashville. We’re in Atlanta. We’re planting churches one by one into these major city centers, and we want these churches to become reproducing centers, so out from them churches are planted. So we have a fairly ambitious vision.

Adrian
Yeah, it sounds like it. So, what is it about a Newfrontiers church that is, say, different to other churches in the grand? Because I know some people might say, “Well, why bother planting churches? Surely we should just strengthen the ones that are there already.”

John
I think the thing that really draws us together is our sense of mission. Now there are other things, of course, that draw us together. Our very real value of Word and Spirit. We’re an interesting group because, in the US, you have evangelicals and people from various denominational persuasions. You have people who are charismatics. We’re a bit different because we are evangelical in that we are rooted in historic Christian faith. Most of our people would have a reformed theological perception. But we have a charismatic experience. And that’s quite unusual in the US. I think it sets us a bit apart from most other groups—not that there aren’t others that way—but it makes us different, I think, from what you would normally find in the US.

Adrian
Yeah. I sometimes have people writing to me, saying, “Is there a church like that in this place or in that place?” And I often wonder what other groups are there out there that are similar to Newfrontiers in some way. Are there other groups?

John
I would say Sovereign Grace would be similar to us. We’ve had good fellowship with that group. But there’s an interesting phenomenon that’s happening as well because in mainline evangelical circles, people that would have name recognition—guys like John Piper or Mark Driscoll—are, of course, well established in orthodox faith, but as well, are very open to and accepting and believing in certain charismatic expressions. So, it’s an interesting move that’s happening in the US in that regard.

Adrian
Yeah. So there’s a kind of—like what you’re saying—a coming together of the Word and the Spirit in a way.

John
I believe that’s exactly true. We do have other things. It’s a big country. The Christian television market, religious television market, and radio waves are fairly dominated by charismatics that would have a very experiential and often times a man-centered approach . . .

Adrian
Right.

John
. . . rather than a God-centered approach, which of course, is not helpful to be labeled in that particular camp because our root is indeed orthodox evangelical Christianity with a charismatic experience and expression.

Continued in part 2 . . .

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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