One of the minor little things that stuck with me at TOAM was a phrase that appeared at the end of each of the video clips they showed on our values. “Who is Newfrontiers? You are.” The truth is that Newfrontiers has always been more decentralized than many movements, and at the same time it is well-known for central strong anointed leadership. There is something of a paradox there, and it means that in some ways no one person can speak for the whole of the movement. We used to joke in the movement that Newfrontiers probably does not exist, and if it does it lives somewhere under Nigel Ring’s desk!
Few if any people in Newfrontiers feel comfortable if someone asks them “What does Newfrontiers think about this?” Newfrontiers doesn’t have a mind, or if it does it is the product of many minds. Certainly, for example, I don’t like it when a few people occasionally think of me as some kind of spokesman for this group of churches. I speak here on my blog our about my own opinions and values. Of course, having grown up in this family of churches for more than 30 years (in other words from before it was even called New Frontiers International) very often what I say does reflect a wider body of thought, but no reader should ever assume that is always the case.
One of my enduring memories of this years Together On A Mission event was Dave Devenish talking about the scattering that is to come in our future. Inevitably such a scattering means that there will be slightly different emphases and expressions of our values in different places. I strongly believe that technology will play a major role in the next phase of our movement as we transition. Through technology we can retain something of a family feel while we are working in every continent of the world. We can learn from each other, and just catch the “feel” of what is happening. We can quickly learn of tragic news and we can celebrate with others.
As a way of staying loosely in touch with your Newfrontiers brothers and sisters (or indeed of getting more of an idea of what we are like if you are not part of this family of churches) may I recommend an unofficial Newfrontiers Twitter list. Twitter is like a telegram system for the web. Most people do not share details that are of no use to others. Amusing or insightful events, links to blog posts (which can be automatically generated by twitterfeed.com), and pithy quotes are the normal fare. You can post as infrequently or frequently as you want. In general if something interests you, it may well be of interest to others. If you just want to be a tweet consumer you don’t even have to join. You can follow the “mind” of Newfrontiers, but even better why not get an account and contribute to the shared thinking? If you are on Twitter and want to get onto this list then public message me on Twitter saying something like “@adrianwarnock I would like to join the Newfrontiers List.” In addition, to join the unofficial Newfrontiers Bloggers list, the easiest thing is to to is email Dave Bish.
Another thing that Dave Devenish said was that some initiatives will continue to come from the center, as anointed leaders take strategic decisions to advance God’s kingdom by planting churches. He also said that other growth, and especially growth in influence rather than organizational growth, will occur as individuals take bold steps for God. I think of John KpiKpi who caught Newfrontiers values whilst studying in Brighton and went back to Africa to plant churches without at first other Newfrontiers leaders knowing about it. Obviously one cannot simply start a church and call it Newfrontiers or the label would be meaningless. But if a group or individual are inspired to begin to dream about what God may do, that in itself is extending God’s kingdom even if it doesn’t in the end lead to extending the Newfrontiers organization.
In that vein, it blessed me to see that one young lady was sufficiently inspired by this years conference to start a Facebook group in the hope that one day there might be a church in Brussels that reflects the values she had seen in Brighton. Perhaps another group of churches will step in (or already has!) to plant just such a church there. God is using many other groups to extend his kingdom. But whatever the eventual outcome, seeing such a dream expressed in such a way thrilled me, somehow. Who knows what that will lead to, if anything. She is not putting herself forward as a leader, and I am not sure if she has ever been a member of a Newfrontiers church. I don’t actually know the girl who started the group, except through a brief “hello” at TOAM and her tweets (From this I learned that she especially appreciated Terry’s comments about grammar in his sermons and likes Aaron Sorkin’s writing including the superlative West Wing, so she can’t be all bad!) But while her name may never appear in some roll call of the great and good, she just might have taken the first step towards a Newfrontiers church starting in the capital of Europe! It would be just like God to use an individual like that to prompt someone else to join a great work of exploit. After all, before God what do any of us have to offer, really? If a young girl can nail her colors to the mast and say, “I would love to see a new Church in this city I live in!” what can you do for God? Somehow the actions of this Facebook group founder sum up this years Together On A Mission. God will raise up an army of people, most of whom you and I will never hear the name of, in order to accomplish his purposes.
But be under no illusion, anointed leaders, singled out and appointed by God to lead will also continue to lead the charge. I have this funny image in my mind of almost a competition between these two groups, of leaders and followers, to see who can extend quickest. Instead of visionary leaders having to propel their people out into the mission field, imagine them instead fielding calls that go something like this “As you know I moved to this new city for work, remember when you said that there might be purpose in God for such a move? Well I have a small group of people meeting in my home now, would you come and help us to form them into a church?” Ironically, Newfrontiers itself in many ways really began with just such a phone call, when Nigel Ring rang a certain young pastor called Terry Virgo and asked him to come and help him work out what to do with a small group of Christians who had begun meeting in his home when thrown out of a local evangelical church for speaking in tongues.” I pray we will always be as much about such small groups as the gathering of thousands to hear God’s word. I thank God that my parents joined that young church more than thirty years ago introducing me to this family of churches that has been my spiritual home ever since. The rest as they say, is history, or in the case of phone calls yet to happen, future!