22 July 2011
The Final Frontier
by Claire Musters
This July Newfrontiers hosted their final international leaders' conference in Brighton: Together on a Mission. Why was it the last one and what does this mean for the future of the movement? Claire Musters writes…
On Tuesday, 12 July around 3,000 leaders (elders, worship leaders, small group leaders, etc) made their way to the Brighton Centre. From the first main meeting it was obvious that there was a sense of expectation and purpose. This was not to be a nostalgic conference, spending session after session looking back over what the movement has achieved. Rather, the idea of 'No well worn paths' was still at the forefront.
Each day began with seminars addressing such topics as gospel-centred ministry, learning to discern, and mercy and justice: the gospel to the poor. There were then three sessions throughout the rest of the day altogether in the main hall - sometimes alongside the students and 20s conference Mobilise. At these times the hall was literally bursting its 4,600 capacity. The worship was electric - the sense of pressing into God tangible, and there were many words and prophetic songs brought.
Newfrontiers never follow a theme, or ask their speakers to centre their talks around a certain topic or scripture, and yet right from the first two meetings it was obvious there was a common message - God was wanting to call his people to courageous faith. This was to be a 'coming of age party' - a time to step into all that God has prepared each individual, church and continent for.
While Terry may be taking a step back from his main leadership responsibility, the movement is certainly not stepping back. In recent years it has become clear to Newfrontiers that they should not look to replace Terry when he 'retires'. Rather they have seen men raised up in each continent around the world, and will now be working from apostolic centres around the globe rather than the UK base in Brighton. Each team of leaders from these various places will be free to push through and do new things in their continent, and will probably hold their own leadership conferences in the future. However they have all said they want to retain their links, and are committed to togetherness, and, as the conference's byline so clearly indicates, Newfrontiers is still 'a family together…across the world'.
Alongside the challenging and inspiring talks there was some time to recognise various individuals and their input. On the Thursday afternoon, Terry pulled up a chair and decided his final address would be a 'chat' in which he shared seven things he felt mattered to him. Within those he recapped on important moments within Newfrontiers history, and at the end honoured his good friend and close colleague Nigel Ring. The applause almost brought the house down! (Nigel was responsible for organising Stoneleigh Bible Week and the Leadership Conferences, among many other things.)
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, attended the event. He said: "What a privilege to share in such a historic moment in the life of Newfrontiers. To hear Terry Virgo preparing to hand on the leadership, share his own story and the values, convictions and thanks to key people who have worked with him over the years was profoundly moving. I thank God for Newfrontiers and the unique contribution they make to the body of Christ both in this nation and around the world."
Terry Virgo added: "It has been a huge privilege to serve God in and through Newfrontiers, watching it grow from a handful of people essentially from the South East of England to becoming an international family of some 840 churches gathered among over 60 nations.
"At our final Together on a Mission conference in Brighton the 4,500 people present celebrated and prayed for the two dozen leaders who are taking responsibility for the future of Newfrontiers around the world.
"God has given us some great young leaders and the future looks very bright. I look forward to opportunities to serve the wider body of Christ in the coming years."