Having designed the artwork for the final Stoneleigh Bible week we were confronted with a vivid prophetic vision. A bright and attractive, eye-catching yellow field of dandelions suddenly turned grey. The wind began to blow. Seeds cascaded, caught the breeze and took flight. The imagery was clear. It was time to go. We changed our artwork to reflect the picture. The breeze-catching dandelion seeds became the image.
Stoneleigh Bible week, though an amazing event gathering nearly 30,000 people each year, never defined the essence of Newfrontiers. It certainly served a purpose, being enjoyed and celebrated annually for eleven years. But our calling was to be on global mission. It was time to move on.
My final sermon wrapping up Stoneleigh was about the eagle self-destructing its nest in order to teach the young to fly (Deut. 32:11). We had dwelt on that mountain long enough (Deut 1:6). At that time under 300 churches worldwide regarded themselves as part of Newfrontiers.
Years have slipped by and Stoneleigh Bible week is undoubtedly a memory full of thousands of great individual stories, but what has developed since is truly remarkable.
I have just returned from our global Newfrontiers Conference held in Turkey where team leaders and their wives gathered for four days of fellowship, worship, teaching and discussion. It was an excellent time, held in a setting poised between Asia and Europe, where we gathered from India, some African nations, Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, USA, Myanmar, Armenia, Bulgaria, and several western European nations, as representatives of teams working into some 70 nations.
How things have changed since our original leaders’ meetings which drew from a handful of towns across Sussex! Gradually that small nucleus grew, multiplying predominately house churches across South-east England and eventually into London. For 10 years we ran the Downs Bible week at Plumpton Racecourse.
God spoke to us prophetically that we could accomplish more together than apart and we began to function together under the title "Newfrontiers". Churches grew and multiplied. Buildings were bought and renovated.
A single contact took us into India, another into South Africa and a third into Mexico. Our vision to restore New Testament Christianity had to be enlarged. God showed us that restoration alone was too small a vision; we were to be a light to the nations (Isa 49:6).
Training programmes, outreach teams, multiplied leaders and pioneer church planters have all followed, together with many churches that have grown into congregations of several hundreds and some beyond a thousand.
My first visit to India was in 1979, followed by many more visits, multiplied churches, conferences, outreach and now scores of churches there. But whoever expected Newfrontiers churches in Pakistan, Mongolia, Japan, Myanmar, Latvia, Finland and Estonia?
Our time in Turkey was memorable. Increasingly mature team leaders from among the nations shared their stories, their wisdom, their passion, their plans for fresh initiatives in world mission and their common desire to go forward together. With burgeoning churches in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique and elsewhere, it is difficult to be precise but we are fast approaching (and may have passed) 1,500 churches worldwide.
We aim to meet again in Turkey next year. Who knows what stories will be told then but one thing is sure, God will continue showing himself faithful, gracious, resourceful and all powerful.