So apostolic churches are caught up ‘together on a mission’. That’s not just the name of a conference, it’s who we are! We are nations, crossing borders, entering, moving on, trying to recapture Biblical Christianity. We must fight for a Biblical understanding of the apostolic which is fundamental to the church being missional.
This practical outworking of apostolic ministry is completely lost if we see the apostles as simply Scripture-writers, and churches get stuck in institutionalism, democracy, independence. The danger of our becoming static is what Mark Driscoll saw in 2008 and so courageously and helpfully challenged us. As we grow larger, it is very possible for us to lose some of the edge of our New Testament origins and begin to look like something we never intended, merely an organisation that you can belong to.
He said to us, ‘It’s time for Terry to find a husband for his daughter.’ Mark had been in my home, seen some photographs of my daughter’s wedding, and he suggested this analogy that Newfrontiers is like Terry’s daughter; now he needs to find a husband for her, a successor. Your founder, as he put it, is not getting any younger, and you need to honour the future, not over-honour the founder. I believe God helped him to challenge us.
Helpful yet unhelpful
It was helpful in some ways and not helpful in others. His wake-up call was healthy, but his illustration of finding a ‘husband for your daughter’, like a ‘successor’ for the movement, was not very helpful and I hope I can make clear what I mean by that.
The reality is this that over the years changes have already been occurring. I said of the apostle Paul that there were churches like Colossae that he hadn’t even visited; other people had represented him. That has been happening to us for some time on a global scale. People have gone from us who originally represented me, but their own gift has sprung to life. For instance in West Africa, John Kpikpi who was with us in Church of Christ the King, Brighton, for four years, and then went back to Accra. He started a church in his home, which grew and is now in some hundreds. He has planted churches across Ghana and is now also working into six other nations along the West African coast – Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Sierra Leone, Guinea Conakry and Liberia, nations which I have never visited, nor am I likely to. But he has not only started churches, he has effectively taught them about the grace of God against the backdrop of very legalistic Christianity. He fought against legalism and built a different kind of church. He did apostolic work and planted churches that are prospering and growing. He is changing the expression of Christianity in West Africa.
Edward Buria in Kenya, on television week after week, is planting churches all the time, challenging the values of the nation, caring for the poor, doing a great apostolic work. I have visited and loved it, but it’s Edward’s apostolic work. That’s happening more and more.
One tree replaced by several saplings
When we started, we consisted of about 30 churches and Simon Pettit was with us leading a church in Sussex. Then he and Lindsey went to South Africa. Simon from my perspective was ‘Mr Africa’. Then tragically and unexpectedly Simon died. God spoke to us through a vision of a mighty tree that fell, but there were saplings in its shade that would now grow and change the landscape. We weren’t to replace him by a ‘successor’, we were to give space to these saplings. Since Simon died, we have begun working in Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tanzania, Malawi, Togo, Liberia, Benin, Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and Mauritius. We also dismantled the single structure for Southern Africa and released guys to find their gifting, to begin to see what God would do in and through them.
Not only that. Peter Brooks, based in Sydney, is caring for other churches in Australia, Cambodia, the Philippines, Japan and New Zealand. When I went to Sydney for two months at the end of 2008, the first thing that was arranged was a week of prayer. I was so stirred being in a church where they were not only praying for church plants in Brisbane, Perth and Melbourne, but also for New Zealand, the Philippines, Cambodia and Japan. Sydney is important, but they were already embracing an apostolic perspective in their prayer meeting. The people are owning a broader vision than ‘can we have a nice church here please, a bit like Newfrontiers?’ We have invested quality people not only for a great church there, but to have impact beyond.
‘As your faith grows we can reach out.’ Newfrontiers is a name we put over that. We are on the move building churches of stature, of worth, of value and reaching out. So in all honesty, the idea of finding a husband for my daughter doesn’t quite fit.
Anybody who tried at this present stage to become the successor and to turn what is currently ‘Newfrontiers’ into one apostolic sphere would pull everything back. It’s not simply ‘Terry’s apostolic sphere’ any more. It hasn’t been for a while really. When I went to Australia, I didn’t go to be the ‘father’ of those churches, I went to stand with Pete. When we went to New Zealand, the churches were looking to Pete, not me. It wasn’t my apostolic sphere but I was very happy to be alongside, more like a coach. When we visited Japan to be with Tom and Julie Eaton and the church plant in Nagoya, they were looking to Pete whom I was very happy to endorse. When I visited Ghana recently, I stood with John. It’s John’s work. If I visit anywhere these days, I am visiting another apostolic sphere that is growing.
[To be continued]