Newfrontiers when originally formed expressed its goals and purpose with five main strategies, namely; restoration of the church, making disciples, training leaders, planting churches and reaching nations. More recently some of my friends have thought the first of these has essentially been established and it is as though we have ‘done Restoration’; now we can get on with church planting, church growth, leadership formation and so on.
But what was meant by ‘Restoration’? Our goal surely was to see churches recovering long lost New Testament norms. Some have begun to embrace an alternative definition, namely that we are essentially ‘Reformed/Charismatic’ and, although I am very happy to embrace both labels, they are by no means an adequate description of what we were originally seeking. Our passion was the recovery of the church with all of its vibrant beauty.
It’s possible to be both ‘Reformed’ and ‘Charismatic’ yet express little of the culture of the New Testament church.
A preacher happy to call himself both ‘Reformed’ and ‘Charismatic’ came among us and told us for the sake of vitality and progress not to make friends of our co-elders. Why? Because it made it difficult to fire them! Firing leaders was seen as a strength, a mark of leadership virility.
In the modern church (especially in the US) leaders are often hired and subsequently fired. They are ‘hired’ to do a job and then ‘fired’ if they fail to produce.
Doing the business
The atmosphere has become increasingly shaped and influenced by a business model, demonstrating nothing of the intimacy of the New Testament church, where brotherly love and strong personal relationships are not incidental but fundamental! Nor did this insistence on personal bonds of love produce an inward looking, cozy, domestic kind of church. Paul’s companions, like him, were on a mission, risking their lives for gospel advance.
In raising up Timothy, Paul claimed that he served him like a son with a father. He had not developed and submitted an impressive CV. Paul knew his strengths and his personal weaknesses but commended him based on his personal intimate knowledge. He was Paul’s ‘faithful child in the Lord’, able to remind them of Paul’s ‘ways in the Lord’.
Churches were addressed as ‘beloved’. They were Paul’s personal joy and delight or even his heartache! He had become a father to them. As brothers and sisters they were to encourage one another, pray for, confess faults, admonish one another. Over 40 ‘one another’ verses speak of a relational depth of fellowship, modelled surely by the teams of elders who led the churches. Biblical Christianity knows nothing of the isolated pastor, friendless and professional!
I can’t thank God enough for a reformed faith, giving me a rock beneath my feet throughout the decades of my knowing the Lord or indeed for the intimacy of God’s presence that I have enjoyed through charismatic life in the Holy Spirit, but God wants so much more in his church and so do I!
I still long for a glorious church the joy of the whole earth, strong in truth, flooded with God’s presence, a truly phenomenal alternative to fragmented, alienated, impersonal society.
Restoration of the church must remain on the agenda!