Interviews by Adrian Warnock: Part 5. On keeping humble when God blesses you and Newfrontiers
This is the fifth in a multi-part series of interview clips that Adrian Warnock filmed with Terry Virgo when he was in London with Jubilee Church Enfield.
Adrian: Now I would like to take you right back actually… but sort of partly on route to that, my mum said something interesting today. It was through them, because I was very young, back in around 1978 when I met you first. And she said something really interesting. She said, ‘Back then it was just a tiny handful of people’. I think you were pastoring a church in Seaford and I think Haywards Heath was the very first church you’ve travelled to, if I remember correctly. There we were, a bunch of people had been thrown out of Evangelical churches, and my mum and dad who had come into the Holy Spirit through Capel Bible Week, I think it was. She said ‘you know… how Terry was back then when it was just a tiny handful of people’ Basically Terry and his friends… because you had known everyone, and how he is today, he is no different.’ And for a lot of people who have a big international ministry over a hundred churches, a big author and all that, there’s a sort of aura about them a kind of ‘I’ve achieved something.’ You seem to be devoid of that, you seem to have a humility, I guess, about you. And I know humility is a funny thing because you’re not going say ‘Yes, actually, I am humble’ because then you’ve lost it. But I’m sure that there’s been temptations not to be humble, with all these thousands of people gathering. I think someone once said ‘You should never believe your own press’. How have you maintained that humility of the years? Are there any keys that might help other people? Because even in a small church, the pastor is sometimes the head of a pyramid – everyone’s looking to them – it’s easy to get impressed with yourself if you’re not careful, I think.
Terry: I guess your final phrase holds a key! I’m not very impressed. I’m just not. And I think I live with me. And I have battles, all sorts of battles. But I don’t honestly find that’s one of them. I am not very impressed. And I also, when I first started, I did door-to-door evangelism for two years and I was very bad at it, and it was very lonely and it was gruelling. And I felt that God used that perhaps to show me my own total inadequacy. The end of those two years which were spent on a housing estate area – I mean it was torture. A lot of it was just very very hard. To get up in the morning, pray, and I was living in the home of people who were unsaved. Even if I go home, my parents were unsaved anyway! So there was no endorsement. And you go and knock doors and actually the Mormons were in town, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s like ‘No. No’. And then you go back home and pray and then get up the next day you do it again. And so it was huge battle and I was aware of great weakness.
And I think, I don’t know, I’ve never been very impressed. I would go back and think ‘That was useless, I did it terribly’. And so I know that God’s been merciful. And I think also God has joined me to remarkable people. I’ve been so blessed by God over the years that extraordinarily gifted people have come alongside and we’ve done it together. So sometimes it’s possible to think ‘Terry Virgo did.’ I don’t feel that is how it’s worked really. I’ve met brilliant people and we’ve been joined in love. And people have done things and things have grown up organically. It’s not that Terry did it all. I happened to get my name, I guess, at the centre of the it all but it’s always been teamwork. There have been people without their contribution, this wouldn’t have happened. I’ve got a wonderful wife, I’ve been blessed with wonderful kids. And I think we do it together, don’t we? I mean, you’ve been around long enough. We do it together. It’s been a relational deal. I don’t think it’s ‘He went away, learned this and presented it’. I think we’ve learned together. And I’ve always known I need people. So you’ve mentioned Nigel Ring
Adrian: It was so lovely to see you dedicating your book to him. That was so wonderful. I know Wendy you’ve dedicated many of your books to.
Terry: Yeah, you know I felt to do that. I felt quite prompted to do that. You know, I always say this ‘I wouldn’t know how to cross the street without Nigel telling me.’ He’s just marvellous. And then I’ve had another Adrian – Adrian Willard. I mean just magnificent. And God has built around me extraordinarily gifted people. So I’ve benefitted hugely from that. So we’ve been a team. And when I moved to Brighton in ’79 to get involved with what was the ‘new church’ – Church of Christ the King. And we started the Bible weeks, I said to Nigel ‘Will you come with me, please?’ And he prayed about it for about 10 minutes, and he gave up his job, he and his wife Janita, moved home and moved about 3 streets from me and he’s been right there from the beginning. And so you know you just had great, great guys who from the beginning said ‘Yeah, I’m with you’. And it couldn’t have happened without that.
Adrian: I think the longevity of some of those relationships is so crucial. I was actually.. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. But I was quite surprised, at the prayer and fasting, you threw on me, with about a 2 minute notice, to talk about your book because you didn’t want to, which is understandable. And one of the things I said there, I asked people ‘I was at the first Downs Bible week, how many others were there?’ And I was expecting just a tiny smattering of hands, really, because it was a long time ago. But it was really interesting to see that there was quite a bunch of people there who’ve been there with you long term, in the broader sense, but also, like you say, some of those relationships like Nigel, it’s not always true. A lot of guys still lose people along the way because they fall out.
Terry: We have been so blessed. You are absolutely right. I go to, what you referred to, our prayer and fasting days – I remember when we first started – three times a year we gather with the Pastors to pray. I remember when it was about 20 men. Now it is about 700! It has been over 800 sometimes! And I look around the room and I think ‘Loads of people here I don’t know’. But there’s loads of people I’ve known for years and years and they’re all Christian name terms. And to be honest the wonderful privilege is I can go out to Guadalajara In Mexico and I can speak to Aturo and Heimi, I’ve been going for decades. I can go to India to Mumbai and I can speak to Samir and Jackie and I just know these friends have been with us for decades. And it’s true – we’ve got longevity, we’ve got relationship that’s right in the heart of what God has done.
Adrian: I think you once said, and it might have been at Stoneleigh, that for you, all of this, when you look out at New Frontiers and all that has been involved, has really been you and your friends trying to serve God together. Is that right? Did I remember that right?
Terry: I really feel it, and you’ve probably got a better memory than I have. I mean, we are friends together, and it would break my heart to lose a friend. So I think we’ve lost one or two on the way and it’s been painful. But to be honest, we’ve had massive loyalty and people moving together for years and years now it’s been a joy.