Explosive church growth in London

Posted by Sam Hailes  ·  Be the first to comment

The worldwide movement of churches known as Newfrontiers was birthed with Terry Virgo's small ministry in 1968. Incredible growth has followed meaning today there are over 850 Newfrontiers churches in 60 nations.

The annual Newfrontiers leadership conference in Brighton, UK ended last July with the news that Terry would not hand over leadership to one person, but that a team of leaders was emerging.

One of these key leaders is David Stroud. Based at Christ Church London.

1. You were recently interviewed by the Daily Telegraph who wrote an article titled The return to religion about church growth in London. What’s going on?

The truth is there are a lot of Christians here. One of my fellow team members said the other day, ‘there’s so many people reading the Bible on the tube!’

There’s a mini supermarket opposite where I live and there’s two or three Christians who I’ve got to know that serve at the tills there. So I leave for church the other Sunday morning and one of them comes out of the shop and calls after me, ‘God bless you today’. Then I get to the bus stop and there’s a woman there in an HTB welcome t-shirt. Other times I’ve been sitting on the tube reading a Christian book and someone will sit next to me and talk because they’re a Christian too.

There are hundreds of churches who are applying for planning permission either to extend their building or to get a new building. The two fastest growing Newfrontiers churches are in London and one of them grew by 300 people last term.

The largest all night gathering in Europe happens in London twice a year and it’s an all night prayer meeting. That’s 40,000 Nigerians who gather together to pray.

2. Is there unity between churches in London?

We would be the first to admit we haven’t got it all. I count some of the leaders of some of the other denominations as very good friends and hardly a week goes by without me talking with one or another of them. We want to honour the whole body of Christ, unquestionably.

3. At Christ Church London, you have pioneered some social action projects. Tell us about them.

We’re involved in supporting refugees, a number of whom who have the most horrific backgrounds and stories. We’ve had teams who have gone into schools where children are underperforming and helped them to get GCSEs.

We run a food bank and have a collection outside a supermarket once a month. So as people are going into the supermarket we say ‘would you like to buy some food for a family that can’t afford to put food on the table for themselves?’ We’ve found the residents are thrilled to do that. Typically in a day we collect over a ton of food.

4. What have you been doing within church life to encourage contribution to society?

We’re encouraging our professionals not only to work hard but ask what it means to contribute to their industries. We’ve got groups for creative industries, law, health, business and many others where they meet together to ask, ‘what difference should it make for us to be part of those structures and those industries?’

5. Explain the vision behind the Everything conference and why people should attend on the 17th March.

Many Christians they give their time and their energy to their own spiritual life and life in the church. The rest of life can be seen as stuff that you have to do, but if you’re really connected to God you give your time to the church. 

I think that church leaders also can see things this way, but the Bible says: 'The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it'. Not only does God own everything but when Jesus came and died, he reconciled all things to God. 

The Everything conference is a call to Christians not to forget the rest of life. And ask the question: ‘What should I be doing in my world to bring God’s redemptive love and power into it?’

6. Why has Newfrontiers been so successful?

It’s never a silver bullet and I’m always suspicious when anyone claims one. In the end it’s always a set of different things.

We’ve had some very gifted leadership. Terry [Virgo] has been consistent over 40 years.  If you look at Terry’s contemporaries, they’ve not gone all the distance. A number of the guys he was running with in his 20s and 30s are no longer involved in evangelicalism.

We meet three times a year for two days prayer and fasting. 800 pastors gather together. It’s two hours prayer, 45 minutes break throughout the day, so it’s pretty intense. That determined prayer over decades has been very instrumental in us enjoying God’s blessing.

7. Why is Terry Virgo not handing over leadership of Newfrontiers to one other person?

We’re talking about over 800 churches around the world and somewhere in the region of 100,000 people worshipping in Newfrontiers churches on a Sunday. It would be very hard therefore for someone to step into Terry’s shoes.

There are a number of gifted individual leaders who should be set free and given their own sphere of operation and to function within that. We think our common vision and the values that we share can hold us together.

8. Do you think there are strengths and weaknesses of not having one leader?

Absolutely, I don’t think there’s a perfect structure or perfect system. We go into the future conscious of our vulnerabilities, aware that this is not a perfect set up and also aware we could lose some things as well as gain some things. We’re confident this is the wisest way forward.

9. What’s the best Christian book you’ve read?

I recently did a list of books that had really influenced me and I came out with 25 or 30 books. John Stott’s writings have influenced me hugely. Chris Wright’s The Mission of God is an outstanding overview of the mission of God particularly in the Old Testament. Chuck Colson’s How Now Shall We Live is an important book.

10. What has God been teaching you recently?

It can be easy when you’re leading a big church or large organisation to do that out of one’s leadership or organisational skills. One can lose their closeness to the Spirit, hearing His voice and wanting to create disciples and leaders.

He’s been speaking to me about prayer, personally training leaders, making sure I’m sharing my faith with others, making sure I’m laying hands on and praying for the sick. It’s been a hugely refreshing thing for me and one that I’ve found very exciting as well.

7th March

March 7th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Sam Hailes

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