For those of you who have become familiar with C.J. Mahaney in recent years, you know him as the friend and colleague of the New Calvinists, namely, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, and John Piper, among others. Adrian Warnock, who hails from London and blogs for Newfrontiers, acknowledges this change in Mahaney’s associations as follows:
“C. J. has, in recent years, been introduced to a new audience because of his friendship with Mark Dever and Company. I have known of him since the 1980’s, and loved to listen to him live at early Newfrontiers Bible Weeks.” http://adrianwarnock.com/2008/02/8th-most-read-post-interview-with-c-j/
Incredibly, thirteen months have passed since I (Deb) first began investigating Mahaney’s connection with Newfrontiers and its founder Terry Virgo. The following comment in the Wikipedia article on Sovereign Grace Ministries clued me in:
“Tomczak and Mahaney were both close to some leaders of the British New Church Movement, speaking at New Frontiers’ Bible Weeks and Stoneleigh Conference.”
As the Wiki article explains, Mahaney and his former colleague Larry Tomczak traveled across the pond to speak at various British conferences, presumably with Terry Virgo. Since Mahaney spoke at the 2005 Together on a Mission, obviously at Virgo’s request, C.J. and his longtime British colleague appear to have maintained their friendship over the years.
Just who is Terry Virgo and what is Newfrontiers? Let’s start with Virgo’s ministry. Newfrontiers is a “worldwide family of churches together on a mission, with over 700 churches in over 60 nations around the world”, according to its website. And some of us thought the “family of churches” concept originated with Mahaney.
For specifics, click on this link: http://www.newfrontierstogether.org/
The Newfrontiers Wikipedia article begins as follows:
“Newfrontiers (previously New Frontiers International) is a neocharismatic apostolic network of evangelical, charismatic churches founded by Terry Virgo. It forms part of the British New Church Movement, which began in the late 50s and 60s combining features of Pentecostalism with British evangelism.”
For more information, check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newfrontiers
I wanted to learn more about Terry Virgo’s theology, so I consulted his Wikipedia article. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Virgo
Here is a brief overview of Virgo’s theological positons, which are provided in the Wiki article (the italicized words are direct quotes):
“Terry Virgo …
holds to a complementarian view of gender roles.
believes that the New Testament models that churches should be governed by a plurality of elders rather than by one person.
is a Calvinist. He said, ‘Anyone in newfrontiers would know how much we treasure these doctrines. I am not sure that someone would feel they couldn’t join us if they were not reformed. We have never said you have to be reformed to belong. But it is widely known and understood outside our circles that we are reformed and charismatic.
is a charismatic and thus believes that miraculous gifts such as prophecy and healing are for today.
believes the bible teaches that the ministry of an apostle is for today and did not end with the death of the first apostles. He thinks the widespread belief amongst evangelicals that apostles are no longer for today is largely a result of the Reformers opposition to the Roman Catholic notion of ‘apostolic succession’ which has strongly influenced the evangelical view ever since. As such he shares the view that apostles are for today with many in the Charismatic community, such as Sam Storms.
believes, as did Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that baptism in the Holy Spirit is a distinct/separate experience from conversion. He thus differs with many evangelicals on this matter, including John Winber’s tentative view and Wayne Grudem. Virgo would say that the Samaritan experience in Acts 8 and the Ephesion disciples’ experience in Acts 19 make it clear that baptism in the Holy Spirit does not always happen ‘automatically’ upon conversion.”
If you read yesterday’s post, you will remember that Mark Driscoll spoke at the 2008 “Together on a Mission” conference in Brighton. Did you know that Terry Virgo came to the United States to visit Mark’s church? Adrian Warnock proudly reported it as follows:
Terry Virgo at Mars Hill Church, Seattle
July 28, 2009
“Terry is currently in the USA with Mark Driscoll’s home church. He has actually been in the USA for most of the time since Together On A Mission…”
We presume that Warnock is speaking of the 2009 Together on a Mission conference which was held from July 7-10, 2009. Here’s the promo of the 2009 conference on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73KyfEEO3JY
We believe C.J. Mahaney is the one who introduced Mark Driscoll to Terry Virgo, just as Mark Dever is the one who introduced Al Mohler and Ligon Duncan to C.J., as reported by Duncan on the Together for the Gospel blog.
If you’d like to learn more about Terry Virgo’s “Together on a Mission” conference, you can check out this link )http://adrianwarnock.com/2008/07/together-on-mission-2008-newfrontiers/) and read Adrian Warnock’s article entitled:
Together On A Mission 2008 – The Newfrontiers Conference
At first glance it seems absolutely wonderful that Newfrontiers is striving to evangelize Europeans and others around the world who are lost, as indicated by the YouTube video promoting the Together on a Mission conference. Unfortunately, that’s not the entire picture of Newfrontiers.
According to the Wikipedia article on this “family of churches”, it seems Newfrontiers has come under criticism in recent years. Here’s how the Wiki article on Newfrontiers concludes. FYI – the author of the article is obviously not from the U.S. because of certain unusual word spellings (organisation, for example).
“Although Newfrontiers churches and members frequently maintain contacts with the wider community, there have been expressions of concern, principally by others in similar branches of Christianity, at the reluctance of the organisation as a whole to accept external assessment. For instance, John Buckeridge, senior editor of Christianity magazine, interviewed Terry Virgo for its July 2009 issue and was surprised at Virgo’s request for “extensive changes and edits” to the interview prior to publication. As early as 1986, sociologist and church historian Andrew Walker wrote of Newfrontiers that “the situation seems slightly analogous to Japanese business practices: they… export with great success, but import virtually nothing from anybody else”. A recent illustration of this was when semi-official Newfrontiers’ blogger Adrian Warnock closed the blog to comments following debate challenging Newfrontiers’ complementarian position.
At the Newfrontiers Brighton conference in 2008, prominent evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll criticised Newfrontiers’ apparent lack of clear strategy for post-Terry Virgo leadership and the dearth of clear expressions of their beliefs regarding basic doctrines such as ecclesiology and the Holy Spirit. The observations on leadership was acknowledged by Terry Virgo at the following year’s conference, although the way in which they were addressed was markedly different to the outline Mark Driscoll suggested.
Newfrontiers have begun to publish theological papers to address the second concern on their website. Members also point to other evidence of looking beyond their own network, inviting speakers such as Rob Rufus, C.J. Mahaney, Timothy J. Keller and Mark Driscoll amongst others to address their conferences in recent years…”
“Allegations of spiritual abuse within Newfrontiers have been made in a number of internet discussion forums including the one operated by Reachout Trust, most recently in 2009. In April 2009, the Journal of Beliefs and Values published an article reporting on a 2007 study which “set out to examine the psychological type profile of Lead Elders within the Newfrontiers network of churches in the United Kingdom and to compare this profile with the established profile of clergymen in the Church of England”. One of the conclusions of this academic study offers some support for such allegations:
‘There is a toughness about this style of leadership that is unlikely to be distracted by opposition. The disadvantage is that this style of leadership can leave some individuals hurt and marginalised for what is seen by the leadership as the overall benefit to the organisation.’”
Gee, is there another “family of churches” that could be described in this manner?