LONDON – Christians need friends and people they can be accountable to if they are to grow in spiritual maturity, says Terry Virgo.
The leader of Newfrontiers was speaking in the first of a new series of short videos looking at the 17 values that have shaped his ministry over the years.
The first value concerns the importance of being a "Gospel-preaching church that is loving, righteous in its lifestyle, involved in world mission and reaching the unsaved in its community by both public and personal evangelistic activity."
Virgo was inspired to become a Christian through the Billy Graham crusades to Britain in the 1950s, but he says his initial experience of the church was "lonely." He broke with the traditional church and its "emphasis on personal" in the 1960s and later went on to found Newfrontiers, a neocharismatic network of more than 700 churches worldwide.
"I realized I need more friendship and I need to get alongside people," he said.
Society has changed a lot and relationships are far more relaxed, making it possible to talk about things that were once outside the boundaries of normal conversation, he says.
"If you are going to press on, you need closer friends, you need to be able to talk, you need someone maybe you can be accountable to. There's a lot to work through which you can't do alone."
He said it was not incidental that Christians needed relationships to grow, as God is in Trinity, but he warned that the desire to impress one another and "become something we're not" could be obstacles to deeper relationships.
He recalls telling church members to bring their Scrabble and Monopoly instead of their Bibles when Newfrontiers first started running small groups.
"It wasn't because I was hugely impressed with the spiritual significance of either of them but I felt that if we can't relate naturally we'll never get anywhere."
He continued: "I think it's very difficult to build relationship when everyone is pretending and we are all behind our masks. Religious atmosphere lends itself to that.
"If you're not careful, you never meet the real person because you're meeting what this person is trying to project – 'how do I want to come across.' And that's not helping anybody."