In the early days of the Jesus Fellowship. Young Christians were flocking to Bugbrooke to attend the new 'revival' style services. Many chose to join the newly founded "Jesus People" communes. The group began to grow and as more members joined the community further communes where started around the area.
As time passed, the novelty of the youthful, evangelical services was wearing off, and becoming more commonplace elsewhere. Continuing bad press regarding the group had also affected the number of new recruits.
Street evangelism, and recruitment campaigns became the favoured method the fellowship used to spread their message and to recruit new members. The 'Jesus People' took to the streets and spread further a field.
In the mid eighties a new image was adopted by the fellowship, the 'Jesus Army' was formed to become the outreach image of the group. The Jesus Army continued the trend of street evangelism, now clad in standard issue Jesus Army camouflage jackets and fluorescent red crosses, whilst being backed up by brightly coloured double-decker busses, minibuses, cars and trailers.
The generally friendly nature of the members, colourful transport and attire often catch the public attention, although their appearance and recruitment tactics have often been criticised.
Alex holiday photos 2003 : Jesus Army parade
James Lipman Photography : Jesus Fellowship Meeting 1, pic 2, pic 3, pic 4, pic 5, pic 6
Photography : John Angersons' photos
John Angerson Photography : Photo slideshow
Glastonbury 2003 : The Jesus Army pitch
Pictures at Images Brighton : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
Another Photo of : A Jesus Army Bus
'Religious fervour' attracts new recruits to Bugbrooke in the early days.
22/09/1973 : IN THE VILLAGE WHERE RELIGION IS A SINGING, SWINGING AFFAIR
In the mid eighties the new image of the Jesus Army is adopted.
17/04/1987 : RELIGIOUS 'ARMY' TO GO ON THE MARCH
The fellowships presence on the streets sometimes receive complaints.
26/08/1988 : LETTERS PAGE - WHY NOT US
01/04/1989 : LETTERS PAGE - INTENSE CONCERN AND IRRITATION
20/04/1990 : STREET ENTERTAINMENT
20/04/1990 : LETTERS PAGE - NOT SO MEEK
In 1987, the Archdeacon of Northampton criticised the Jesus Army uniform.
23/09/1987 : JESUS UNIFORM UNDER ATTACK
22/09/1987 : MEET US - SECT'S OFFER TO CRITICS
Members of the Jesus Army don't just parade around town centres and shopping areas where many members are often seen on Saturday mornings. The group also head into Red light districts, pubs, clubs and music festivals. Spreading their word, handing out the 'Modern Jesus Army Streetpaper' and 'Jesus Life' publications, offering free food and refreshments to street sleepers, passing clubbers, and just about anyone who stops to talk rather than pass by. It's here that many of the groups potential new recruits are found.
From the point of first contact, potential new members are often invited to visit or stay within a community household, invited to a meeting, event or festival, or are transported to the groups headquarters at New Creation Farm, to live and work alongside the members of the community for a while.
The targets of recruitment, by a method the group desribe as 'friendship evangelism', which others sometimes described as "Love Bombing" include the homeless, drug addicts and the destitute. For them, the offer of a roof over their heads, food, and a place to stay for a while is often eagerly accepted. To the fellowship, the offer of a chance to escape current situations and join their Christian community is seen as helping the needy. Outsiders often consider the process as as targeting the vulnerable.
The draw of regular meals, being looked after, the family atmosphere, and a wish to life a life dedicated to faith continue to draw new members. Friendship, companionship, spiritual guidance, love and the opportunity of a new start in life are on offer to those that wish to join. But for those who don't fit in, and those who show no genuine spiritual commitment to the faith that the group share, a stay with the community can often become short lived. Not everyone is welcome within the community, and it can take some time before the elders decide there is no place for a particular 'visitor' within the group. A potential new recruit may be just as 'needy' as the committed Christian next to them, but without that commitment, a return to the streets with little, if any, notice is on the cards.
For those who fit in, and wish to stay, Baptism and making a lifelong covenant commitment to the group is the next step to becoming fully fledged community members.
Yearly targets for the numbers of new recruits are often set by the elders of the group. Group expansion meetings are regularly held, where battle plans for the coming months are formed, and new schemes set into action.
Paul McCann gets picked up,
Homeless At The Doorsteps Of Hell
Alex Murphys' non-celebration (half way down page)
Marian, how he became part of the Jesus Army Living for Jesus is Worth it
Content fellowship members describe how they came to join the group.
23/09/1982 : SPECIAL ENQUIRY : THE HELL'S ANGEL
27/10/1988 : ALL OUT FOR JESUS AND FIGHTING FOR YOU! : HELPED BY THE JESUS PEOPLE
08/07/2000 : BACK FROM DRINK AND DRUGS HELL
In 1987 the Jesus Army where accused of luring children off the streets.
12/06/1987 : JESUS ARMY UNDER FIRE
24/06/1987 : LETTERS PAGE - DONT LET CULT TAKE YOU IN
In 1991 a building scheme was seen as a front for Jesus Fellowship recruitment.
03/10/1991 : SCHEME BID TO RECRUIT TO CULT FIRMLY DENIED!
Reporters and writers go undercover to be picked up by the Jesus Army.
21/09/1986 : INSIDE THE JESUS CULT: SUNDAY MIRROR GIRL JOINS RELIGIOUS SECT
29/04/1995 : THE JESUS ARMY WANTS YOU
An ex-member describe how first impressions of the community don't last following membership.
25/10/1984 : LETTERS PAGE - WHY I AM SO DEEPLY WORRIED
In 1982, a Northants youth leader created a stir, when he suggested the fellowship should recruit from youth clubs.
20/03/1982 : 'SIGN UP' THE KIDS SHOCKER
A fellowship elder maintains that approaching people in the streets isn't about recruitment into the fellowship.
17/09/1082 : SPECIAL ENQUIRY : SPREADING THE GOSPEL
After recruitment, the next step is baptism into the community.
1985 : LIFE?NEWS : The Official Joining Process: A total cosmetic cover-up
Evangelism campaigns, rave nights, marches and festivals are among the ways the fellowship publicly promote themselves, provide encouragement for its members both those within the community and those outside. All create possibilities for spreading their word, and opportunities for further recruitment. Many events include live music from the fellowships own bands, the baptisms of new recruits, the testimonies of those who have been 'saved', and, if the attendees are 'lucky', an evangelistic talk or sermon by Noel Stanton himself.
Praise Days and 'UK Jesus Celebrations' are held frequently in some towns and cities around the country, including a yearly event held in London, where often hundreds of members march through the city for a day in Trafalgar Square, inviting members of the public to a marquee based event in the evening in one of Londons parks.
Large Weekend festival events are also held over some bank holiday weekends in the grounds of Cornhill Manor, in the Northamptonshire countryside. Aimed at the whole age range of members, baptisms and a special word for the groups celibates are common at these events.
NRG, is a weekend event held at The Sanctuary nightclub in Milton Keynes. It's become another regular yearly event in the Jesus Army calendar. A mixture of evangelism with live music and finishing with a rave night aimed at a younger crowd.
In Northampton, the 'Destiny' events are held, reaching out to the lost club culture. Predominantly Drum 'n' Bass club nights in hired venues within the town, with the common 'chill out room' found in many clubs, being replaced with 'the faith zone'. The Destiny crowd also occasionally hold 'impromptu' street parties late at night on the Market Square, utilising a Jesus Army minibus as a DJ booth.
The fellowship also hold 'Men alive for God' days. These male only events are aimed to encourage 'brotherhood' and bonding between men, and to encourage them to take on the more traditional roles males have taken in the past as the head of the family/household etc.
Other than large events, meetings and the occasional marches, the most obvious campaign to many, are the Bus tours, where Jesus Army emblazoned double-decker busses traverse the country, visiting shopping areas in many towns and cities, often at peak shopping times to have the greatest exposure.
Another campaign, or rather scheme, which the fellowship have introduced in recent years, is the 'Heartcry prison release programme'. A scheme where the Fellowship heads into prisons to offer inmates close to the end of their prison terms an opportunity to live and work with the fellowship upon their release. The scheme only affects prisoners who are 'chosen' by the group, they have to already be Christians, preferably having found their faith whilst inside. In one case, a serial bomb hoaxer had even been spared a prison sentence entirely, and ordered by the judge to live with the fellowship for rehabilitation instead.
An account of a Jesus Army gathering in Rugby. Beyond The Roof
In 2000 The Heartcry Prison Release Program was launched.
29/03/2002 : FELLOWSHIP SETS UP PRISON REHAB SCHEME
31/07/2000 : JESUS ARMY TO HELP RELEASED PRISONERS
In 2002 a bomb hoaxer was ordered to stay with the fellowship instead of serving a custodial sentence.
12/11/2002 : SERIAL BOMB HOAXER MUST SEE PSYCHOLOGIST - JUDGE
28/03/2002 : BOMB HOAXER IS TOLD 'JOIN CHURCH'
In 1995, Skegness Council wouldn't allow a fellowship bus on the seafront.
17/07/1995 : JESUS FELLOWSHIP BANNED FROM SKEGNESS SEAFRONT
In 2000, one of the fellowships bus tours didn't go exactly as planned, when some phone boxes where destroyed.
26/12/2000 : CALLER FLEES AS BUS SMASHES PHONES
29/12/2000 : JESUS ARMY PLANS TO REVERSE THE CHARGE
Details of a 'Men Alive for God' meeting.
03/09/1995 : SUFFERING MEN GATHER TO BOND BEFORE GOD
In 1987, fellowship members faced court action for causing obstruction whilst campaigning against vice in Londons Soho district.
20/05/1987 : JESUS ARMY MARCH INTO SOHO
21/05/1987 : DOLE CLERK IN FIGHT TO SAVE VICE GIRLS
In 1999, representatives of Northamptons lesbian and gay community weren't happy with the fellowships campaign in one of the towns nightclubs.
30/01/1999 : JESUS ARMY TARGETS TOWN GAY NIGHT SPOT
In 1985, the fellowship started their 'England for Jesus Mission' tour.
11/06/1985 : MISSION TAKES TO THE ROAD
The 1985 tour heads to Bletchley fairground.
12/07/1985 : GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE JESUS PEOPLE
There's been lots of marching.
16/05/1987 : JESUS ARMY ON THE MARCH
25/05/1987 : JESUS ARMY IS ON THE MARCH TO LONDON RALLY
07/08/1987 : ONWARDS CHRISTION SOLDIERS
28/08/1987 : CHURCH CALL TO FIGHT EVIL
11/09/1987 : CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS TO MARCH ON LONDON
06/04/1988 : JESUS ARMY ON MARCH TO SHOW FAITH
16/05/2002 : ARMY ON MARCH TO SEE CANON
More marching, and a fellowship wedding at one of the groups weekend festivals.
26/08/1987 : JESUS ARMY ON THE MARCH
02/09/1987 : BLESS THE BRIDE
A reporter attends one of the groups regular meetings in Northampton.
11/10/1984 : SPECIAL REPORT : ALL OR NOTHING - THAT'S THE MESSAGE
An account of a fellowship meeting in Northampton.
05/03/1985 : ROCK ONWARD CHRISTIAN SOLDIERS
A day of worship in Northampton, to mark the start of 1992.
06/01/1992 : JESUS ORDER IN BIG CELEBRATION
Unilateral recruitment was cited as one of the reasons why the Baptist Union expelled the fellowship from its organisation.
14/11/1986 : WHY WE EXPELLED SECT, BY BAPTISTS
In 1986, questions where raised as to whether the group should be allowed to use Northampton's Derngate centre for meetings and events.
17/09/1986 : MP WANTS JESUS PEOPLE BANNED
22/11/1986 : DERNGATE PLEDGE
26/11/1986 : SECT GETS ALL-CLEAR ON HIRING DERNGATE
26/11/1986 : THUMBS-UP FOR JESUS PEOPLE
In 2000, the Jesus Army 'Millennium Man' was refused entry to a cross denominational festival.
12/06/2000 : KEEP OUT!
15/06/2000 : LETTERS PAGE - PENTECOST 2000 WAS A GREAT EVENT
15/06/2000 : JESUS ARMY BARRED FROM CHRISTIANS UNITY FESTIVAL
19/06/2000 : LETTERS PAGE - INAPPROPRIATE
19/06/2000 : LETTERS PAGE - NO QUESTION OF ARMY BEING EXCLUDED