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21 November 2007

by The Revd Graham Horsley

Evangelist: the Revd Dr Rob Frost

Evangelist: the Revd Dr Rob Frost

THE DEATH of Rob Frost from cancer on 11 November, aged 57, has robbed the Christian Church of one of its great characters.

Rob’s Methodist roots went deep: he was born in a Methodist manse, and spent his childhood and adolescence learning about evangelism from his minister father, Ronald. He made a personal commitment to Christ as a teenager, and very quickly began to develop his own evangelistic ministry.

He was fascinated by the subject of communication, and began training to be involved in television — a career that he abandoned to fulfil a call to ordained ministry. He began his evangelism training at Cliff College, Derbyshire, and trained as a Methodist minister at Hartley Victoria College, Manchester. While in Manchester, he began to work in local radio, a passion that he maintained throughout his life.

Rob discovered his distinctive vocation at a time when it was not easy to be an evangelist or an Evangelical, and he was in hot water more than once during his time in theological college because of his passion for evangelism. In college, he gathered around him a group of like-minded evangelists, and filled his college holidays with missions — a beach mission in Newquay, a large event in a local park in Manchester, and a mission to a number of villages around York.

These were followed by evangelistic tours of Britain in a double decker bus (the first “Gospel Roadshow”), and a similar tour of most of the eastern seaboard of the United States. It was in this time that the ideas that shaped much of his later work were born. It was also in this period that he met and married Jacqui, who brought to their partnership tremendous gifts in the Christian arts.

Rob was appointed to serve as a local minister in Methodist circuits in South Elmsall, Yorkshire, and Mitcham, Surrey. It was, however, obvious that his call was to a wider evangelistic ministry. Through the foresight of the late Donald English, General Secretary of the Division of Home Mission of the Methodist Church, he was appointed in 1986 to a national evangelistic ministry in the Methodist Church.

From the earliest days, Rob’s ministry had a wide ecumenical dimension, which was formally recognised in 2001 when Share Jesus International was formed with a board made up of representatives of a wide spectrum of Churches.

The earliest period of his evangelistic ministry was typified by tours and missions. Every year, he persuaded a district of the country to host a “Share Jesus” mission; recruited 30-50 churches to participate, and 300-400 people to form the mission teams; and led a mission that was both local and regional. The tours were always evangelistic at heart and involved music and drama (often in collaboration with Paul Field, a composer, and Stephen Deal, a sketch-writer).

In 1988, Rob launched Easter People, a Christian celebration and teaching event. He and some close friends used their life-savings to fund the deposit on Camber Sands holiday camp. Fortunately, it was a success, and the savings were repaid. Over the next twenty years, tens of thousands of individuals and many churches had their lives and their worship transformed at Easter People. Many ministers first heard the call of God to ordained ministry at Easter People or on a Share Jesus mission.

Despite this punishing schedule of events, Rob maintained a regular programme of radio work, journalism, and involvement in café church in Raynes Park. He was also in great demand as a speaker and preacher all around the world. He wrote more than 20 books and studied for a doctorate, mostly by working deep into the night, having already worked a 12-hour day. He had great academic ability, but felt it more important to communicate in the language of popular culture.

In recent years, he made a priority of mentoring young leaders. He was especially delighted when his son Andy joined the team and began to influence a new generation in much the same way as he had 20 years earlier.

Rob was a leader with great imagination. Working with him was like riding a rollercoaster, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes terrifying, as yet another big vision unfolded. He had an enormous zest for life, a wicked sense of humour, and a real pastoral concern for friends.

His death took most of his friends and supporters by surprise. Many knew that cancer had been diagnosed in June, but were astonished to hear that he had died peacefully in St George’s Hospital, Tooting, after a short illness.

He is survived by his widow and two sons, Andy and Chris.

Mr Horsley is Evangelism and Church-Planting Secretary for the Methodist Church in Britain, and a trustee of Share Jesus International.

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