I was so shocked at the recent passing of Arnold Bell, a longstanding friend whom I first met at London Bible College in 1965. For our last two years at college, we shared a room and had much in common. Our Sundays were particularly memorable. On Sunday mornings, we regularly attended a new and radical church, meeting at Buckingham Street, near Charring Cross. On Sunday evenings, we would go to Westminster Chapel, to hear the incomparable Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones.
On Sunday afternoons, we would pray in the college chapel with an ever increasing number of fellow students, calling on God for national revival, and for the increasing manifestation of the presence of God in college life.
Though personally rather shy, his sharp insight and dry humour were often on display. He wrote and directed an impressive student play entitled 'Mr Job', based on the bible character. He used sardonic wit writing a poem for the college magazine, in mock praise of 'balance' (what J.I. Packer calls 'that dreadful self-conscious word'), which was regarded as the supreme value at the college at the time. His closing line said something like, 'so with both feet firmly on the ground, let us go forward!'
While at college, I met and fell in love with Wendy, and Arnold would often joke 'where are we going on your honeymoon?' I repeatedly assured him that WE were not going anywhere on my honeymoon! However on my way to the wedding, my car broke down and was left at a garage on the M1, while I was rescued and delivered to the church, just in time for the service.
As the reception passed, I realised 'no car means we can't go to our planned honeymoon location'. Arnold knew of a nearby farmer who owned a cottage often available for holiday bookings. He found it was available and as he drove us away in his car, glanced back at us and said 'as I was saying, where are we going on your honeymoon?'.
Having left college, we went our separate ways to comparatively small towns with small churches. But as Newfrontiers began to emerge and grow, Arnold made contact and renewed fellowship. He brought his church at Odiham into the life of the family of churches known as Newfrontiers.
Pastor, teacher and trainer
This context provided an excellent setting for his gifts of training and lecturing. This was particularly in New Testament theology, New Testament books and preaching, to develop many preachers now scattered throughout Newfrontiers churches. Thank God for his skill in developing their confidence in the bible, and their determination to submit themselves to its authority, and to make every effort to expound it with accuracy and integrity.
His move to Sheffield was a great act of faith and resulted in his leading a bright and growing congregation, meeting in a large former synagogue, and now a great refurbished church building. His faith for raising the finance for this adventure is legendary. He and the church proved God in a wonderful way.
His thanksgiving service, attended by hundreds of people, packed into the very large building in Sheffield, was truly memorable. Stories were told with gratitude for a life so evidently fruitful and life-changing for many. He will be greatly missed, especially by Mary, his wife, and Jonathan and Esther, his children, not to mention, his grandchildren.
The church at Sheffield and the whole Newfrontiers family will feel the loss of his outstanding ministry. We thank God for his friendship, his warmth, his loyalty, his commitment to Christ, his determination to feed his flock with truth from scripture, his dependance upon the help of the Holy Spirit, his joy in God, his passion for the local church and indeed churches, not only within the UK, but in India and elsewhere.
Arnold has been a joyful companion in our lives and we thank God for him. We honour God for his gifts and so appreciate His kindness in giving Arnold to us.