Jen and I spent a week at New Wine a couple of weeks back, and had a most enjoyable time. We camped with the church in Walton (the next one east of Ashcott), and we were warmly welcomed by the team there. Richard & Sharon Knight were the hosts, and we really enjoyed getting to know them, as well as Mike & Karly Robertson, Hannah, and the children and young people who were with them.
The main Bible teaching in the morning was given by RT Kendall. He’s now 82, and first made his name as a preacher at Westminster Chapel where he was the senior minister for 25 years. For me it was refreshing to have a top-quality Bible teacher doing the morning slot: in previous years, speakers have been a bit too light on the Word in their eagerness to be inspiring.
Each of his sermons were masterpieces: and, as we discovered, many had been honed by being given multiple times over the years! These were the topics he spoke on:
- The importance of ministering in the Word and the Spirit: too often churches prefer one or the other, when we actually need both.
- The way God answers our prayers depends upon our readiness to receive his answer: we think we’re ready for God to bless us, but often we’re not.
- The need for total forgiveness in our relationships: this is usually a long process, as we root out the anger and resentment in ourselves.
- A twofold talk on the importance of tithing – giving God the full 10% of our income – and the importance of being thankful to God. God often blesses the tithing so that our 90% goes further than the original 100%.
- A look at the end-times based on a radical interpretation of the parable of the ten virgins.
One of the strengths of New Wine is the wide variety of seminars that take place during the day. It was great to see Alister McGrath being invited to do two of them. He remains an outstanding contributor to the science & faith field, although I sometimes feels he’s a victim of his own success. His pre-eminence gives him a ready market but I’m left feeling he’s not quite reached the breakthrough that could make a lasting contribution.
One speaker I’ve not heard before, but rather wished that I had, was Gavin Calver: a very gifted communicator who’s also highly intelligent. He was speaking about the need to be confident in the Gospel despite our living in an age of great uncertainty. For example, the word of the year for 2017, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is ‘post-truth‘: the idea that personal feelings are more important than absolute facts. (The definition in the OED is a little subtler in saying that the idea relates specifically to the shaping of public opinion). But, as Calver was pointing out, as Christians we believe in absolute truth and it’s over-riding importance (eg that Jesus really is the risen son of God).
In his second seminar, Calver gave ten tips about how we share the story of Jesus more. Here are three of them:
- We must not change the substance of the gospel or water it down because we think doing so will make it more palatable.
- We need to pursue holiness – to stand out from the culture: how we behave differently as Christians speaks volumes to others.
- We’re all witnesses. Telling the story of Jesus should not be left to a few specialists but should be done by each one of us.
It was a most enjoyable week: inspiring and refreshing, and made even more so by the community of Walton church with whom we camped. The tragic postscript is the sudden and unexpected death of Mike Robertson, whose cheerful and friendly personality helped to make us feel so welcome. He leaves behind his wife Karly and two primary school-aged children. We pray that they will experience the depth of God’s love in this most difficult of times.