I got back on Saturday from a week at New Wine, which has become a regular fixture for my family (read my reports from 2011, 2010, 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005). With our five children all in different age groups, getting to seminars was a bit of a challenge, but I did get to a good number of meetings. The worship was led by Nick and Becky Drake, Elim Sound, Ian Yates, with an enjoyable guest appearance from Rend Collective.
The highlight was getting a chance to hear Francis Chan speak, having read two of his books (Forgotten God and Crazy Love). He gave the morning messages as well as speaking in a few evening sessions. He is not only an engaging and humourous speaker, but very earnest, passionate and challenging. In fact, I suspect that much of what he had to say was not comfortable hearing for many people, as he uncompromisingly expounded some hard passages of Scripture. He brought up subjects such as God’s holiness, the need for repentance, the need for courageous evangelism, the importance of taking death and eternity seriously, and particularly underscored the importance of testing all things against Scripture. I suspect this may in part have been as a corrective to a rather Word-Faith message in one of the evening talks. Also, the New Wine network, like many contemporary charismatic groups, has a tendency to emphasise experiencing the Spirit and seeing miracles, whilst neglecting the less palatable biblical themes of personal holiness and enduring suffering. Having said that, he managed to be very gracious at the same time as packing a real punch, and everyone I spoke to at the event was extremely appreciative of his ministry. There was much to think and pray about.
Evening speakers included Mike Pilavachi with a helpful talk on life in the wilderness, and I also enjoyed a message from Ant Delaney on the need for convictions and integrity, based on the life of Daniel.
In terms of seminars, I got to one by David Stroud covering several principles of leadership. I also went to two by Carl Beech from Christian Vision for Men. His first talk was a good one from the life of David about what it means to be a man. His second was about how the church has not been good at reaching men, and included a rather controversial “ban” list of all the things he would like banned from church (including banners, missionary boards, romantic worship lyrics and bad toilets). I certainly agree that churches need to think more creatively about how they can reach men, and how they can do church in a way that doesn’t make unchurched men feel completely weirded out. However, I’m think you could quite easily make different “ban” lists if you want to reach introverts, or immigrants, or the working class, or the homeless, or academics, or people with disabilities, etc etc. Having said that, I completely agree that we need to think a lot harder about how we can effectively reach and disciple men.
The other speaker I should mention is Shane Claiborne. I only got to one of his talks, which turned out to be a retelling of many of the stories from his Irresistable Revolution book. His passion for the poor and his creative thinking are inspiring, but he did little to ease my concerns that he fails to take other teachings of Scripture as seriously as those that fit his social justice and pacifist agenda.
There were some other talks I got to hear at the end of the week, but by that stage it felt like I had already received so much teaching that I needed to take time out to process and pray about it.