New Wine 2012

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.

New Wine 2011

I got back this week from New Wine, our 9th time there I think, and by my reckoning I have now spent more than a year of my life under canvas). It was our first time camping with five children, so things were hectic, and the number of seminars we could get to was limited. Still, thanks to the onsite radio, I was able to catch the main talk most evenings, and a few seminars, in addition to the ones I got to in person. Here’s just a brief flavour of what I got to hear.

As usual, the morning Bible teaching was excellent, this year it was from Kenny Borthwick, who worked through John 17. I got to hear a couple of talks by Baroness Caroline Cox, an extraordinary woman of courage and compassion, and heard about the work that is being done by HART. I attended two seminars by authors of interesting books – Michael Ward on Planet Narnia, and William Donaldson on Word and Spirit in Leadership, a book I hope to read soon as part of some writing of my own I am doing on the subject of Word and Spirit. It was also nice to see Tope Koleoso from Jubilee Church, Enfield speaking at one of the sessions. His talk on demonstrations of the Spirit’s power from the Brighton Together on a Mission conference is well worth hearing.

I also got a chance to briefly meet up with Simon Ponsonby, who somehow managed to do nine talks during the week, mostly from his Romans series he is preaching through at St Aldates (well worth listening to if you get a chance). We had an interesting discussion on Romans 7. Simon is convinced that it refers to Paul’s experience as a believer. My take is that it represents the battle we experience trying to fight sin without relying on the power of the indwelling Spirit, which Paul seems to deliberately leave out of the picture, before introducing it in Romans 8.

Simon also takes a view on the law very similar to the “New Covenant Theology” position, in which it is argued that the OT law is completely abrogated for the Christian, and replaced with the law of Christ. This obviously rejects the common threefold distinction of “moral, civil and ceremonial” or other similar schemes for dividing the law up into the temporary and the perpetually binding, as well as dispensing (I think) of two of Calvin’s three uses of the law. It is a view I have some sympathy for (and still have the Wells and Zaspel book on my wishlist), without being 100% convinced yet. However, I still believe that there is “paradigmatic value” in all of the OT laws, since all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for us. To say that the law’s only function is to show our sin and need of a saviour, seems a little too weak to me. Maybe that is a topic for a separate blog post another day.

As usual, it was a privilege to mingle with a like-minded, but slightly different stream to newfrontiers and see what God is doing in and through them. Next up for us is the Together at Westpoint regional camping event, at which Terry Virgo is the guest speaker, which should also be good.

New Wine 2010

Just over a week ago we New Wine 2010 007camped at New Wine, a charismatic evangelical Bible week run mainly by Anglican churches with some help from Vineyard. The highlight for me was Simon Ponsonby’s morning Bible teaching series on the parables from Matt 13, although he abandoned the series to speak on John 22 (loving Jesus and knowing you are loved by him) and Joshua 3:5 (consecrating yourselves to the Lord) for the final two talks. His final talk in particular was very powerful, and it was great to finally get a chance to meet him in person during the week. His new book on holiness came during the week, although I still haven’t got round to reading "The Lamb Wins" yet, so it will be a little while before I provide a review.

With four children, getting to seminars is not easy, but we made at least one each day. We went to a couple of marriage seminars from Paul and Becky Harcourt which we enjoyed. There was an opportunity to renew your wedding vows at the end of the second one, which was a nice enough idea, but I got the giggles as our four year old continually interrupted with questions such as "what are you holding hands for"?

I also went to a two part seminar series entitled "homicidal God" by Simon Coupland, exploring the difficult issue of how we deal with the violence in the Old Testament. He drew from Chris Wright and Tom Wright, and he rejected a few possible ‘solutions’ and offered some ‘helpful thoughts’ on a topic that has no easy answers.

The most interesting seminar for me was one by Nick Drake on "Encountering God’s Presence in Sung Worship". He drew from some material in his fascinating masters’ thesis which is available to read online here. A quote that grabbed my attention is this one from Pete Ward in Selling Worship:

"As the mass is for Catholics, and the sermon is for Protestants, so the singing of songs is for Charismatics".

In other words, Catholics expect to encounter God’s presence in the bread and wine, Protestants in the preached word, but charismatics expect to experience God as they sing worship songs. I would have been interested in a discussion of whether these three need necessarily be mutually exclusive, but Nick took it in the direction of how our worship can be intimate while at the same time "accessible" to the outsider – two things that can be hard to hold together. All in all fascinating stuff, and maybe when I’ve finished working through Esther, I’ll post some more thoughts.

As for the evening talks, I only got to a couple since I was on babysitting duty, and had to listen to others on the radio. Maybe the quality of Terry Virgo’s recent messages at Together on a Mission have raised my expectations unrealistically high, but I didn’t feel any of the evening messages I heard really impacted me greatly. Worship in the main venue was led by Eoghan Heaslip, David Ruis and Nick Drake.

There was another venue (creatively named “venue 2”) featuring different worship leaders and main speakers, which most of the others from my church went to and seemed to greatly enjoy. It had slightly edgier worship, and a more contemporary feel, and proved very popular. Sadly the capacity of venue 2 is much smaller than venue 1 so those dropping off children first had no chance of getting in before it filled up.

As always, our children loved it. I am always moved by the loving and sacrificial work of the armies of kid’s workers who put on such excellent programs for them. And the greatest miracle of the week was the weather – no rain, not too hot, not too windy.

All in all it was another enjoyable year at New Wine (our seventh visit now), and apart from the disappointment of not being able to camp next to (or even close to) the friends we came with, we had a great time. Next up is Together at Westpoint.

New Wine 2009

Last week I attended the first week of the New Wine summer conference. This is run by a Network of evangelical charismatic churches, mostly Anglican and Vineyard. With four children all in different age-groups, and some heavy rain during the week, I didn’t get to as many meetings as I would have done in previous years, but still there was plenty to enjoy.

One of the highlights was the morning Bible teaching from Kenny Borthwick. His teaching on worship, holiness, Spirit baptism and revival stirred us to seek more of God’s presence. I also attended two seminars from John Lennox, speaking on a Christian response to the new atheism, which was interesting as I had already heard his debate with Dawkins.

Most of our evenings were spent in Venue 1, a huge tent seating around 5000, where we enjoyed the worship led by Kathryn Scott and Eoghan Heaslip. There was also a smaller tent, called Venue 2 which we visited one evening. The worship was a bit louder and edgier and we appreciated hearing Matt Redman lead with some of the songs from his new album.

Another interesting feature of Venue 2 was the resident “theologian poet”, who got up and performed a mini theological treatise in the form of a poem for which he earned a standing ovation. I thought it was a superb and creative idea, although it gave me food for thought as his topic was a forceful defence of a fully egalitarian position with regards to women in church leadership. I thought a few of his points were a little weak, but to his credit, he didn’t dodge any of the “difficult” verses, and made his case well given his limited time.

Another boost to his argument was that probably the best Bible teacher I heard during the week was Amy Orr-Ewing. Whilst that alone would not be sufficient reason to overthrow my belief that the Bible teaches a complementarian position, it does raise some important questions for those of us who hold this view. First, how would we make use a woman with such an outstanding teaching gifting in our own churches? And second, would it even be possible for that gift to develop in the first place, let alone flourish? As an evangelical, I do place primary importance on obeying the Scriptures, but as a charismatic, I consider it vitally important that the grace gifts the Spirit bestows on the church are developed and used for the edification of the body.

New Wine 2007

We’ve just got back from this year’s New Wine, and as usual, we found it to be a great time of meeting with God, and being inspired and refreshed through the worship and the Word. The highlight this year was Simon Ponsonby’s morning Bible teachings on the Great Commissions of the four gospels and Acts. If you haven’t heard him before, head over to the St Aldate’s sermons page and have a listen. He’s one of those all too rare people who bring Word and Spirit together, combining passion with theology.

While you’re there, check out some of Charlie Cleverly’s sermons. He also spoke a number of times at New Wine, on Song of Songs, and on martyrdom, based on his book “The Passion that Shapes Nations“.

I also bought Simon Ponsonby’s new book, “God Inside Out“, which is a theology of the Holy Spirit. I’m liking what I’m reading so far. Expect a review here soon.

New Wine 2006

I’ve just got back from a thoroughly enjoyable week away at New Wine. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give a blow-by-blow account of all 30 talks I heard, but I’ll briefly list the highlights.

During the morning sessions, Derek Morphew, of the Vineyard Bible Institute spoke on the kingdom. He started off explaining the kingdom hope of the Jewish people from Old Testament passages, and stressed the importance of understanding Jesus from this perspective. He talked about the “traditional evangelical” Jesus as being basically correct but incomplete because it lacked this view. He went on the relate this eschatalogical tension to our present experience of healing and our personal struggles with sin. I had already heard Derek speak on this very subject before thanks to a recommendation from Ger. It is a subject that lots of theologians are writing about at the moment, and it is interesting to see a serious effort to explain it to Christians en masse, rather than leaving it in the realm of the Bible college.

Probably the highlight of the week for me was a series of seminars given by Paul Harcourt of All Saint’s Woodford Wells. He taught chapter by chapter through the books of 2 Peter and Jude, which are quite difficult books in many ways. He spoke very sensitively on how to counter false teaching and the need to contend for the gospel. I also went to a seminar by him on preaching, and as he clearly is a gifted Bible teacher, I was eager to hear his advice.

I also attended two seminars by Charlie Cleverly. The first was on the topic of his new book “The Passion that Shapes Nations”, which is essentially a book about martyrs and a call to recover their passion for Jesus. The second was on the Song of Songs, and in particular its allegorical interpretation although he indicated that he also embraces a literal interpretation.

New Wine 2005

Last week I spent at New Wine. The week was spoiled somewhat by a catalogue of health issues which started before I left and continued until after I got back, one thing after another. It all meant that I was simply not able to go to as many sessions as I normally would. So it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I had hoped, but there was still some good stuff.

One of the highlights of the week was Simon Downing’s morning series on Hope from the book of Ezekiel, which was excellent. If anything he tried to cram a bit much in, but it was really good teaching on both a subject and a book of the Bible that are not often covered. Of the seminars, I enjoyed Alan Storkey’s two Jesus and Politics talks, but I didn’t buy his book, as I feel that I have already read a lot of N T Wright saying much the same things about the political message of Jesus’ ministry.

The most inspiring evening meeting was hearing Simon Guillebaud whose message was a simple reminder of the urgency of the gospel – “Jesus is coming, no one knows when, are you ready?” It was one of two occasions I visited “Venue 2” which I guess was the slightly more trendy (or perhaps “emerging”) venue. Like previous years there were some tables on the fringes, but this year saw the addition of a licensed bar. I’m not sure why this was desirable or necessary really. Its one thing to ensure people aren’t unduly uncomfortable, but this seems to be a big step in the direction of turning worship into a spectator sport. I hope this doesn’t become the latest must have feature of regular church services.