Really enjoyed the New Word Alive conference in Wales last week. It had all the usual stuff that Word Alive was justly renowned for in its previous incarnation as part of Spring Harvest - great preaching, Bible overviews, world class student subject material, et al - but with some noticeable differences in feel. Three things that struck me:
1. The palpable warmth and generosity of the conference and conference leaders to Christians who perhaps wouldn't naturally assume that NWA is for them. I guess that all the main characters are Calvinist, most aren't charismatic and some would have a history of suspicion towards charismatics. Which didn't in any way affect the warmth of welcome and invitation for folk from the whole sweep of backgrounds, and inclusion for them in speaking and leading. This has a chance of becoming a pre-eminent Bible conference that really attracts from the widest range of backgrounds without politics or denominational distinctives being a bar to full participation.
2. There was a much greater percentage of seminar space given to dicsipleship than I remember before. When asked to do the seminars on spirituality (enjoying God), I realised that almost everything I had delivered at previous Word Alive conferences had been more technical "how to's", rather than deliberately leading people to pursue God. Understanding more than application. But it wasn't just my series. Mike Reeves doctrine series was appreciated not only for its depth and rigour but also for its application for life and worship. Neil Powel and Paula Love dealing with gospel life transformation fell into the same category. There was a clear hunger for God expressed in the choice of programme material.
3. For all the good stuff the three things that stick in my mind are little ones:
- that internationals became Christians - hallelujah! (OK this isn't little at all, but in terms of all that was going on it wasn't the major headline);
- Don Carson commenting that the purpose of the Gospel Coalition in the US is to get people so living out the gospel that their whole lives are just "gospel everything." For someone with such a good grasp of theological detail, it was great to hear Don say that when push comes to shove, living as a Christian is really just about "gospel everything". Great - let the gospel affect all your thinking, all your decisions, all your conversations today. Pray for every synapse firing, every neuron, every inkling in your mind, every event to be gospel everything
- Terry Virgo's passing comment in his Bible message on the Prodigal Son that "the Father has the best parties". That really set me thinking about free will. Most things set me thinking about free will these days. More musings in the next post, but my basic thought is what would anyone want to be free from the Father? If he has the best parties then freedom from him is freedom to walk away from joy and embrace destruction.