I’m now back from what must have been something like my 8th time at New Wine. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a week-long camp in the west of England designed to bring Christians (and people who are interested) from all denominations together to take part in big-scale meetings and smaller seminars which cover all sorts of topics, from work in the business world to the theology of the phrase ‘Your kingdom come’. A wide range of international speakers come in and it’s an opportunity for people of all ages to spend a week learning and experiencing more of God in a safe environment before, hopefully, taking that teaching back out into the ‘real world’. For me, last week was my first as an ‘adult’ which meant I was out of the kids’ groups and into the full adult program for the first time. This post is a very boiled down version of my thoughts from the week, and there’s the potential for some of the topics I mention to get blog posts in their own right over the next couple of weeks.
Sometimes, when you go to these things, a variety of issues will jump out at you and there’ll be all sorts of little things to take away. Other times, there’ll be a theme that emerges in the week as God emphasises something that’s particularly important for you. This time I experienced the latter. Throughout the week God put reaching out in university on my heart more and more. It makes sense. At university there’s so much need for something more to existence than what you’re offered in freshers’ week but people just aren’t aware. For many people God is an afterthought at best. It’s either taken for granted that He doesn’t exist or people believe there’s ‘something out there’ that doesn’t really have a bearing on their life. So cracks start appearing and work and alcohol become the only things that really matter. It’s hard to watch and I know God doesn’t want to stand by and watch it happen again.
Given recent events it’s no surprise that same-sex marriage and women in leadership came up as frequent topics of discussion. Thankfully, however, the emphasis was on how to read and interpret the Bible and how to engage people in discussion over such thorny issues, and not on individual speakers presenting arguments for why they think in a certain way. A man called Sean Doherty did an excellent seminar on grace and truth when talking to someone who doesn’t share your beliefs on sexuality, but most important from that particular seminar was the emphasis on the ultimate power of the Holy Spirit and that fact that it is God who will bring people to a realisation of His truth and will help us to live by that standard.
Another topic that came up was reaching out to the poorest areas of our country. This was probably because I most often went to the venue that really pushed that topic anyway! But it was amazing to hear some of the stories coming out of Britain’s inner city areas, whether those stories were told by the pastors who had seen it happen or by the people themselves. There is a whole world of work and outreach going on that I was just completely unaware of until the last week and it’s so encouraging to see what God’s doing in those areas.
It did get me thinking about the challenges of the areas that I live in, both at home and at university. And one of the biggest challenges, to my mind, is the apparent apathy of middle class young adults. Whether that apathy is genuine or whether it’s just surface level I don’t know, but the problem of people appearing not to care about God, and not to think about the big questions, is an issue. Even among people who have been raised as Christians there seems to be a point where God doesn’t seem to matter, and this was highlighted this week for me.
Finally, the most encouraging thing for me this week was that I was reminded of the power that God has to completely transform people. There were physical healings taking place throughout the week and testimonies of people who had been healed years ago too, as well as stories of situations being changed and families restored. This culminated on Friday night when up on stage a long line of people showed ‘cardboard testimonies’, where they’d hold up one card showing what their life had been like, and then a second card showing what it’s like now. These little windows on people’s stories were amazing. One man had been healed of Parkinsons five years ago and was still healthy, a woman had been healed from HIV, another man had been on the brink of suicide after losing everything and came on stage with his four young kids happy and restored to him. These stories show the power of God’s restoration in people’s lives and it was beautiful to see.
So that was a little snapshot of my week. As always, if you have questions or comments then let me know, and hopefully I’ll be able to get back to reasonably regular posts over the next couple of weeks.