So here I am once again, in the middle of a very large field in Nottinghamshire, writing this blog as the sun (rather than the usual rain) beats down on the roof of our hired caravan. It must be New Wine, our annual jamboree of worship, teaching and for me the icing on the cake, bumping into people, such as this year a lost branch of the Moughtin family!
Jacqui and I have been coming to New Wine, or its equivalent, for over 30 years – for us a high priority in our discipleship. I have come to value Big Top worship – even though it does not sit easily with my music tastes. But if a huge number of Christians are going to praise God together in song, many of us are going to have sing songs which we don’t actually like! Strangely, once I decided to give it my best shot, I actually started to enjoy heavy beat rock (or whatever New Wine music is called). Actually, this year we are blessed with Brian “Faithful One” Doerksen leading the worship. I may even buy the CD of this thoughtful and God-honouring Canadian.
Teaching is at the heart of New Wine, “local churches changing nations.” I didn’t expect to be so helped and challenged by the main morning speaker, Jon Tyson; he is an Australian. His Wednesday talk on shame was inspired and inspiring, not least helping me to see familiar Bible passages in a new light, the mark of anointed teaching. So Adam hid from God not because he was guilty but because with Eve he felt shame. And in response Jesus despised the shame of the cross (Hebrews 12:2) so that we may be honoured as children of God. As I write this, it sounds so simple and obvious, again the sign of inspired preaching.
I have long since realised that in choosing a seminar (or indeed, any course) you go for the speaker and not the subject. So on Monday this meant a long walk over the site to Impact, to hear the truly remarkable Andy Hawthorne, the Mancunean who gave us the WWMT, the Message, the Eden Project and now a new project to employ unemployable young people. No wonder this Christian entrepreneur was awarded the OBE for his “outstanding achievements and service to young people in Greater Manchester for almost twenty years.” You can check out his website – http://www.message.org.uk/
And his secret, in fact the drive behind the whole of New Wine? Faith in a remarkable God who can do “abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).
New Wine began in 1989 with the vision of a local parish church (albeit a rather large one), St Andrew’s Chorleywood, led by its vicar, David Pytches, a missionary bishop who had served in South America. Mustard-size seed faith producing a huge tree to welcome every bird in the vicinity. As ever, not a top-down from the church hierarchy but a bottom up from the local church.
What counts, in the words of the apostle Paul on trial (again), is “being obedient to the heavenly vision,” staying the course and relying on the faithfulness of God to be expressed in some surprising and occasionally unsettling ways. We need to be an entrepreneurial church, disciples with vision. It’s how God works – through us daring to take risks for the Kingdom.
And finally, another regular at New Wine is Archbishop Justin. When he was a vicar, he came with his church every year. You can listen to his talk last week at the other New Wine holiday conference at Shepton Mallet in Somerset – where we hope to be next year. As ever, inspiring. http://www.new-wine.org/
You can also view some of my photos on the church’s Facebook page. Just search for Christ Church Aughton.