Word Alive 2014 (Pontin’s Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park, Prestatyn, Wales)
Just back from working at Word Alive 2014 and recovering from crazy road-tripping all the way from London to Wales with a good bunch of people. The conference was great – love how big Christian meetings are a small slice of heaven when the attention is not on the musicians or big name preacher celebrities, but on God.
When i managed to nip out for a bit, hurried along to Don Carson on Jeremiah and Mike Ovey on human duties and divine rights. Stretching stuff:
And on some free afternoons, gorgeous blue-sky-and-sunshine weather meant loads of walks around the campsite with friends new and old, hanging out by the beach (roommate claimed to have spotted a seal) and lining up for the ice-cream van:
Also, much chatting in the sun and skate-scootering, and as the sun set and when the children were safely away, jumping around/sliding and bouncing down inflatables, and cricket on the grass (or the more competitive games run by Christians In Sport):
Post-evening celebrations, the After Hours entertainment was something to look forward to as well – Stuart Townend in the Lunar Bar (was late for his set thanks to a particularly fierce discussion a roommate and i were having about humans being made in the image of God) and a ceilidh on the last night (“Christian speed-dating” sniffed the Camera Man before heading for drinks. Camera Man was glad to be proved right when a serious conversation was interrupted at the sight of an Irish friend snogging a girl on the dancefloor):
Being on team with people on the “evangelical” spectrum, who were practically from different theological backgrounds, was good for considering which aspects of what i am accustomed to do is necessary for Christian salvation and growth and therefore non-negotiable, and which merely a matter of preference/church culture. As people grow longer in the teeth, they can be observed either to cling on to their usual practice and call themselves conservative, or jettison the old in favour of keeping up with the times. Neither, i’d think, demonstrates faithfulness to God. There needs to be a constant reviewing of human practice against Scripture.
Room-mate and i had several discussions about what we had observed this week. These, i think, according to what i understand of the Bible, should be true of all true gospel ministry in all contexts:
- the authority of God’s word found in Scripture (see Timothy Ward’s Words of Life for the Scriptural basis (!) for this). This means preaching from the Bible, not from personal experiences. Otherwise, human experience is the authority, not God. Often, the explanation for majoring on personal stories is that it is more inspiring and perhaps more relevant for certain cultures. But this then presents the preacher’s experiences as normative for the Christian life and fundamentally, demonstrates a lack of trust in God that his word will do what he says it will do.
- expository preaching. This follows from the first point. When preachers neglect to do this, there is nothing to check the sinful human tendency to drift towards man-centredness and working for salvation. Of course there is a place for topical preaching, but the systematic theology necessarily flows from the initial hard work of expository exegesis.
- primary indicator of success would then the faithful proclamation of the word. In discussing the past day in team meetings, the general gauge of groups seemed to be whether people were sharing their problems at an intimate level. But we are not running a counselling course; we should be doing a far more important work in getting God’s truth into God’s people and in doing so, trusting that the Spirit will work in their minds and hearts in a far more radical way. Working on Bible passages is not “theory” that should be jettisoned in favour of horror stories of Chinese fathers and circumstances that would plump up missionary biographies – this is the very word of God to us – to be understood and then obeyed.
In other news, some were disappointed not to find 10ofthose onsite this year. But really, without IVP books, we would have been denied the pleasure of these Francine Rivers covers, and trying to persuade unsuspecting teenaged boys that they would be great books to be seen reading.
The venue, Pontin’s Prestatyn Sands Holiday Park, famously resembles a prison camp. But we grew fond of the utilitarian structures and rooms, and of course, Graham Daniels made a great many jokes about sliding off beds at 2 a.m. and trying to figure out if the shower tub thing was a bidet or a sink.
Electricity by electrocard (how quaint!) – worth keeping an eye on it unless you want the adventure of the hot water cutting out in the middle of a shower in that shower tub thing. Additional cards can be obtained from the Reception Office, or when it is closed for the day – brave the cold with soap suds in your hair and leggit to the guardhouse at the entrance to the venue.
Plates, mugs, glasses, utensils provided. But bring your own handwash, dishwashing detergent, sponge, toilet paper, towels…and oven mitts, but of course hamburger buns do the job just as well…
Grocery supplies (Tesco, Poundland, Marks & Spencer, Iceland etc) are just a 10 minute walk away in the Prestatyn town centre:
If half-board is on the cards, the fried food at the main canteen, The Beechcombers Restaurant, is especially tasty:
Best to bring own coffee supplies. Kingdom Coffee‘s pop-up in Casey’s Whistle Stop is a viable alternative: