Saturday was ‘The God Confusion‘ at the ExCeL Exhibition Centre in Docklands. I got there early after a hugely enjoyable ride through South London on the motorised armchair [Yamaha Majesty 400]. I was met by Stephen Fletcher, the brilliantly able, dry witted Convention Administrator. He wasn’t quite rocking backwards and forwards in the foetal position but was clearly traumatised by his experience with the Rotherhithe Tunnel!
It was Day O of A Passion for Life. We had a good crowd from CCB there, which was encouraging to see. I spend the spare moments standing in the concourse catching up with old friends. One of my highlights was meeting an ex-pupil, whom I’d last seeen 14 years ago, who’d been invited by a Christian friend from All Souls. He’d heard the gospel from me at school but I tried to persuede him to sign up for Christianity Explored!
The main talks came from three accomplished speakers. There was Dr Tim Keller, the American Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church New York and author of New York Times bestseller ‘The Reason for God’. Al Stewart the church planting Australian Bishop flew in from Sydney. And Rico Tice, Anglican Minister at All Souls Langham Place and the public face of Christianity Explored, jumped on the DLR.
Tim Keller spoke on ‘How do we know that God exists?’ His early material about the evidences for God’s existence was masterful. He made the brilliant point that none of the usual evidences for God’s existence is conclusive, but cumulatively they make an overwhelmingly persuasive case. His time was limited and so we didn’t quite get everything that he’d prepared, which was a shame. But I think he gave the same talk at The Factory, Dundonald and at St Mark’s Battersea Rise and so recordings may well be available from their websites.
Al spoke on Luke 7, the sinful woman who anointed Jesus. He gave us a wonderfully clear exposition. His first two points were especially powerful. He showed us from the passage that here was a woman who understood the size of her debt and that she was a woman who realised the cost of forgiveness.
Rico had the graveyard slot after lunch. But he was his usual brilliant best. He spoke on the new birth. I got to the end and when he prayed the prayer I kept thinking ‘why would anyone not become a Christian?’ I know it doesn’t work like that. But he was so persuasive and the gospel offer of new life in Christ sounded so good that, as one of the Convention Committee put it ‘I prayed the prayer just so I could become a Christian all over again!’ And yes, I know it doesn’t work like that either.
There were two lunchtime seminars. I only got to hear one. Professor John Lennox spoke on Science and Christianity. We’ve got John coming down to Balham on Thursday this week. And so I went to listen to Richard Cunningham, The National Director of UCCF, on the issue of suffering. I had one ear on his talk and the rest of my attention was given over to preparing for the third session which I was leading. But what I heard was brilliant and I’m looking forward to getting the MP3 and reflecting on what he said. It was one of the very best talks I’ve heard on suffering, and I’ve heard Don Carson!
Other notable features of the day were Nathan Tasker’s song and the testimonies. Debs Stein’s account of how God saved her from her reckless atheism was hugely moving. Nathan is back in our neck of the woods on 26th March when he plays the Alma in Wandsworth. I had the privilege of chatting to him and his wife backstage, which may have predisposed me to like his music. But there’s a few i-Tunes albums that’ve already been downloaded in the Perkins household!
The talks, songs, testimonies and conversations were fabulous. We couldn’t have hoped for anything more. Except a larger crowd. It wasn’t as full as we would have hoped. But I’d been hoping for over 10,000. I know that’s wildly optimistic but I want people to hear the gospel and so I hope large! But the truth is that people are hearing the gospel. All over the capital and throughout the country churches are involved in A Passion for Life. And that’s why our numbers were down on last year. People are so engaged with killing themselves for the gospel in their own backyard they hadn’t got time to be distracted by a flagship event in the capitral. And that’s alright. No, it’s great. More power to the local church and local mission!
It was a great day. I’ve already heard of people becoming Christians. Get in! We had a couple of guys there who wouldn’t yet describe themselves as Christians. I’m keen to find out what they thought. After all, how could you hear those talks and not become a Christian!