I feel conflicted.
I love Christian conferences. But sometimes I hate them too. It’s all very confusing.
My best example of this is the Keswick Convention. It’s a three week conference held every summer in the picturesque, Lake District town of Keswick, about 40 mins away from Carlisle. For the past few years I’ve attended week 2 of the convention to be part of the youth team and I absolutely love it. Except: it also makes me really mad.
This is because, besides being the home of the convention during July, Keswick also happens to be the year-round home of my beloved older sister, Rachel, my soon-to-be brother-in-law, Dave, and my three beautiful nieces, Holly, Sophie and Lola, and due to them I get to see the other side of the convention, the view of the locals. And they pretty much hate it.
The thing is: I am a Christian. I love Jesus – a lot, and I love being part of this wonderful family of believers, but at the same time, sometimes Christians can be the rudest people in the whole world, and one of the best examples of this phenomenon would be some of the attendees of the Keswick Convention. If you happen to be another convention visitor please take these tips on board:
- Spend some money. Keswick’s only industry is tourism, July is the middle of the tourist season, and many people (including members of my family) rely on tourists spending money in order that they can afford luxuries like paying the mortgage and buying food for their children. And bearing in mind you’re attending the convention for free it might be nice to spring for a pizza now and again.
- If you do go out for a meal. Please, for the love of all that is good in the world, leave a tip and not a tract.
- Don’t park in other people’s driveways and then leave notes telling them that Jesus told you to. (Yes, it has been done.)
- Keep your voices down at nighttime. Singing Christian songs at 11.30 at night is not in any way a ‘good witness’. Really.
Essentially, please keep in mind that there are many, many people in the town who don’t know Jesus, and one of their main examples of Christian witness are the people at the convention – let’s please try and make it a good one.
This week in Carlisle we have a little mini-Keswick Convention called Living Word. The speaker is Conrad Gempf, and in the evenings (today, tomorrow and Thursday) he’s talking on the book of Revelation.
He made a great point about the fact that the message of the book is a reminder to persecuted Christians that they can be sure and confident in the promises of God. God is real, he is the victor and heaven is going to be awesome.
I think my problem tends to be that living a very easy, comfortable life as I do these days, with no threat of death or violence, and no experience of persecution beyond the occasional mean look or sarcastic comment, I lose the yearning for heaven that I should have. Sure I want to go and all, but things are okay here. In some ways, from that point of view, I’ve found being a Christian a lot better in the past during times when my life was a bit more difficult. Which is bizarre – but perhaps kind of the point. It’s not supposed to easy, we’re supposed to be persecuted and we’re supposed to be uncomfortable here in this fallen world. Life here does suck. It’s messy and sad and scary and wrong a lot of the time, and I’m looking forward to the end of all that and an eternity of no more tears.
So it was good to have a reminder of that this evening, and I’m rather looking forward to hearing what he’s got to say over the next couple of days.
He finished with this quote from the very end of The Last Battle, the final book in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ series by C.S. Lewis. It’s probably one of my favourite parts of any book I’ve ever read, because it gives such an exciting picture of what I really hope heaven is going to be like:
“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.” And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.
And for us this is the end of all stories, and we can most truely say they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.
In summary: looking forward to Chapter One.