Enjoying The Keswick Convention

We went to the Keswick Convention again this year. The seventh year in a row for us and once again we found it a tonic. I wrote the article below for our church magazine.  I hope in time some of them will come and hear some good Bible teaching there.

I would have to say that there are issues with Keswick.  There was less Bible teaching this year (we went to week three and I was especially disappointed with the Bible-lite options). There was more emphasis on women speakers (although the tent was noticeably emptier at the one I heard, thankfully as she went perilously close heresy because the only relationships worth having are mutually submissive!). I wonder if the All One In Christ motto is being strained.  Certainly I would wish there was a clearer chairman.

Despite those things, there were many encouragements and I hope conservative evangelicals will continue to be involved and an influence for good.

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The Keswick Convention is a Christian Bible teaching convention held in the beautiful town of Keswick in the Lake District. Next year the convention will have been going for 140 years!

There are three convention weeks each year, each with different speakers, musicians and seminar streams. There are two convention sites in Keswick – the Main Tent and the Rawnsley Centre – which house all the activities. About 5,000 people attend the convention each week, with the main tent holding around 3,000.

We've been going for the last seven years and it was good to attend this year and see the vicar and his family from my previous churches and also to see a good number from those churches. I thought I'd give you ten reasons why we like going to the convention and then, if you're interested for next year, you can see the posters in church, ask us for more information or look at the website.

So here are ten reasons I think the Keswick Convention is brilliant.

1. There is great Bible teaching. Keswick pulls in some of the best Christian Bible-teachers in the country and the world. This year a particular highlights were Ravi Zachrias and Roger Carswell, who are both gifted evangelists.

2. There is great teaching for children and young people. Keswick caters for all ages, with special work for children, young people and students (there's a crèche with a live relay of the main talks as well). This year the children looked at Mark's gospel and even the youngest came back knowing Bible stories and remembering the memory verses.

3. It's free! You don't have to pay anything to go to the convention. You do have to find and pay for your own accommodation (people stay in everything from tents to hotels and there's plenty of choice) and there is an offering to help support the work.

4. You can do as much or as little as you like. There are lots of things put on by the convention – morning Bible teaching sessions, evening celebrations, seminars, concerts and more. However, being in the Lake District (see number 5) and being free means that you are free to attend what you want and spend time enjoying the other things Keswick has to offer.

5. It's in Keswick. Keswick is quite near, incredibly beautiful (just look at the picture above) and a great place to explore the Lakes from. It's also well supplied with the amenities you need. We love the lake and the parks. Lots of people go to Keswick for a normal holiday!

6. The music is brilliant. This year Stuart Townend led the music at the week we attended – you'll recognise his name as he's (co-)written some of the songs we sing, e.g. In Christ Alone and How Deep the Father's Love. The musicians are always good and we sing a good mix of old and new songs. It's a chance to learn new songs and sing together with around 3,000 people

7. There are lots of good resources. There are good Christian bookstalls (not so easy to find these days), where you can actually flick through the different resources (not so easy on the internet). There are also some great deals. I always come back, with another shelf load of things to read and we always come back with new ideas – particularly interesting this year was something about a new message from Billy Graham (you'll be hearing more about that one!). There are also displays from all kinds of Christian organisations, such as mission societies and theological colleges.

8. It's very encouraging to be see so many other Christians. Sometimes we can feel very small in our churches. So it's great to be in a place for a week with thousands of other like-minded Christian people. Singing, praying and sitting under God's Word together is a real joy and a great boost.

9. The three weeks of Keswick are at a good time. They straddle the start of the school summer holidays. So if you are tied to school holidays, then there is always one and often two weeks that you can go. If you're not tied, you can go just out of season. Either way, it's a great way to start the summer.

10. All of the above mean it is a week where I grow as a Christian, where I'm refreshed physically, spiritually and mentally and where I have just a little foretaste of heaven! Why would you not want to come?

If any of that sounds good, then come and have a chat with me, or look at the posters in church, or the website. The basic information for next year is:

Theme: The Whole of Life for Christ
Week 1: 11-17 July
Week 2: 18-24 July
Week 3: 25-31 July

Comments

  1. Sorry to miss you this year. We were there week 2. It may be that the difference in content was specific to the week you were there with the more evangelistic focus. I think KC should be commended for the courage there and for putting evangelism to the top of the agenda -though whether that's the best way for a convention to support local churches in outreach is still something I'd want them to keep thinking about.

    My reflections on week 2 were -some fantastic Bible teaching especially from Jonathan Lamb. The singing was wonderful and there seemed to be much more of it, great as always to see so many there and wonderful weather.

    My challenges would be

    1. At times the speakers seemed to play to the gallery of a particular age group in terms of rhetoric and application. Under 40s seemed to be invisible as though it was assumed that if any were there they'd gone off to the specialist tracks (I don't like that trend at all -there's a great good in getting the generations to mix together and I think 20s to 30s particularly need the intergenerational context).

    2. I think that this links to concern 1. Very few of the platform speakers were currently engaged in full time leadership of local churches and perhaps there was a distance in terms of experience.

    3. Yes there were some hairy moments in terms of what was said in our week too! To be honest, I would be more relaxed on the expository teaching side of things. I'd be quite happy for the organisers to invite someone to speak because they have relevant experience and make it clear that if this isn't their gift then they are not expected to attempt a Bible exposition. After all, we as local church leaders have responsibility for ensuring that as the weekly diet and so providing the overall content and ethos is expository teaching we can probably afford a few sessions of a different teaching genre.

    4. The buzz phrase in week 2 was "Integral mission" and it felt a bit like KC was toying with focusing on a particular agenda -especially with all the talk of being "a movement" which I don't think it is or should be. Still not completely sure what was meant by Integral Mission but one speaker seemed to see it everywhere and from what I could work out I think it would be summed up as "not whatever Kevin DeYoung" has been saying. The risk is that rather than being broader, the convention could become narrower.

    Those are niggles from someone who loves the Convention. Though I think there may be some warning signs to address and nip in the bud. I am toying with writing a little letter to the organisers. However like you I'd want to emphasise that it was a "tonic" and we came back much refreshed and encouraged.

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  2. and a footnote for your encouragement. I had toyed with the idea of writing some feedback to the Convention already and seeing your post prompted me to go ahead. I got a quick and gracious response which suggested a strong awareness of the challenges and concerns. I think this is one thing I would add about Keswick's strengths. My key test for where I would take or send people to is that I can have confidence in a shared concern for genuine pastoral responsibility and accountability. I've always felt that the Keswick Council gets this in a way that not every convention/festival does.

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  3. Thanks for commenting and good to hear from you.

    As you say, I remain positive largely, but didn't feel I wanted an article to the whole world (as opposed to the more local context of my magazine article which I can follow-up personally), without a mild qualification.

    I sure you're right about week 3 (we wouldn't choose that week, but have to go because of school holiday). And it was an experiment from their point of view with the evangelism. Although they've been doing the Keswick Unconventional stuff for a little while.

    I guess my concern with the Bible-lite was that I wonder how they think people are converted/transformed when they cut back the Bible teaching. Also, if they plan to do that every year I wouldn't be that keen to go, as the teaching wasn't great either for us or actually even for the people we might take evangelisitcally (who are churchey, but need some meaty teaching to open their eyes).

    My observation with the women teaching was simply that it seemed to have grown on the program and it would be something that would stop me going, if I found myself not wanting to go to quite a lot of things. I could easily see a push for a woman to do the Bible readings for example.

    Maybe I'm so used to being in the CoE that I see everything as a slippery slope! But I wondered a little this year and was sad to think wonder if it might not be that long before I didn't want to go...

    In terms of your points I'm glad you got a good response.

    1. I agree with.

    2. There's a whole other blog to come on the gap I feel between myself and conference speakers these days.

    3. Probably agree, but would (a) want to maintain an expository focus and (b) would probably pair someone like that with a Bible teacher. (and (c) the hairy moment came from someone who would I think see themselves as a bible teacher).

    4. Very Keswick. John Stott/Chris Wright influence. There has been some gentle pushback over the years from the likes of Simon Manchester and Don Carson.

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