The Minehead Dilemma: What Conferences Can Do To Our Spiritual Tastebuds

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(Image credit: Premier Christianity)

By the time you read this, I’ll probably be at Spring Harvest. For those uninitiated, Spring Harvest is, according to its website, “a teaching and worship event for everybody… a unique break for all the family: holiday, festival, conference and an encounter with God.” My family has attended the Minehead event every year without fail since I was six, and ever since I became more serious about Christianity a few years ago, it’s been a much bigger deal to me. For all of the big breakfasts, high ropes and water slides (which are lots of fun, don’t misunderstand), I find that I’m taking in a lot from the seminars and even choosing to attend some of my own free will. In case there was any doubt, I’m very much looking forward to this year’s event.

At the same time, however, I feel like I’ve got to watch that I don’t get too over-excited about the whole thing. I’ve noticed that I have the tendency to get so hung up on the teaching that’s going to be given, that I end up paying less attention to the teaching that’s already being given here at home. I seem to have been taken in by the idea that because something’s being said from a brightly-lit stage by a sharp-dressed person (sorry, ZZ Top) with several theological qualifications next to their name, it’s more valid, trustworthy and applicable to my life than what my Dad or one of the Scargill Chaplains is saying. Now of course, the teaching at Spring Harvest and other similar conferences is useful, and there is a reason why these teachers are as highly esteemed as they are, but we can’t forget that important things are always being shared on a more grassroots level as well.

So how can we remember this? Well, I’m no expert, but I suppose part of it is the hype that is placed, whether intentionally or not, on conferences like these. The idea of hearing theological heavyweights (SH’s ‘headliners’ this year are Krish Kandiah, Paula Gooder and Malcolm Duncan) expounding certain parts of Scripture understandably gets people’s enthusiasm levels up, but something is badly wrong when we emphasise the speakers themselves more than the words they’re saying. Once we let go of the hype and realise a good sermon is still a good sermon whether it’s preached by the Archbishop of Canterbury or the minister of the chapel down the road, we start to see things in a much more healthy way.

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