John Calvin famously said, ‘Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity’ (Institutes, 1.11.8).
At this year’s Contagious youth conferences, young people from all over the UK, and beyond, met together for a week of Bible teaching on the theme of idolatry.
The conferences were packed full with preaching, discussions, seminars and music. Under the title ‘Ten ways to smash an idol’, the young people (aged 14-19) discovered that Calvin was right in his assessment of the human heart.
The morning teaching gave an overview of what the Bible says about idolatry, revealing that idols are ridiculous, offensive, attractive and dangerous. The evening preaching looked at how the Ten Commandments expose idols in our hearts and also reveal how, through Jesus, idols can be smashed.
The teaching was both stretching and challenging. One of the key beliefs underpinning the work of Contagious is that teenagers are more capable of listening to preaching and seriously studying God’s Word than is often assumed.
Once again that was seen to be true, as young people responded positively to the teaching. At each conference, a meeting on the last day gave opportunity for many to speak of how God’s Word had revealed idols in their hearts and how they now saw that Jesus was worthy of absolute worship. It was humbling to hear the testimonies of God’s work in their hearts.
These conferences were held at venues near Perth, Kidderminster and Ipswich. The venues (Strathallan School, the Pioneer Centre and Royal Hospital School) offered not just excellent facilities for the teaching, but also a great base for a varied programme of activities.
A new addition to the work of Contagious occurred this summer, when a Contagious Rebooted weekend was held for the first time. Rebooted was aimed at those in their 20s and 30s and was held at Otford Manor in Kent. This weekend also focused on the theme of idolatry.
Contagious also arranged two Nano conferences in August for those aged 11-13. This age group looked at the life of David and at a selection of his Psalms. As with the other conferences, the Nano leaders returned home praising God for the transforming power of his Word, witnessed in the lives of the young people.
At each of its conferences Contagious is not just committed to teaching God’s Word to young people and young adults, but also to the training of leaders. A key element of this desire to train is the TaskForce training scheme.
Over 40 young adults (aged in their early 20s) were part of Taskforce this summer. They served practically during the week and also received their own training on leadership.
The aim is to help train and equip, not just future Contagious leaders, but to encourage those on the scheme to be better servants in local churches.
A great summer
Record numbers attending, more churches getting involved and the launch of Rebooted are some of the reasons why 2015 was so encouraging for Contagious.
But there is greater joy in the knowledge that God’s Word remains as powerful as ever. That God-glorifying, Christ-centred and Spirit-inspired Word was heard this summer and, as a result, many young people have seen idols smashed in their hearts.
Contagious is already planning its conferences for 2016 which will, God willing, include the launch of a Nano conference in Scotland. More details can be found at www.contagious.org.uk
Jon Shulver is Contagious development director ([email protected])