'God was speaking deeply into their lives'
Sandra Crawford was not alone in experiencing a renewal of God's call on her life at the annual Fresh Streams conference
I have attended the Fresh Streams Conference numerous times over the past years and each time it has been a place where I’ve heard God’s voice and a renewal of God’s call on my life. For me Fresh Streams has always been my space to spend time with God, so it was with some fear and trepidation that I invited the Leadership Team from the church I pastor in Leyland and my co-pastor from Wigan to come with me.
However sharing this space over the past couple of years with my fellow leaders has brought a very special dynamic as we seek God’s face both individually and also as a team. The whole process of travelling together, spending time together without an agenda, laughing together, eating together and worshipping together has been hugely worthwhile.
This year the theme of Living A Kingdom Prophetic Lifestyle was unpacked by Paul Manwaring, Cath Livesey and Mark Elder, with worship led by Pete James.
The usual mix of worship, teaching, and seminars, which you would expect from a conference, was brilliantly interspersed with times of praying for one another, space for churches to meet with and pray for other churches, praying prophetically over one another, listening for God’s voice, sharing what we thought we heard God say.
On the last morning there was space in the programme to stop and reflect, to rest in God’s presence and worship, a room set aside for writing a journal, and a quiet space just to ‘be’.
Watching my fellow leaders step out in faith (and some with considerable fear and trembling) to pray for people they didn’t know, praying into situations, and speaking out God’s word, was exciting, and a privilege to be a part of. Hearing people speak prophetic words over them was also amazing, knowing that God was speaking deeply into their lives and circumstances.
I have to confess to not being at ease with all I heard and experienced, but that created healthy times of discussion and debate, wrestling together with Scripture over a glass of wine or two late into the evening.
On the journey home I asked the people in my car what the highlight of the three days had been. These were wide and varied:
hearing the development of the story of the Renew Cafés, a seed of an idea a year ago which is now blossoming all over the country
the story of the church in North Korea and the enormity of the problems for those believers from Eddie Lyle, Open Doors
the seminar about engagement with transgender people and gender diversity. As a youth worker I thought I had a handle on this, but the speaker Natalie Collins blew my mind. Oh how the church needs to wrestle with how we engage with this.
Mark Elder’s willingness to be honest and vulnerable about the challenges of church leadership
For me personally this year God reminded me of two things:
Firstly the call of God on my life to believe in and love his church. As someone with an evangelist's heart, loving the people outside the church I find easy, but loving the church I don’t always find quite so easy.
Secondly, the call of God to live my story, to be the person he has created me to be, not to be a copy of someone else.
With more than 380 delegates attending the three days, the opportunity to catch up with friends from all over the country and to make new friends is always a blessing. Thanks to the Fresh Streams Leadership Team for the superb organisation.
So, what are you doing 14-16 Jan 2019? Come and be part of the Fresh Streams National Leadership Conference with Miriam Swaffield, Gerard and Chrissie Kelly, Chris Sayburn and others. Hope to see you there.
Sandra Crawford, Pastor Leyland Baptist Church and Wigan Baptist Church
Find out more about Fresh Streams here.
Fresh Streams is running a Theology School 14-15 June at St Peter's Baptist Church, Worcester. Speakers include Dr Kate Coleman, Chris Duffett, Dr Mark Bonnington and Stephen Lindridge