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'Learn to sing in the broken places you’re in'

A report from this year's Fresh Streams conference, which was all about moving further along and deeper into God’s gifting. By Mark Fox 


Fresh StreamsThis was my first time at Fresh Streams so at the beginning I didn’t really know what to expect. By the end I had come to realise that the clue had been there all along, in the title itself, because Fresh Streams 2019 was all about flowing: moving further along and deeper into God’s gifting and grace and across the boundaries of age, gender and geography.

The inspiration for this year’s conference was the five-fold ‘typology’ of Ephesians 4:11 – apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd/pastor and teacher – and this in turn provided a framework for understanding and releasing God’s empowering to minister in one or more of those areas. Workshops were planned and presented around them and the sessions in the main hall embraced them all.

So, for example, Gerard and Chrissie Kelly gave moving and quite unforgettable presentations on what they were learning through doing evangelistic ministry in France. Miriam Swaffield (pictured) gave timely reminders that the New Year gives opportunities to be ‘re-set’ by Jesus and to consider afresh how we might create safe spaces for younger generations to cast themselves on Christ in the midst of troubled times.

Fresh Streams Miriam Swaffield

Throughout, particular emphasis was placed on pioneering and mission, millennials, children and youth, and family ministry. Praise and worship flowed naturally from, into, and around every aspect of the conference activities, while opportunities for private refection helped what we were experiencing and learning to go deeper still.

People I talked to were doing lots of different things during the three days: listening, taking stock, thinking backwards, looking forwards, aiming higher, seeking renewal and enjoying the sense of being refreshed. Anyone looking for in-depth theological exposition and exploration would have been disappointed (there’s a separate Fresh Streams event for that) but doing Theology wasn’t really the aim anyway, which was, instead, to equip, inspire, connect with, resource and give courage to those seeking to lead and build up the body of Christ. The result was a series of ‘take-aways’ that I will attempt to summarise via the thoughts and reflections below, for in trying to convey what God was saying to us during the conference I can do no better than to pass on what I heard, learned, and felt:

  • Exile drives people into the presence of God;

  • We are called to minister to the world we live in, not the world we would prefer;

  • Surrender to God the things you can control and stop complaining about the things you can’t;

  • You can grow where the ground is dry;

  • Think about what you use your breath for;

  • Take care not to be as broken as the places you minister to. Learn to sing in the broken places you’re in;

  • Iraq is a mess and what has happened there is a crime against humanity;

  • People are the mission of God;

  • God blesses us before He calls us to be fruitful;

  • Jesus kept a ruler waiting so that he could heal a sick and ostracised daughter of Israel;

  • There is always enough and God is faithful to provide;

  • In France you can’t hold religious meetings in secular buildings but trafficked prostitutes are allowed to operate out of – indeed, inside of - transit vans;

  • Evangelism is not throwing fish to the seals; it is about working with people so that they can be who God wants them to be;

  • The Church is a field hospital in which ashes are transformed into beauty;

  • There is no safe ground without Jesus;

  • If you come up against a ceiling, break through it so that the next generation doesn’t get hurt by it.

There were approaching 400 delegates at the conference and the venue was operating at maximum capacity. Please pray for the organisers as they seek God’s will as to where Fresh Streams might go next year.

And many thanks to the planners, speakers, workshop leaders, facilitators and everyone else involved: you did a first-rate job and very many people were blessed by what happened during a conference that you did so much to make happen. 

Dr Mark Fox attends Kidderminster Baptist Church and is a writer and speaker. His books include Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Religion, Spirituality and the Near-Death Experience (Routledge 2003) and Temple and Tomb: Fresh Light on John's Gospel (Spirit and Sage 2018).  His website is www.markfox.co.uk.


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Baptist Times, 22/01/2019
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