Back to ‘Our story’

How Fresh Streams began

On Thursday 15 September 2011 Mainstream became Fresh Streams – a new name with a new website to reflect a new emphasis and a new era in the life of the network. And the Baptist Times published an article to introduce the changes to its readership – read on…

Mainstream name change indicates renewed focus

I can’t quite remember how I first came across Mainstream. It was a long time ago! I do know that the January Conference at The Hayes became an essential part of my life, refreshing the parts that my local Baptist church had little or no aspirations to even acknowledge existed. It even gave me some hope for the denomination!

It was here that I took the plunge to pray for being filled with the Spirit; here that I built relationships with leaders committed to Word and Spirit outworked in personal life, church and community; here I discovered Baptists passionate about mission, justice and renewal.

So 20 years on I found myself part of the leadership team, helping to organise that same January Conference and develop Mainstream so that it could play a significant role for the sake of the Kingdom.

Many BT readers will have their own memories of Mainstream. Some will know more than I about the initial drive to fight for the evangelical heart of the Baptist Union. Some will have full sets of the regular publications over many years. Some will have been part of local Mainstream groups. Mainstream has been many things to many people over many years… now it has a new name, a new strategy, a new leadership – and an on-going commitment to unite, encourage and resource leaders for mission in the power of the Spirit.

In recent years Rob White has played a key apostolic role in leadership of the network. He has worked tirelessly, with his wife Marion, in encouraging and mentoring leaders and churches. He has energised many; he has cajoled, pleaded, proclaimed in pursuit of two core principles of ministry that will continue to be at the heart of Fresh Streams as Rob steps back from his involvement in its leadership next month.

Rob articulated these at this year’s conference. “We are a Word and Spirit network,” he explained, “but we as leaders are prone to major on the Word and minor on the Spirit: it’s less risky!…The Spirit’s power is not a fad, phase or fringe benefit, but foundational and fundamental to mission, lifestyle and worship. We need the Spirit to infect, infuse, inspire and invigorate our churches, so we must preach the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit and practise his presence without fear or favour, let or hindrance.”

Rob is also passionate about uniting for mission. “It’s no good prattling, preaching or even praying about unity – we have to practise it. It means getting alongside others – bigger churches sharing their resources with less well-resourced churches, and learning from those smaller churches which often have greater faith and tenacity, and leaders helping one another. It’s about intentional, purposeful gathering, bringing encouragement, help, and sharing resources.”

Rob has also played a vital role, along with others in the leadership team, in developing links with other networks, particularly New Wine. The New Wine leadership have been welcoming and encouraging as we have talked together, recognising that a significant proportion of those coming to their summer conference are Baptists.

They have been especially appreciative of Fresh Streams’ emphasis on prayer and fasting days, encouraging leaders to come together for a fresh encounter with God: the regional autumn days are happening right now, the last two weeks of September.

Philip Deller, Senior Minister of Chipping Campden Baptist Church, is convinced that these days are an essential building block for renewal and leadership. “If we are not hungry for God, longing for a fresh encounter with him, listening to him and receiving from him, then we have nothing to offer our churches beyond effort, hard work – and probable frustration. Renewal has to start with leaders – and then impact the whole

If Mainstream was originally established to change the Baptist denomination, the Fresh Streams focus is different. “It’s not that we’ve stopped thinking things need to change,” emphasises Andy Glover, Team Leader of Hoole Baptist Church.

“We still think there are major issues to grapple with, for example the role of apostolic leadership, the training and accreditation of ministers and leadership at all levels of church life, 24/7 discipleship and mission, the role and function of the church meetings. We want to stay in dialogue with Baptist House on all of these. But we also want to move forward with those who share our vision and values, whatever their denominations.

It is this commitment that partly prompted the change of name. Christopher Bird, Pastor of Fleet Baptist Church, explains how it came about: “As we met with those at the heart of the network to seek God for the way ahead, we sensed the Spirit prompting us to change the name to reflect both the growing links with other networks and our commitment to mission in the power of the Spirit. We kept going back to the vision of the Spirit in Ezekiel 47 (‘where the river flows everything will live’ Ezekiel 47:9).”

Ruth Rice, Pastoral Leader at New Life West Bridgford is also part of the Fresh Streams leadership team. For her, excitement about the future comes from the signs of new life and the exploration of new ways of doing church. From Mike Pears innovative and challenging training initiative in Bristol to the Learning Community partnership with Paul Maconochie and St Thomas’ Philadelphia within Fresh Streams, opportunities abound to release the full potential of God’s people in missional activity.

“Relating, resourcing and releasing people into ministry outside the confines of their immediate church are vital,” says Ruth. “A focus on mission always helps us recognise how much we need each other.”

So here we go. A new start for a new era. A new name. I’m still passionate about mission, justice and renewal. And that’s what Fresh Streams is all about, linking and resourcing all in church leadership for the sake of the gospel. Explore the website. Come to the conference, the prayer and fasting days. Go with the flow!

Stephen Rand