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It’s all about encouragement!

1 year ago

In this week’s Blog Richard Fothergill, the Founding Director of the Filling Station Movement, tells us about the origins of the Filling Stations, and some of its story, along with some great testimony about what God is doing through it.

En-courage’, ‘enhance’, ‘give strength’, ‘renew confidence’, these are all phrases that describe what the Lord God Almighty is doing through the Filling Station meetings and ‘FillingStation@home’ small groups.

Started in 2006, the first Filling Station meeting opened it’s doors in a village hall in Box, Wiltshire, some miles East of Bath. The founding members of that meeting were mostly recent converts from a Bath citywide Alpha course that had taken place in late 2003. They started meeting together informally and by 2006 I had met them as I was then leading a new Anglican Church plant in Bristol called Crossnet.  We worked together to re-launch their embryonic prayer meeting to a wider constituency - particularly contacting people who had little church experience and teaching the whole council of God, including the Spiritual Gifts as described in 1 Corinthians 12-14.

The Filling Station has been built on two main planks - local evangelism and Christian renewal. The renewal by the Spirit of God comes in many forms, but the overall experience seems to have been one of ‘empowering love’. Believers, many of whom have know the Lord for many years, who have become discouraged, experience a new touch of His presence and are ‘lifted up’ by it!  Our experience is Psalm 107.41 ‘But He lifted the needy out of their affliction….’ We have seen marriages restored that were on the point of breaking up, Church leaders who were so discouraged that they had decided to resign their posts (I know of at least three of these!), clear physical healings have taken place - one of the first was a single mother of 31 who after chemo still had cancer. The Doctors said they had done all they could and so Filling Station team members started to pray for her. Over 2 weeks she was miraculously healed! That was in 2009, she is now married and happily living in the West Country!

One foundational scripture which the Lord gave us early on was Psalm 114.8 ‘Who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.’ We understood this to mean for us that the ‘pool’ was a place where Christians could drink deep of the refreshing waters of God. They could bathe in it and be at ease. Be re-hydrated and strengthened for the next stage of their journey - just like finding an oasis in a desert! The ‘hard rock’ meant evangelism, where we would often see those who we thought of as spiritually ‘tough nuts’, dissolving under the influence of God’s Spirit.  This has happened. I think of a businessman in his 40’s, who regarded church as a big financial marketing exercise and had barely ever been in a church building. He had a conversion experience over 6 months of attending a Filling Station. Each month the Spirit opening his eyes to the character of God, his sinful condition and the answer in Jesus’s death on the cross. He and his wife now lead two evangelistic groups in their local church. His wife, already a believer, says he now goes to church three times on Sunday if he can, ‘to make up for lost time!’

So what is a Filling Station meeting? They are fairly straightforward evening gatherings of believers, and some not, in a non-church venue like a village hall, for teaching, refreshment, sung worship, testimonies and prayer ministry. They meet mid-week, Thursday being the most popular night across the network. They are non-denominational, just Christian and encourage all to make use of them. We have found many clergy and church leaders attend a local Filling Station for their own personal use, as they would be ‘off duty’ from their own churches and appreciate the Biblical teaching offered and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Before covid struck there were 5,500+ people attending one of 108 Filling Stations that can be found in 7 countries. Most of these meetings are in Britain (96 of the total). Since March 2020, some meetings have closed but 40 of them now operate on-line, the relationships developed over the last years have been even more important now that ‘normal church’ gatherings have been impossible. We even saw four new Filling Stations open during lock downs in Arbroath, Ashburton (Devon), the Vale of York and one near Poitiers in France.

The Filling Station Trust which employs me, provides every meeting host team with all the necessary resources - advertising materials, a website, guidance on starting and running the meeting, the involvement of one of our Regional Consultants (our staff), a 2 year Teaching Programme, a vetted speakers list of able teachers & preachers and ongoing background prayer support. We encourage Filling Station host teams to spiritually renew believers and be open to making new ones as well.  We have now seen over 500 people give their lives to the Lord at FS meetings since 2010. As many of the Filling Stations are found in very rural locations where the population is low and often the local church lacks confidence and resources, we are delighted to be able to help encourage a Jesus centred community.  Our job is to; ’…encourage one another and build one another up!’ 1.  Thessalonians 5.11.

We have just launched a new initiative called ‘FillingStation@home’ to assist smaller groups of believers in any area, particularly where the existing church does not offer any form of home groups. With the full encouragement of many clergy (and one Anglican Bishop) we can support any group of 6-12 Christians in a ‘FillingStation@home’ meeting by beaming in recorded or live teaching content, guidance on how to set up a worship set on-line, and how to practise prayer ministry with each other in a safe and impactful fashion. Several @home meetings combine on any given evening and listen to the same speaker, particularly if they are live. The speaker can lead a time of ‘open prayer ministry’ at the end and we have found on-line gatherings see just God move just as much when we are physically together.

Several church leaders have said of the Filling Station, that the Lord seems to be using these meetings to bring faith, life and strength to many. Here are just two such comments:

The Rt. Rev Mike Hill.  Former Bishop of Bristol.

‘The Filling Station model could be one of the key tools for the re-evangelisation of the country. What you are doing is really effective and I’m completely for it.’

Canon J.John.  International Evangelist.

‘You have really struck oil with these Filling Stations! They are great! A really effective way to spread the gospel in modern Britain, I love speaking at them’.

So… encouraged!  Our God is on the move in a new and refreshing way, even in the more sparsely populated corners of the Kingdom.  As Jesus said in Matt 11.12 ‘….the Kingdom of God is forcefully advancing!’   That is our experience at the Filling Station, so 2021 looks like being another exciting year!

To find out more about the Filling Station movement, and where the nearest Filling Station is to you, just follow the link:

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