Church united at Breakforth
by Kevin Pollard
The last weekend in January marked the first-time GMA Canada combined their annual Covenant Awards and GMA week with the Breakforth Conference in Edmonton. The 38th Annual Covenant Awards theme was “Past, Present and Future” of Canadian Gospel Music and it was an honour to be there representing the “Past” singing with Rhythm & News along with other performers like Brian Doerksen, Connie Scott, David Ruis, Tim and the Glory Boys and Steve Bell.
Breakforth marked its 20th year of teaching, equipping and renewal at the annual conference. This year’s theme was “One – 1 God. 1 Church. 1 Weekend” and it was evidenced in the 3,000 attendees and 300 volunteers from a plethora of denominations along with the diverse collection of ministry sponsors and exhibitors. Not only is this event the largest Christian conference in Canada but it stands apart from many in the US for its wide spectrum of teaching in the areas of Worship, Youth Ministry, Children’s Ministry, Biblical Studies, Church Leadership, Parenting, Missions, Marriage and Freedom from Addiction.
The Friday pre-conference had 13 Intensive Learning Workshops to choose from where attendees could dive deeper into an area of ministry for a progressive learning experience with teachers who are experts that area of Christian life and ministry. I took in sessions from various areas. First I listened to the interactive session “The Lost Art of Presentation” hosted by Jon Buller, which featured Darrell Smith, Christian Stonehouse; Gordie Cochran spoke on “Audio Breakthrough: Achieving Studio Quality Sound in Live Sound Scenarios.” Then I took in the thought provoking “How Art & Culture Affects the Church” hosted by Brian Doerksen with teaching and story telling from Roy Salmond and Steve Bell. But a highlight was the casual conversation session where Carey Nieuwhof asked questions of Passion Movement and SixStepsRecords (Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Crowder) founder Louie Giglio.
Friday evening was the opening main assembly session that featured worship led by Bethel Music and teaching from Giglio, where he shared a powerful word on how the Lord prepares a table for each of us and how to not let the enemy take a seat. The late-night choices were too hard to only choose one so I took in some of the Skit Guys comedy show and the GMA Concert featuring The Informants, Steve Bell and Tim & The Glory Boys. Saturday morning started with another main assembly session again with worship from Bethel Music then teaching from Bruxy Cavey where he spoke about how “Sin separates us from who we were meant to be with forever.” The breakout sessions I took in included an intimate Q&A with the Bethel Music leaders as they shared about pride, accountability and song writing; author/speaker Gary Thomas’ session based on his new book on how to “Cherish” your spouse, and notable tips from Shaunti Feldhahn on “The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marraiges”.
What struck me was about the entire weekend was even with the sheer size of the event, the organizers and volunteers worked like a well-oiled machine to serve the attendees so they could come away equipped with practical tools, renewed by engaging conversations, and challenged to take their ministry to a whole new level.