Recently at the Junction Church, we had a ‘Let’s Talk Church’ day. We don’t do many of these because if they happen too regularly, they tend to become naval gazing and self congratulatory. Yet, it’s important to afford ourselves moments to look back and reflect on how far we’ve come in just over five years of existence. This is not only encouraging but it also gives us some perspective regarding the why behind our what.
When we planted the Junction Church in 2012, there was just a small handful of people. Today, there are literally hundreds of people who call it their spiritual home. Our Sunday services have grown very significantly. But what is most encouraging is the type of growth that’s happening. The vast majority of people in our church community are recent Christians. This creates a freshness in the atmosphere. There’s also an obvious hunger for a real relationship with Christ that is free from religious pretence. As a pastor, I find this profoundly healthy.
Here are some recent facts:
- Since January, Loughborough has seen 78 people deciding to follow Christ (as of 11 March 2018)
- Since January, Leicester has seen 28 people deciding to follow Christ (as of 11 March 2018)
- We’ve recently baptised 28 people (with more to come)
- There are over 40 nations represented in our community
The church is by no means perfect. Seems silly to even say this since our imperfections are glaringly obvious. Yet as we lean into God’s grace, it creates an opportunity for people to encounter Jesus. It’s unforced. It’s unpressurised. This is the grace we carry. It doesn’t matter what the service theme is. Everything we do seeks to exude God’s love.
I really love being part of a church where people feel comfortable to bring their unchurched friends along to any service or event. It’s not embarrassing. Nor is it cringy. It’s raw. It’s real. Yet people are more open to Christianity than I’ve ever seen before. These are momentous times – days of God’s amazing grace. Our message is loud and clear. Religion is NOT the answer. A personal relationship with Jesus Christ is. It’s HIS grace which makes all the difference. This is the grace we’re privileged to carry.
Listen to a recent podcast called ‘Let’s Talk Church’
Many years ago, I spent some time teaching at churches and colleges in India. After one particularly rough bout of illness which lasted a couple of days, we got on the road again to speak at an event that evening. En route, I was powerfully overcome with hunger the like of which I’ve never experienced before. My body craved food to the point of desperation since I hadn’t eaten for the past 48 hours. Strangely enough, I really fancied a slice of pizza. But in rural India, there’s never a pizza joint around when you need one…at least that’s what I thought. Yet as we drove along that lonely country bypass, suddenly in the distance a sign appeared which looked like it said ‘PIZZA HUT’. I seriously wondered if I was just hallucinating at first. But true enough, it was an actual pizza restaurant. I quickly requested the driver to pull in…and all I can say is that I consumed the finest slice of the round stuff I’ve ever eaten in my life. My gosh it was good!
Hunger is a powerful feeling. It alerts us to what we need. Jesus spoke about hunger in his famous ‘beatitudes’. He said ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.’ (Matt 5:6).
When you’re physically hungry, you don’t have to be told to eat. No, you actively search for food. The same is true for spiritual hunger. I believe God is looking for a generation who are hungry enough to seek him, to serve his purpose, to grow in faith and to make a difference.
Apathy is the sign of a lack of hunger. It has no appetite and is therefore uninterested in experiencing real fulfilment. It disengages from seeking because it is self-satisfied. There’s nothing more uninspiring than being in a culture which has no interest in seeing more.
At the Junction Church, I don’t ever want us to become apathetic. I really like being around people who have a hunger to learn and develop. It’s the most refreshing thing to do life with those who are really hungry for growth. That’s the kind of environment where fulfilment is found.
As we start out on a brand new year, my prayer is that we will experience a greater hunger than ever before to see our towns and cities impacted with the life giving power of the gospel. I’m hungry to see more salvations, more healings, more miracles, more breakthrough’s. How about you?
Jesus promises that those who hunger for what’s right will not only be blessed, but they’ll be fulfilled. How hungry are you?
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE.
It’s far better to define yourself by what you’re for rather than against. There are plenty of negative voices out there which can effortlessly articulate what they dislike. But people who make a real difference in life contribute to solutions rather than complaining about ‘problems’.
Simply being against stuff is not only unhelpful, but it’s profoundly lazy and extremely unproductive. You see, any fool can criticise. There’s nothing brilliant about offering strong opinions from the aloofness of a sedentary position. In the end though, the question we are wise to ask ourselves is; what are we doing to make things better?
At the Junction Church, our heart is to create an environment that is positive and encouraging. Having served in churches for over 20 years, I am only too aware of how negative and cynical God’s children can sometimes become. This is nothing new. Even in the Old Testament after Moses led God’s people to deliverance from the oppression of Egypt, there was grumbling and murmuring. Yet it should never be this way. Church ought to be the most positive, upbeat, faith building, hope restoring & life giving community around.
Being defined by what you’re against immediately establishes negative vibes around your life. Ultimately, you can’t lovingly build anything better when what you hate forms your outlook. This will always lead to a downbeat pessimism which does nothing to inspire faith. If you find that this is your default setting in life, then how about resetting your heart to focus on what you’re FOR? Just one degree of difference changes everything. Instead of being anti, suddenly you find yourself being being pro…for hope, for encouraging, for celebrating others, for reaching people with the greatest news on the planet, for doing whatever it takes to help others….the list goes on.
So…are you a for or against kind of person? As we approach 2018, I strongly encourage you to embrace the former. It will make a world of difference to your year.
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM LAUNCHING WITH LIFE GROUPS IN 2018.
The relational dynamic between the Old Testament prophet Elijah and his successor Elisha is always fascinating to observe. Elijah was a charismatic firebrand. His servant Elisha was an introverted thinker. Yet when Elisha knew he had a chance to pursue God’s call on his life, he ran at the opportunity…literally (1 Kings 19:20).
The idea of running denotes determination & commitment. You see, there are some things in life which require us to move fast. The privilege of serving God’s purpose is one of them.
It’s interesting to note that it wasn’t the mentor Elijah who ran after his student Elisha. It had to be the other way around. Elisha refused to rest on his laurels or become complacent with a sense of arrogant entitlement. Complacency is a dreadful hindrance to divine destiny. Elisha certainly couldn’t be accused of being apathetic. No, he ran after the man of God with focussed intent. By honouring the past, he was paving way for the future. This is critically important when it comes to fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives.
There’s a time to wait patiently, but there’s also a time to run vigorously. The latter means taking initiative, embracing inconvenience, committing to the long haul and refusing to be distracted. To the very end, Elisha pursued Elijah, not taking his eyes off the goal. At the moment when Elijah was taken into the presence of God, Elisha carried on the mandate and accomplished even greater things.
So what about you? How much do you want God to use your life? Are you running for it? Really running? There is no need to wait before you serve. No need to pray before you do it either. What God’s Church needs today are people who get on with it, passionate about running to get the prize of the most high call.
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE.
Developing great people skills is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself & others in your life. When you learn to relate well to people, they’ll always want to be in your company. That’s exactly what happened with Jesus. Thousands flocked to be around him because there was something about this man which made sense. He could converse with anybody…no-matter who they were or where they were from. We could learn a thing or two from him!
Here are 7 things to think about developing so you can excel in the art of conversation (they’re in no particular order)…
1) Seek to understand people
People will forget what you say, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. When they ‘feel’ understood, you create a connection with them that makes it far easier to build a meaningful friendship. It causes conversation to flow much easier.
2) Think ahead
Even before you meet other people, think ahead to the kind of questions you will ask them. It’s the lack of forward thinking that often stunts conversation and makes it difficult to engage with others.
3) Avoid awkwardness
Long silences and uncomfortable body language are all excruciatingly awful. They’re also totally unnecessary. Be open. Be friendly. Smile. Show initiative. Take interest. Ask questions. Think ahead (remember the previous point).
4) Don’t be too Intense
Just because you might see yourself as a ‘deep’ person doesn’t mean everyone else must start there. Gauge where others are at and try to make a connection with them. Intensity which happens too quickly simply exhausts conversation and ultimately makes it unenjoyable. You must work your way there.
5) Respect space
Be alert & sense when you’re invading someone else’s personal space. But be sure not to be too distant either. Conversation is an art that needs strong self awareness and a profound understanding of context. Remember, it’s an art.
6) Be humble
Name dropping and self promotion are deeply unimpressive, especially for high calibre people. Be far more concerned about showing interest in what others do than in mentioning your own achievements. Humility is an underrated characteristic.
7) Stay positive
The best conversations are created by what you’re for, not against. So create good vibes. It’s how you’ll get the best out of others. Negativity & gossip might be great short term tittle tattle, but in the long term they create suspicion & distrust. Set the right tone…and watch what happens.
Conversation is an art which needs to be lovingly crafted. Make it your ambition to get better and better.
CHECK UT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE, THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE & THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.
People sometimes ask me ‘how can I pray for you?‘. Truth is, every church leader needs all the prayer they can possibly get. It is both a massive joy to pastor a church, but it can also be an incredibly vulnerable experience too.
The latter might sound surprising. But when your head is above that parapet, you’re immediately exposed to the harsh winds of critique & the raw edge of judgment. I guess that’s just par for the course in any form of leadership in life…yet in church leadership it carries the added dynamic of spiritual experience and emotional investment. Meanwhile as a church leader, you’re all too aware of your own flaws. They are out there for all to see and this is something which needs to be managed with humility & grace. After all, leaders are imperfect humans who don’t always get it right. Yet, the bible is clear that part of the role of spiritual leadership is to protect God’s church against unhelpful influences. This presents a tension which every pastor must manage between doing what you believe is right – and knowing that the heart behind this might be misunderstood. Ultimately, it’s God to whom leaders are accountable, and this sobering reflection concentrates the mind more than anything else.
Any good shepherd will always watch out for wolves who pose as sheep. With deceptive charm and cunning subtlety, they pursue personal agenda’s, slowly turning good people against each other and creating division. In the first few years of pioneering the Junction Church, we encountered this challenge. I must be honest, I didn’t even always see it. Truth is, a fledgling community could easily have been devoured. But it is amazing how the Holy Spirit helps. I have no doubt there were people praying for me, and God graciously answered their prayers.
So if you want to pray specifically for your pastor, here are four key things to ask God to give:
1) Wisdom to see what God sees
2) Discernment to hear what God says
3) Courage to stand firm during the challenges
4) Grace to keep moving forward into God’s purpose
Remember, prayer works. So be intentional about it!!
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE….COMING SOON.
When powerful people take advantage of those under their authority, it poses serious questions for all of society to think about.
Recent revelations about the behaviour of certain TV producers & some of our elected politicians is a sobering wake up call. Sadly, the Church has not always been exempt from such accusations either. How tragic for the victims of this conduct that they’ve felt nobody would listen and they were powerless to speak up. Maybe what is currently unfolding is the beginning of a shift in culture? Here’s hoping. But it begs the question….how much of this stuff is still happening today?
When an abuser says ‘I may have done that, but I don’t remember‘, this should send a shudder down the spine of our society. It speaks of a culture which has either turned a blind eye to abusive behaviour, or even unwittingly encouraged it with frivolous dismissal. In any case, as a nation, we would do well to ask ‘why?’. What on earth would create the impression that these dispicable actions are somehow ok? Why is it considered ‘fair game’ for some men to treat women as objects rather than human beings? What kind of environment espouses such utterly disrespectful treatment towards others? These are VERY serious questions which require an honest conversation. Yet too often, it seems like there’s only a willingness to discuss the symptoms, but not the cause.
The flurry of horrid stories which have been reported in the news are just the tip of the iceberg. Yet as we look ahead, wisdom asks where do we go from here? Will culture really shift…or will todays lured headlines just become tomorrow’s junk? And what about God in all this? Maybe the Bible’s wisdom has been too contemptuously discarded by secularism? Perhaps we have missed the point of a loving God who actually REALLY cares about the world and genuinely wants what’s best for us?
In the midst of the mess which greed & selfishness has left behind, society would do well to revisit what the Bible has to say. More than ever before, we need God’s healing grace. After all, that’s what the big story of the Bible is all about.
CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE, OUR CHURCH IN LEICESTER HERE AND OUR LOUGHBORUGH CHURCH HERE.
So you want to do well in life, right? Of course you do. I mean…come on….lets move past the wearisome pretence of false humility. Who on earth wants to be unsuccessful? Nobody!! But there are some things that people who are successful NEVER do. Here are ten of them:
1) They never make excuses
Some people have turned excuses into an art form. Problem is, the illusion doesn’t last forever. Excuses are made by people who don’t really care. But successful people really do care. So they get organised and make things happen. It’s what makes them successful.
2) They never blame others
Blame is a classic trait of people who live unproductive lives. Laying blame on others makes them feel better about themselves. But here’s the truth. Are you ready? Gossip, negative conversations and pulling others down will NEVER make you successful….ever. Little people belittle people. Successful people resist the temptation to blame and instead, embrace responsibility. That’s what makes them stand out from the crowd.
3) They never say ‘I’m too busy’
When I hear someone say ‘I’m too busy’, I make a mental note, and then accede to their request by never asking them to do anything…ever. It is a deeply insulting thing to say ‘I’m too busy’ because it is pompous, arrogant and brimming with self importance…as if no-one else on the planet can be as busy as they are. Successful people are very busy…but they make time for what they believe in. ‘Too busy’ is an excuse, not a reality.
4) They never whinge & whine
Negativity will never cause you to flourish in life. For many, the tendency to whinge and whine is a comfort zone. But its a false comfort. It achieves nothing in life – other than to create a vibe around you that makes you unattractive and unappealing. Successful people are winners, not whingers. Winning in life starts by winning people. Positivity will massively help with that!
5) They never believe they’re THAT good
Really clever people always begin every conversation with the assumption that other people are far smarter than them. So they avoid the pitfall of insulting people’s intelligence with grand notions of their own brilliance. People who are unsuccessful in life believe their own publicity and live off the inflation of an over blown ego. However, all it takes are a few prickly circumstances – and the bubble bursts. That’s why it’s never wise to believe you’re THAT good. Successful people certainly don’t.
6) They never settle for mediocrity
Settling for mediocrity is the surest way to ensure you slip down the spiral towards a miserable, pitiful existence. You see, mediocrity settles for anything. But the ‘anything’ always tends to be downwards, not upwards. Successful people don’t tolerate mediocrity. They pursue excellence. For them, there are no limits. So they dare to rise higher.
7) They’re never unreliable
All the ability in the world means nothing without reliability. Many gifted people never achieve anything like their potential because they are unreliable. Successful people cultivate a reputation for dependability. They do what they say they’ll do. The really successful ones even go the extra mile. They’re more valuable than gold.
8) They never use people as commodities
Successful people cultivate great relationships. They value people for who they are. Unsuccessful people just use others, and when they can find no further usefulness, they dispose of friendships. But relationships are the most precious thing we have in life. If you ditch people, you squander your destiny. Successful people genuinely value their friends.
9) They never take themselves too seriously
Life is too important to be taken too seriously. Unsuccessful people can sometimes tend to be super intense. Their intensity drives great people out of their lives. Successful people have the fun factor. They’re ambitious – but secure enough to laugh at themselves along the way. Great people will always want to be around that kind of company! That’s where real success is built.
10) They’re never lazy & inconsiderate
Rest is an important part of life. However, laziness is a killer of dreams. Successful people work hard and always utilise their time so they are considerate toward others. No truly successful person has ever accomplished anything of significance without hard work and consideration toward others. This is the furnace where real success is fashioned. They’re never lazy.