Paul wrote to a deeply divided church in the city of Corinth. His letter was born out of fatherly love for a community that he’d pioneered and planted. He warned the Christians that there were ‘many teachers, but not many fathers’ (1 Cor 4:15). In other words, Paul was pointing out that there was no shortage of clamouring voices who love to air their opinions and promote their ideology. But the crisis for many believers was the lack of spiritual fathers who could speak loving wisdom to sons and daughters in the faith.
That same crisis still exists today.
There are many instructors, but few fathers. We have an abundance of professionals who have embarked on ministry careers. But spiritual fathers are SO different.
Last year, I became a dad. It is the most incredible experience I’ve ever had in my life. My heart is overwhelmed with sheer love for my little girl. I would do ANYTHING to protect her. She is my pride and joy. I love watching her grow. When my wife was ill in hospital after she gave birth, I held my little daughter in my arms all night and settled her on my chest. This wasn’t an arduous task. It was an act of love. She’s not my experimental project to find out if my ideology works. She’s my everything. I’m her dad and I love her.
Thing is…the world is full of people who love to throw out clinical instructions from their ideological high ground. But the reason for the depth of division in our society today is that so many people feel they’ve been abandoned. The heartless rhetoric from politicians rings hallow. People aren’t as stupid as they’re often perceived to be. They know that political ideology doesn’t truly care. The system doesn’t give a damn either, and hasn’t for years. On top of this, there are multitudes who find themselves swimming against the wake of family dysfunctionality, often dealing with issues related to fatherhood, or the lack of it. As a pastor, I get to see this stuff up close and personal. Yet society seems unwilling to honestly address the REAL issues which affect REAL people. And then we wonder why we’re in such a mess?
That’s why we need fatherhood like never before. Fathers raise sons and daughters. Fathers champion their kids. Fathers are protective and caring. Fathers journey with their children through good times and bad, helping them navigate life and just being there. Fatherhood is not a job. It’s a high call.
Here at the Junction Church, our heart is to see a generation rise higher and go further. That’s why we’ve set the bar high. That’s why we take risks. That’s why we’re creating the kind of culture we’ve got. It’s time for spiritual fathers to step up. Our world desperately needs it.
Ten years ago, I wrote a book called ‘In Pursuit of the Miraculous’. I reckon I could write a follow up based on the past two weeks alone! It has been nothing short of miraculous.
It all started when my wife Lydia gave birth to our beautiful baby daughter Sophia Hope at 11:27am on a balmy Monday morning in mid August. All seemed to be going well at first. However, later that evening, Lydia had a faint whilst she was on a short walk to freshen herself up. The medical people initially put it down to sheer exhaustion. But the following day, she had two more similar episodes, the latter of which resulted in a complete loss of colour from her face. As I held my little daughter in my arms and watched my wife slump to the ground surrounded by nurses and doctors, an uncomfortable lump formed in the back of my throat that I could hardly bear to swallow. It was an unbelievably shocking situation, the gravity of which I was more than aware of. I will never forget the feeling of absolute vulnerability as I wondered whether my little girl might lose her mum. It was heart breaking to see.
Further tests showed that Lydia had developed internal bleeding during which she lost 3 litres of blood. They carried out two blood transfusions, none of which were successful. In fact, her blood count afterwards was even lower than before. Furthermore, her blood pressure continued to drop dramatically while her pulse rate raced dangerously high beyond 150 bpm. These were all the signs of continued internal bleeding. That night, the consultant told me in no uncertain terms how serious the situation was if the bleeding should continue. The medical team then proceeded to administer two more blood transfusions. ‘The next 12 hours are critical’ were the parting words of one consultant.
It was around this time that I sent out a message asking people to pray. So many agreed with us for a miraculous breakthrough. We were certainly in miracle territory. I personally called out to God and laid my hands on Lydia’s head, believing for complete healing. This was no time for nice prayers. It was the cry of a broken & desperate man claiming healing over his wife’s life. I remember feeling a powerful sense of God’s presence in that moment.
The next day, Lydia began to slowly stabilise. Her blood pressure rose, her pulse rate dropped and her haemoglobin levels were higher. These were all signs that the internal bleed had stopped. It truly was a miracle. God had answered our prayers.
Over the next few days, there were a few more drama’s including threats of further internal clotting and a lot more calling out to God (those stories are for another day). However, time and again, God answered. Eventually after 11 days in hospital, all her levels normalised and we were allowed home. That was an emotional journey for sure (ok, playing disney tunes didn’t help!).
Archbishop Temple once said ‘When we pray, coincidences happen’. I am in no doubt whatsoever that God did a series of miracles in my wife’s situation in August 2018. I don’t understand it all, but I just know that God was at work.
Having had some time to reflect on what happened, it has not dented my confidence in God. The very opposite is true. There’s a growing conviction in my heart to believe like never before for God’s miraculous power in others. With him, all things are possible. I totally believe it.
To all those who stood in agreement with us, thank you. To the medical team who cared for us, we salute you. To Jehovah Rapha who intervened and heard our cries for healing, we honour you. God is real.
Have you noticed that the fear industry is booming at the moment? These are good days for things like suspicion, cynicism and gloom. They prey on people’s worst instincts, creating an atmosphere that is thick with the toxicity of distrust. It’s contagion blows into key aspects of society including politics, media and education, and it spreads confusion over a hurting nation. Church is not exempt from it. If you are the type of person whose disposition leans more towards negativism, then the sinister climate that hangs overhead will simply encourage unbelief.
Personally though, I’m resisting it. In fact, I find myself battling to protect against a pessimistic default. It could be the easiest thing for me to slip into a downward spiral of doom and despair. That’s why I choose my friends very carefully. It is never helpful to keep company with a vibe that panders to the prevailing culture and rolls with it’s hateful jibes. Better to acquaint with faith than fear.
Fear feeds negative culture and starves faith of it’s vitality. Religion loves fear because it provides an opportunity to manipulate and control people. That’s why Jesus reserved his most ferocious words for the religious establishment of his day. They thrived off the power that fear afforded them, playing on people’s anxieties with subtle yet brutal precision. The Pharisees hatred of Jesus was venomous because Jesus exposed their hypocritical legalism and preached a message of freedom instead. His word hasn’t changed. But neither has the spirit of religion.
When we understand the difference between religion and relationship, it changes everything. One controls you. The other empowers you. One holds you back. The other releases you into your God given potential. One leads to hate while the other to love. Interestingly, Jesus was never into religion. His message was totally relational. He came to set us free from the grip of fear, and into the loving embrace of God’s amazing grace.
In his letter to Timothy, Paul says ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear’ (2 Timothy 1:7). This verse is a massive statement. It tells us something about the culture that God wants us to carry in our everyday lives, and which changes the atmosphere around us. It is FearLESS, not fearful. It is FaithFUL, not faithless. The threat of fear can only be expelled by the power of love. That’s why the bible teaches us that ‘love drives out fear‘ (1 John 4:18).
There used to be a TV show called the Muppets. One of the puppet acts featured was a couple of old curmudgeons who were theatre critics. They were constantly carping and sniping at every performance they watched and they could never bring themselves to say anything kind about acts other than their own.
Sometimes, the Christian world can seem a bit like those two old disapproving muppets. Instead of modelling a generous and grace-filled culture which celebrates others, it often feels pretty cold and mean spirited. All the ‘expressions of unity’ in the world are nothing compared to the uncomplicated simplicity of warm encouragement and genuine appreciation. It’s not rocket science. But it really matters.
One of the biggest challenges facing Christianity in the UK is largely unobserved in its own ranks. Its called CYNICISM. This is a habitual way of thinking which is far more comfortable criticising than celebrating. I’m not sure it’s fair to say this is a distinctly British problem, but it is undoubtedly an issue for the wider Church in our nation. It doesn’t take long to pick up on its vibe in conversations and social media interactions.
Cynicism is usually wrapped up in the language of pseudo intellectualism and illusions of spiritual superiority. It is contemptuous of anything it perceives as different. But the tell tale sign of it’s lurking presence is the constant negativism which lies at its core. It much prefers to find fault than search for what is good. This ultimately leads to a sense of pessimism which contaminates local church life and is a killer of faith. What then follows is a downward spiral of doom, gloom, insecurity and eventually, the self fulfilment of its own fears. This is one of the major reasons why so many churches are dying a slow and ungracious death. The toxicity of cynicism is a contagion which smothers life. Leaders would do well to be alert to its subtle danger.
Whatever you do, don’t be a church cynic!! Check your heart to see if it has found a home in your life. If the very reading of this blog post stirs a reaction in you which is resentful and irritable, then this is a good thing. You’ve just been alerted to the existence of cynicism in your life.
The Church should be the very antithesis of worldly culture. Instead of accusatory and disapproving sentiments, the vibe of every local church should be positive, warm and encouraging. This is the shock to the system that is so desperately needed today. Merely talking about ‘love’ is as meaningless as explaining that water is wet. It needs to be articulated in a way that is real and authentic. Cynicism is no friend of true love. Thats why the alternative needs to be experienced. More than ever, people need to see what real love looks like. It is everything which cynicism is not. Here’s a good prayer to pray: “Lord, help me live your message. Amen”
Sometimes, it feels like the world is becoming increasingly judgmental and disinterested in understanding. When an accusatory culture rules the day, it creates a toxic environment where negativity and division flourishes. No doubt the thoughtless (and even abusive) use of social media has largely contributed to this vibe.
Yet in the midst of all the craziness, there are people – real people. No, not the caricatured stereotypes labelled by dogmatic idealism. Just down to earth, everyday people, each with their own story to tell. Truth is, everybody has one. But who will listen?
Some are able to articulate their stories better than others. But it’s our story that has led each of us to the point where we currently find ourselves in life. Our upbringing. Our circumstances. Our flaws. Our mistakes. Our joys. Our sorrows. Our disappointments. Our successes. The list goes on. These all form part of our story.
If only we took the time to listen a little more instead of throwing accusations. If only we sought to understand the experiences of others instead of judging them. If only we tried a little harder to see beyond the narrow idealistic argument to the grit of a path which has been walked before. Then maybe, just maybe, we’d measure our words more carefully and extend a little more grace. We all need it.
One of the greatest contributions each of us can make in our world today is to resist the pressure of merely running to the beat of the crowd. History teaches us how catastrophically dangerous this is. In a world of confused noise, wise people take time to think for themselves. One of the most helpful ways we can do this is to exercise the gift of listening. No-matter how much we feel we know, all of us have much to learn.
Above all other voices, what about the one that matters most? Who will believe his report? When God speaks, it’s usually quiet and still. It takes discipline and reflection to discern his wisdom, especially in the midst of a thunderously rowdy world. Yet his word is the one that is eternal consequence. Dare to stop. Dare to think. Dare to LISTEN.
At the wedding of Harry & Meghan, something happened which caused quite a stir. A bishop by the name of Michael Curry preached a brilliant sermon which had some real conviction & passion. These are things you don’t always find amidst the formal pomp and circumstance of a British royal wedding.
The response to Bishop Curry’s message by the stiff upper lip types was monotonously predictable. There was a great deal of murmuring from those who can’t bring themselves to recognise any different expression of church other than the established one. The BBC commentator patronisingly described Bishop Curry’s sermon as ‘forceful and uplifting‘. Say what?? Mr BBC man was uttering verbal clap trap of the most condescending kind. Honestly….the BBC…bless. Bishop Michael was different…and surely this should be well and truly celebrated?!!! He wasn’t being ‘forceful‘ at all. He simply sounded like a man who believed what he was talking about. That’s a good thing!!!
As I watched Bishop Curry preaching his brilliant message and the awkward reaction afterwards, my mind was drawn back to something that happened when we first planted the Junction Church in Loughborough. I’ll never forget chatting to a brand new Christian who’d been journeying with us. This zealous person had gone into town giving out flyers advertising our new church (something which we had not asked them to do). After receiving lots of positive feedback from passers by, a church minister who happened to walk by (wearing a collar) took one of the flyers and rudely asked what this was all about. As the new Christian naively tried to explain our heart, the minister then proceeded to scrunch up the flyer and grumbled words to the effect ‘we don’t need another church in this town‘ before abruptly walking off. The new Christian could hardly believe what had just happened. Truly shocking stuff…yet that’s just one story!! Surely it would have been far better to just celebrate a different kind of church instead of criticising it?
Anyway…back to Bishop Curry. I loved his sermon. I love it that he was different. I love the fact that he dared to bring some warm passion into a context which can be cold and clinical. This is exactly what the UK Church needs more of. It’s something to be celebrated, not frowned upon. This is a new day and there’s change in the air. A new generation is rising up. It’s time to get with it. God bless Bishop Michael!!
Hello. It’s me, now in your 40’s. I’m a bit older now…but not VERY old…yet. From your present vantage point though, you’ll no doubt reckon this old boy writing to you is ancient. Great thing is, I don’t really care. See, that’s what happens when you put a few years on the clock; you become less concerned about what people think of you. This is mostly a good thing, I think.
Now permit me to indulge in some patronising reflections which I know you’ll read with wry amusement. And by the way, be sure to keep that bizarre humour of yours, no-matter what anybody says. When christians try to turn you into an intense zombie like creature, resist it with every funny bone in your body. I promise, your humour will save your life…literally. Don’t worry if others are bemused by you. That’s ok. As long as you enjoy life, that’s what matters. Though probably best to avoid telling that misplaced joke at the funeral service you’ll take in about eight years from now.
Now then, you’re currently in your 20’s. I reckon this is the most significant decade of your life. The foundations you lay today are a prophecy of your tomorrow. So don’t be in a hurry. Just build slowly & well. And don’t worry if people havn’t recognised your potential. Quietly get on with it. Good things will follow….I promise.
Over the next few years, you’ll hear more and more clap trap about ‘going on a journey to discover who you really are’. I can confirm that your hunch about this is absolutely correct. Yes, it’s all complete and utter tosh. Never EVER try to find yourself. If you do, you’ll end up becoming the sick child of an even sicker society. This is not good. No, don’t ‘find yourself’. Instead, define yourself by your God given convictions. Never compromise on them…not for one moment. Carpe Diem…..seize the day. Cos you’ve only got one shot at this thing. So make it count.
Now Roy, can I please implore you to work a bit harder. I know you could easily get a first in your degree if you’d just put in a tad more effort. Just because you can pick things up quite quickly and remember details doesn’t mean you have an excuse to give as little attention as possible to your subject of choice. Theology matters….even more than music. Yes it does. Your 40 year old self wishes he’d worked a bit harder on this. Don’t be complacent. You’re going to need it because one day, you’ll pioneer a church called the Junction Church. And believe me, if you think the world is messed up now, wait till you see what it looks like in 20 years!!
Right, a quick word about friendships. They’re far more valuable than you currently realise. So cherish them…especially the good ones. In fact, invest in these a lot more. See, what gives quality to life is not money or stuff. It’s the people you do life with. There are many fine acquaintances…but not many great friends. So build great friendships. They’re more important than you presently realise.
Don’t worry about feeling too young to serve God. It won’t be long until you wake up one morning and discover you’re 30. From that point onwards, life becomes a mad race to the finish line (wherever that will be).
Ok, you’ll be pleased to know that I’m closing off now. Can I implore you though, over the next few years, choose your battles well. Some things you’ll be tempted to fight about just aren’t worth it. So channel your passions to what really matters. Live well. Aim for the ‘well done good and faithful servant.’ In the end, this is what matters most.
Be confident, but avoid arrogance. Be wise, but don’t be too cautious. Be passionate, but resist anger. Twenty years from now, ‘brexit’ will happen (no…don’t ask) and the world will become angry to boiling point. It needs a different vibe. The Church has to be a positive force for good, carrying the authentic good news of Jesus Christ. Don’t allow mean spirited Christians and religious politics to make you cynical. The world really needs something radically different. Fight FOR what matters.
Right then, I’m off. Hopefully I’ll be in touch in another 20 years. Until then, keep giving it your best shot. Stay adventurous and love the journey, bumps and all.
p.s. Just a heads up. In a few years from now, you’ll meet a young lady called Lydia. Marry her…no questions asked. She’s definitely the one.
What do traffic lights, doctors surgeries and online deliveries all have in common? They keep you WAITING!! Funny isn’t it. In our insanely fast paced world, we still have to wait for stuff. Even in a restaurant, who are you served by? A waiter. In century 21, good things still take time.
Currently, I’m finding myself in a season of waiting. Personal health challenges have really battered me over the last 6 months. The medical people are still trying to get to grips with what’s going on. The main symptom has been serious fatigue which has resulted in me having to pause a large portion of my life, including postponing my teacher training course.
I’m still serving at church every Sunday. See, being planted in God’s house is a non-negotiable, even in this tough season. For me, it’s all the more important since this is my community which I absolutely love. Yet because my energy levels have been badly depleted, some of my responsibilities are currently on hold. I just thank God for pastors who love me and stick by me no-matter what, behind the scenes where no-one else really gets to see. I can tell you, the Junction Church is seriously blessed with the best of the best.
Yet, for the first time in my previously energetic life, I have found myself in a period of waiting. Waiting for a miracle, waiting for the doctor’s report, waiting for recovery. I didn’t choose this struggle. But this is where I am.
So instead of denying the wait, here are 4 lessons I’m learning to embrace. I hope my reflections help you:
1. Patience is a virtue.
You can’t always do a lot about your circumstances. However, you CAN control your response. Patience is the manifestation of self-control, which is part of the fruit of the Spirit.
2. Prayerfulness needs to be a priority.
In order to manage the tension of waiting, prayer must take a precedence. In periods of waiting, anxiousness can quickly develop. Yet when we pray, we exchange our apprehensions for the peace of God. This is a peace which transcends understanding. It’s a life saver!
3. Perspective is crucial.
What has really helped me develop perspective in my season of waiting has been to focus on God. I remind myself of what God has done, can do and will do. When we focus on Jesus, we recognise that waiting is a season, not a destiny.
4. Pain is part of the process.
The truth is, waiting hurts, especially for a guy like me. It’s frustrating not knowing what’s actually going on with my once fit and healthy body. It’s arduous sleeping 3/4 hours in the day, 10 hours a night, waking up and feeling exhausted. Waiting for your miracle hurts. Yet the pain of the process reminds me I’m alive. Waiting is a refiner of character. No, it’s not pleasant. But it makes us better. Read a great blog about this HERE http://junctionchurch.net/2017/06/07/god-wounds-roy-todd/
Whatever you’re believing for in your life, lets learn the art of patience. God is at work. Have the courage to trust him. We’re gonna get through this. Keep going!!
Last November, we hosted our first ever Junction Church conference called V3. This stands for: Vision, Vibe & Values. I don’t think I’m being over dramatic when I say it was a massive success. To think we’d never done anything like this before….well, all I can say is that our amazing team smashed it out of the theatre!!!
So…we’re doing it all again in 2018 – only this time it’s going to be even better!! Mark the date – Saturday 10th November. V3 is a chance for us to gather as ONE church to worship God, receive ministry input and just hang out together. In the Old Testament, events like this were celebrated occasions known as festivals. People would take time to reflect, recalibrate and remember the sheer goodness of God. That’s exactly what our annual conference is all about.
So, what will be different in 2018? Well here are four snippets…
We want to showcase some of the creative brilliance emerging at the Junction Church. We’ll be having special conference openers for each of the main sessions. This will include a mix of multi-media and live performance. You won’t want to miss any of these.
I’m delighted that our main speaker for V3 2018 is Ps Dave Gilpin. He’s a genuine legend who came to England from Australia in the early 90’s and pioneered one of the most creative churches in the UK. He’s a preacher par excellence who will make you think, laugh, and think some more. I know that Ps Dave has a word for your life which is going to profoundly impact you.
SEVEN FOR FIVE
We’re going to be showcasing some of our very own preachers too! A whole session called ‘Seven for Five’ will give you a chance to hear seven 5 minute messages straight from the heart of a bunch of incredible people. All of them will pack a serious spiritual punch. We are blessed with so many outstanding communicators and this is a chance to not only hear from them….but cheer them on.
We’ll be showcasing some brand NEW music at V3 conference 2018. In fact, I’m excited to let you know that there’s an EP dropping around that time too!! This is all about discovering the sound of our house, something that’s becoming increasingly clear the more we journey on as a church.
GET BOOKED IN
Add to all that a great kids programme, MVMNT youth, specialised seminars and conference Sunday….V3 is going to be truly outstanding. Plan ahead. Book in. We’ve already got loads of people coming….so I’m not going to try to hard sell this. If you’ve caught our heart, you’ll be there. Simples.
Losing perspective on life is an easy mistake that even the best among us can make. There are all kinds of perceptions which can conspire against what’s true, causing us to miss the reality of what is really going on.
A loss of proper perspective usually results in an over-exaggeration of a challenge – or – a failure to recognise the seriousness of the current course. Either can be very dangerous and will eventually lead us to destinations we were never meant to visit. Over the years, I’ve seen people make rash & foolish decisions based on false perspectives. Too many times, those same people ended up living in deep regret because only afterwards did they realise how badly wrong they’d got it. Misunderstanding, insecurity and suspicion all create sinister illusions when the eyes of our heart fail to see God’s grace on the horizon.
So how do you maintain some kind of proper perspective on life, especially in the more challenging times? Here are four thoughts…
1) Watch out for tiredness
Sounds simple, right? But this one is big….REALLY BIG. Not getting enough sleep will cloud your judgment and blur your focus. It is imperative we learn to rest well. The lack of it can be catastrophic, both mentally and physically. Be sure to give this some serious attention.
2) Guard your heart
You are the gate keeper of your heart. No-one else can do this for you. YOU decide what goes in. YOU decide what stays out. So guard it ferociously. Get around those who build your confidence rather than pull it down. A healthy heart will help you maintain a healthy perspective on life. The company you keep is crucial here.
3) Recognise the danger of isolation
Isolation is fake. There, I said it. It makes YOU the centre. It teaches you bad habits. Thing is…the perceived vulnerability of community is nothing compared to the real danger of aloneness. Sure, there are times when you need your own space. But all the time?? No, that’s not healthy. It’s also how you completely lose perspective on life. Don’t cut yourself off from reality. Never good. Ever.
4) Make God’s grace your refuge
Have the courage to believe the best. Then never stop believing it, no-matter what. This is not just about being positive. It’s about seeing God’s grace in every situation. That’s the grace which saved you. It’s also the same grace which others need too. When we learn to extend a little grace, it helps us gain God’s perspective on life. Suddenly, everything makes some kind of sense.
Whatever you do, don’t believe the first thing your emotions tell you. They’re SOOO fickle. God’s word is true. That’s the perspective that really matters.