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”
Here at the Junction Church, we’re passionate about championing a rising generation. This is far more than a platitude. It’s a reality that is happening week after week. For me, this is part of our divine remit. Nothing encourages my heart more than seeing young adults finding their feet and walking in God given confidence.
The other day, I happened to read an article which lamented ‘millennials’ in today’s Church (universal), with particular emphasis on the influence of Hillsong music. The article urged churches to return to the spirit of the 80’s / 90’s during which period, worship was more ‘authentic’. As I read the blog, I found myself thinking ‘what’s so authentic about walking backwards?’ Besides, there were plenty of voices back then which deplored what was happening! You see, the problem with the good old days is….they were never THAT good.
As someone who has reached the dizzy heights of ‘middle age’, I am all too aware that I could very easily settle into middle life listening to classical music and 1990’s hits (ok, mainly classical music). The temptation is to comfortably live off some pretty decent memories of years gone by. But as much as some great things happened back in the day, we must be sure not to allow the sentiment of hindsight to blind our perspective. Our greatest gift is to cheer on those who are younger than us. This is an honour…and the BEST way to stay fresh and young at heart.
There is a rising generation, whether we see it or not. Get to know their heart and you’ll find they are authentic and fresh…in their way. Church leaders would be wise to give them space to express worship that helps them connect with God, not impose our stylistic preferences upon them. This rising generation are the future. The reason large sections of the Christian Church are struggling so desperately is because of the sheer disconnect with this generation – and a failure to invest in them. You’d think we’d learn, hey?
Is what is happening today perfect? No. But it wasn’t perfect 20 years ago either…or 100 years ago…or 500 years ago. But we have every reason to have hope and optimism for the future. A generation is on the rise. World, you’d better watch out.
I’m sure you, like me, have been deeply disturbed by the poisoning incident in Salisbury recently. The method used was a military grade nerve agent – in essence a chemical weapon which could potentially have killed many people. Our thoughts and prayers are for the healing of all those affected, especially a father & daughter who are critically ill in hospital.
The UK government is convinced that the Russian state was behind this serious incident. I trust their judgment. Yet the fact that there are growing numbers of people questioning this conclusion should concern every politician in our nation. A house divided against itself can never stand.
These are serious times which feel very much like a new cold war has descended upon us. What is needed in days like these is…truth. The growing distrust in the integrity of government is devastating to a nation. Any hostile agent can wreak havoc in a culture of deep suspicion. The current British political system with it’s culture of arrogance has done a terrible dis-service to our nation. The Salisbury incident is a serious wake up call. Integrity REALLY matters.
In a sense, the chickens are coming home to roost. The political system in the UK has been in serious trouble for a very long time. I’ve written about this HERE. Recent political campaigns have been filled with lies and ego driven one-upmanship. Take the EU referendum campaign of 2016 for example. The sheer amount of untruthfulness on both sides has had the effect of severely eroding trust. This weakens a nation. It is far more devastating than many politicians seem to grasp. The current situation regarding Russia is a case in point. Just when trust is needed more than ever, this can now be easily undermined.
So how do we, as Christians, respond in times like these? Well, first and foremost, it behoves all of us to live lives of profound integrity. Sounds idealistic, right? But it’s far more gritty than that. It’s about living the truth….even if it hurts. Truth starts with ourselves – not anybody else. In a world of fake news, authenticity is like a refreshing tonic. It’s what builds trust. Furthermore, we do well to remember that the prayers of the righteous are ‘powerful and effective’ (James 5:16). So we pray for our nation and those who lead us. We also call out to God to cause a massive spiritual awakening. I have concluded in my own heart that this is the only answer for a broken society. Our nation needs God’s healing grace like never before. So does our world.
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?
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? I strongly encourage you to embrace the former. It will make a world of difference to your year.
The most precious commodity in any relationship is…trust. When it is strong, magnificent feats can be accomplished. When it is weak, suspicion reigns and progress is hindered. The thing is, trust is something that needs to be built with intentionality. Here are five ways to construct it around your life.
This means avoiding gossip, a vice that poses as harmless chatter but is one of the most destructive forces to healthy relationships. It feeds suspicion, encourages fear and stirs distrust. Be assured, whoever gossips to you will also gossip about you. Resist it with all your heart. Choose to believe the best of others, not the worst. Speak life…always. That’s how you build trust (Prov 11:13).
Ambiguity may maintain the status quo for a while. However, it ultimately kills trust. When people don’t know where they really stand, this does nothing for the health and strength of friendships. It’s always better to be graciously honest and vulnerable. Proverbs 23:23 says ‘Buy the truth and do not sell it‘. This is what healthy relationships are built upon.
In a world where so many just seem to easily give up on each other, faithfulness is like pure gold. It’s what builds longevity into relationships, creating trust over the long term and proving commitment through the diverse seasons of life. God values it very highly (Matt 25:23). We should too.
Jesus defined greatness as servanthood (Matt 23:11). This means we don’t ever need position to serve. Nor do we need to be motivated or persuaded by some ulterior motive. Selflessness is one of the most powerful ways to build trust. It serves and serves and serves, without thought for itself. This is what Paul meant when he spoke about ‘honouring others above yourselves‘. (Rom 12:10). It’s the foundation on which trust is established.
How we respond to correction is a statement of our heart. Pride resists it. Humility receives it, even if it’s measure is unpleasant. In the end, a teachable spirit enables trust to be built and love to be established. Everyone has something to learn. Proverbs 29:1 tells us that resistance to reproof is something which breaks trust beyond healing. That’s why it’s wise to receive correction well.
Building trust can’t be rushed. It takes time. But it is totally worth it in the long term.
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.
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.
We’re excited about what is happening in the Junction Church. In just five years, the church has grown to become a thriving community made up of over 30 nationalities, dynamic Sunday services in Loughborough & Leicester, and around 20 Life Groups which meet throughout the week.
If you’d like to listen to our most recent Vision Day talk, here it is below. Further down the page are the bullet points of everything it covers. Want to get involved? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
VISION DAY UPDATE
Some key developments over the past year
– The Junction Church has grown by over 25%
– New campus in Leicester city centre which is doing really well
– Summer Madness (social action programme)
– First album released
– 350 decisions to follow Christ
– Dozens baptised
– Campus coordinator employed for one day per week
– Church suite (app) launched last January
Some of our key ministries in the Junction Church
– Brotherhood (men’s ministry)
– Sisterhood (woman’s ministry)
– Junction Kids
– MVMNT youth
– Equip (teaching ministry)
– Worship team
– Media Team
– Young Professionals
– Reach Team
– Prayer Team
– Encounter Team
– v3 conference 2017 (11-12 nov)
– christmas 2017 (all Sundays in December)
– easter (Fri 30th March – Sunday 1st April)
– hillsong conference (wed 25th – fri 27th july)
– v3 conference 2018 (sat 10th – sun 11th nov)
Key vision goals for 2018
– grow healthy leaders
– grow healthy life groups
– grow healthy sunday services
– grow healthy community
– grow healthy culture
– grow healthy teams
– grow healthy ministries
– grow healthy resources
– grow healthy campuses
– grow healthy church
Key vision goals over next two years
– employ people to serve in church
– junction church academy (internship) (sept ’19)
– new mid week life group in Nottingham (sept ’18)
– transition Leicester to sunday morning (sept ’19)
– pioneer sunday The Junction Church Nottingham (sept ’19)