church in leicester

WHAT REALLY MATTERS??? 
by Roy Todd

I recently read some Christian blogs which were full of complaint about churches that have ‘hipster’ lights, punchy music & a ‘style’ that is not to their liking. Afterwards, I found myself thinking….SO WHAT??? In a world that’s in desperate need of the life giving hope of God’s good news, are these things seriously worth getting so angry about? I mean, in the grand scheme of things….really?? 

So what if some churches like a few lights? So what if there’s a bit of beat in the music? So what if some churches don’t conform to traditional ways of doing things – and sing songs that have been written in the last 2 years rather than 20 or 200 years ago? So what???

Surely what REALLY matters is that people are encountering the life transforming grace of Jesus Christ? Surely it would be better to celebrate churches that are courageously reaching out and impacting a generation with the greatest news on the planet? Surely the REAL travesty is that there are so many churches out there where new salvations are few and far between?

The Pharisees detested Jesus because he didn’t fit with their expectations of how things should be done. They even accused him of being a compromiser, or as they put it, a ‘friend of sinners‘ (Matt 11:19). But what was meant as a carping, sniping criticism was actually an unwitting compliment. You see, Jesus related to everyday people, used illustrations they could identify with and connected with their lives. Meanwhile, religion loves to stay in it’s own little theologically correct bubble and feels better about itself when it is pontificating about what it doesn’t approve of. Every Christian would do well to take care not fall into it’s pit. It’s a death trap in which many churches today are paying a heavy price, their very existence on the edge of extinction.

If we’re going to win a generation, then the Church (capital C) is going to need to shake itself out of complacency and recapture the raw heart & essence of Jesus message. Think for a moment about the first line of the most well known verse in the bible – ‘For God so loved the world‘. That one statement tells us everything about the ONE we worship. If it matters to him, it ought to matter to us. In the end, that’s what REALLY matters.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.

church leicester

TIME TO CHALLENGE THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION 
by Roy Todd

When you read through the Gospels, it’s interesting to note the sadness that Jesus felt at pretentious religiosity. It hurt his heart more than anything else. His strongest words by far were reserved for the Pharisees. He fearlessly challenged their judgmental legalism and the hypocrisy which accompanied it. On the surface, they’d be laying down the law and condemning those who weren’t adhering to it. But behind the scenes, they were excusing and reprieving themselves for breaking it. It was a classic case of ‘do as we say, not as we do‘. 

On one occasion, Jesus addressed the elephant in the room and said Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.’ (Matthew 23:27). Wow. Pretty strong stuff…and certainly not RC (religiously correct).

Sadly, there’s a religious spirit that still exists today. It feeds suspicion, instills fear, thrives off gossip and is quick to pronounce judgments. The thing is…we are all susceptible to it, me included. There have been times in my own life when I’ve felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart because I’ve veered into territory where he doesn’t want me to wander. Lets face it, none of us are THAT good.

Yet, there’s a strange comfort in self-righteous religiosity. It’s like a prison that makes you feel that God is pleased you are suffering for truth. But this is a false comfort and its thinking is not only flawed, but dangerous. You see, truth is releasing not restricting. Jesus taught us that when we know the truth, ‘the truth shall set you free.’ (John 8:32). Living in unhindered integrity is a beautifully liberating experience.

Of course, truth must always be accompanied by grace. Without the latter, all you get is the harshness of legalism, judgmentalism, condemnation, self-indulgence and the inevitable hypocrisy that goes along with it. However, God’s grace allows us time and space to be honest and vulnerable with ourselves and others. That’s why 1 John 4:18 says ‘love casts out fear‘. It’s not a choice between truth OR grace. It’s both.

It is time to graciously but fearlessly challenge the spirit of religion. It does huge damage to people’s lives and robs so many of the joy of real relationship. The challenge begins in the heart.

 

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH IN LEICESTER HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.

church leicester

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE GOD 
by Roy Todd

Ok, it’s time for me to fess up. When we first planted the Junction Church five years ago, I was a bit bothered that our largest demographic was students. We didn’t plan it this way, it just happened. It’s not that I ever had anything against students either. No, the very opposite actually. I love them. They are the most incredible bunch of people to hang out with. They keep me fresh, laugh at my daft jokes, ask GREAT questions, are loads of fun to be around and I have learned SO much from this generation. But five years ago, I thought we would never establish a decent church with such a high percentage of students. Then I had my epiphany and I suddenly realised…silly me! Students don’t stay students for very long.

Five years later, those very same people are no longer at uni. They’ve graduated. And guess what? Loads of them have made the Junction Church their home. They’ve found a community where they can get planted, grow, develop, inspire others, encourage potential and love people to life. Now they’re the driving force of our church. They serve behind the scenes, lead the teams, are pioneering a new campus and they’re carrying great culture everywhere they go. They are sons and daughters of the house who profoundly understand that good jobs are easy to find but good churches are not.

I think I’ve learned a HUGE lesson in all this. Never underestimate what God can do. Truth is…He’s often doing more behind our backs than in front of your eyes. 

In those early days of pioneering the Junction Church, the demographic of our community meant that offerings were pretty meagre. It’s not that there wasn’t generosity. No. It’s just that people genuinely didn’t have much to give, which meant paying bills could be slightly challenging (yup, churches have bills too you know)! Sometimes before a service would begin, I’d nip out and withdraw cash from my own account and then put it into the offering. Afterwards when the team would tell me that we’d had record giving that day, I’d cheekily smile because I knew that I’d put most of it in!! The things you do just to encourage yourself when you’re pioneering a church!! But God constantly challenged us to hold our nerve, to keep showing up, to keep being generous, to love people and serve faithfully. Today, it’s amazing to see the Junction Church in Loughborough and Leicester bursting with life. In many ways, it feels like we’ve just got going. The potential is huge.

We must never underestimate the potential of people’s lives. If you have a bunch of students in your church, invest in them and keep sowing well, especially in times of lack. God has this amazing way of using our feebleness so that his glory can be seen. Remember, today’s seed is tomorrows harvest. Don’t underestimate God. Its amazing what He can do.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.

church leicester

EXCELLENCE MATTERS.

I recently read an article which took aim at churches that pursue the value of excellence. The writer suggested church should be a messy environment reflecting the reality of a messed up world. Excellence, it was asserted, alienates people rather than connecting with them. 

Well, who could disagree with the importance of loving & reaching people where they’re at? But abandoning excellence is not the answer. Of course God accepts us as we are…but He loves us far too much to leave us that way.

I was born in west Belfast during the height of the Northern Irish troubles. I grew up in one of the most deprived areas in all of Europe. But what I observed during that time of conflict was the aspiration of a working class generation who dared to dream. They searched for something better than what they’d known up to then, resisting the patronising overtones of their middle class superiors which suggested they should “get used to the mess cos this is your lot”. So many of my peers sought to pursue a more excellent way because they longed to rise higher and go further in life. They had the audacity to believe for more..and so looked beyond the doldrums of despair toward a brighter future.

The point is…God never designed HIS church to pander to mediocrity, but rather to shine as a beacon of light in the fog of unbelief. As Paul says in 1 Cor 12:31, love offers ‘the most excellent way‘. We do a gross disservice to our towns and cities when we ever lower the bar and try to keep people where they are. That’s exactly what mediocrity does.

Excellence is a state of heart. It’s about doing the very best you can with what you have. It’s not about money. Nor is it about facilities and resource. It’s ALL about having a passion to help people reach their God given potential. A culture of excellence reflects the heart of a community which loves our world and wants to help others rise higher. We’ve seen this happen at the Junction Church over the past few years…where people have been so impacted by the culture that they’ve taken it into their families, schools, universities, work places & peer groups. Surely it’s this kind of gritty, everyday stuff that changes the world? Some call it ‘bringing the Kingdom’. We just call it ‘doing life well.’

If anywhere in the world ought to reflect excellence, it’s Church. It should never be thrown together in a shoddy, messy, untidy way. What inspiration is there in this? That’s why one of our values at the Junction Church is excellence…and we make no apology for it. It brings God glory when we create an environment that loves people, lifts their vision and helps them rise to greatness. That’s why excellence matters.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE

church leicester

LESSONS FROM LEICESTER CITY
by Roy Todd

If ever there was an example of a triumphant ascent to the heights of success followed by a traumatic descent to the depths of disaster, then Leicester City football club is just about the best one I can think of right now.

Last season, the club won the hearts of the footballing world with their magnificent title win, hailed as the greatest in the history of the English premiership. There was even talk of a movie being made about their rise to stardom. However, this season is a different story altogether, but not just because the champions are struggling in the premier league (which in many ways was to be expected). No, it is the catastrophic decision by the men in grey suits to sack their manager Claudio Ranieri at exactly the moment when the club needed him most. That’s the disaster!

Think about it. This is the man who led Leicester City to victory just last season. This is the manager who cultivated a culture of teamwork which propelled his club to success. This is the coach who inspired optimism and belief among his players and lifted the spirits of an entire city. Now, he’s gone, dropped like a sack of potatoes, dumped like a bag of rubbish. The men upstairs lost faith in him, but their decision was wrong on many levels.

Here are three lessons we can all learn…

1) In tough times, hold your nerve

When things aren’t going well, there is always the temptation to lose nerve and bail out. This is the story of so many people’s lives today. The idea of ditching what you’ve got and replacing it with something ‘better’ sounds appealing in the moment – but it’s never wise. It’s like dealing with the symptom without ever getting to the root cause. Besides, who ever said life would be easy?

2) In trying times, honour your leaders

Leaders are easy scapegoats. Think about it, when Leicester City were winning, Ranieri was hoisted up as the best manager ever. But when they struggled, he’s the one who received the blame. Of course, leaders know only too well that blame is part and parcel of the role. But to ditch the leader in such a dishonourable way is just wrong. Contemptuousness of the past is always catastrophic for the future. In moments of panic, how easy it is to forget all the good that’s happened.

3) In testing times, keep the faith

Lets face it, it’s easy to have faith in the good times. Anyone can believe then. But it’s when life gets torrid that faith gets tested. This is when we find out what we’re really made of. For Leicester City, their loss of faith in the manager and subsequent decision to sack him may have been pragmatic – but it’s a decision that has now set an unhealthy precedent in the culture of the club which not only diminishes Leicester’s reputation but undermines future trust. Wise people will want to learn the lesson. No-matter what, keep the faith. Don’t ever stop believing. It’s more important than you can possibly imagine.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.

church leicester

WHY GOALS MATTER
by Roy Todd

In a study conducted on the 1979 Harvard MBA programme, students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” The results were:

3% had written goals
13% had unwritten goals
84% had no specific goals at all

Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings were astonishing. The 13% of the class who had unwritten goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% who had no goals at all. However, the 3% who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% put together. Truly incredible. * Taken from the book “What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School” by Mark McCormack.

Good intent is honourable, but there’s something far better about writing down what you’re believing for. This not only helps you articulate why the goal is important but it also keeps you accountable to pursuing it, helping you align your life so you live with true purpose. Interestingly, God is into goals too. For example, he told the Old Testament prophet Habakuk to ‘write down the vision‘ which He’d given him (Hab 2:2).

church loughboroughI have no hesitation in saying that God wants you to be successful in life, work, career & family. However, if you’re really serious about this, then here is one goal which wise people will write down and explain to themselves. Ready? BE FIRMLY PLANTED IN A GREAT CHURCH. The Bible promises that those who are ‘planted’ in God’s house will ‘flourish’ (Psalm 92:13). So wise people will write down WHY it is beneficial to be rooted in a great church, WHY it’s important to run with the right crowd who are encouraging & faith-filled and not negative and cynical, WHY God’s house should always be a priority even during busy seasons of life, WHY putting God first means you’ll never come second and WHY excuses always need to be avoided. Knowing WHY it’s important to be planted in God’s house is a life changing revelation which adds a quality to your life that is of the highest order. 

I challenge you to take some time and articulate this for yourself over the next few days. Then set some goals which will help you be committed to being firmly planted in church community (serving, giving, building). Getting the foundations of your life right provides a solid base from which you can flourish and live in the supernatural blessing of God’s favour. This really works…and it’s what makes all the difference.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE AND OUR CHURCH IN LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.

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church nottingham

IN PURSUIT OF THE MIRACULOUS 
by Roy Todd

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 […]

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church nottingham

DRAWN BACK TO THE FATHER'S HEART 
by Roy Todd

We’re all prone to wandering from God. It’s not for no reason that Isaiah describes us as being ‘like sheep who have gone astray’. Sure, sometimes our relationship with God is fresh and fervent. But if we’re honest, it’s not always like that. Complacency can so easily set into our lives. We get distracted from what […]

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church in leicester

BEWARE OF THE SPIRIT OF FEAR 
by Roy Todd

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 […]

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church leicester

THE PURPOSE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
by Roy Todd

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit). It’s important to note that he’s a person….not an atmosphere. In Matthew 3:16, he’s likened to the dove. This is no coincidence since the dove is amongst the purest of birds, only dwelling where they feel welcomed. This is like the Holy Spirit. He’s not interested in an occasional visitation but rather in habitation. His desire is to make his home in our hearts. That’s the essence of what we mean when we talk about being ‘filled with the Spirit’.

And what is the Holy Spirit’s purpose? To empower us. To guide us. To lead us. Ultimately, his mission is to equip us to carry the love of Christ into our world. In Acts 1:8, Jesus said ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

When we experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, this should never lead to an insular or self indulgent experience. This would be to completely miss the point. Everything the Holy Spirit does is not so much about getting us to look inward – but rather helping us see outward.

The evidence of a truly Spirit filled church is a compelling, passionate and loving commitment to reaching out to those who don’t yet know Jesus. In his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, Paul the apostle had to strongly rebuke a church which had the appearance of being Spirit filled but in reality was selfish, insular & deeply divided. They didn’t really care about reaching out to those who had not yet experienced Jesus. As far as Paul was concerned, this was a travesty – as far removed from the purpose of the Holy Spirit as it was possible to get.

It’s always wise to remember the Holy Spirit’s purpose and to keep this as our focus. Nothing dishonours him more than when we trivialise him and make it all about ourselves. The only reason why the Spirit fills us up is to send us out.

My heart for the Junction Church in Leicester and Loughborough is that we would be a truly Spirit filled church. Not weird. Not wacky. Not flag waving. Not giving place to embarrassing ‘spiritual’ freak shows that draw in weird loving Christians but which drive away non-believers. No way. Our heart is to be a community where the Holy Spirit feels welcome – and where we can catch the essence of his heart – a heart which longs for people to know Jesus. That’s the kind of church the Holy Spirit loves to work through. That’s what we want.

CHECK OUT MORE INFO ABOUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE AND THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.

WORDS
by Roy Todd

Words have the potential to do great good. For example, a word of encouragement can build up a person’s confidence and be like oxygen to the soul. However they can also do great damage too. When spoken unwisely, words can feed insecurity and cause great hurt.

When the apostle James wrote in his letter about the power of the tongue, this was obviously pre the social media era. But no doubt the same principle applies to the words we write as well as speak. James urges us to think carefully before we use words. He says ‘ It only takes a spark to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word can do that too.” (James 3:5)

Jesus urged us to take care in our use of words. He says in Matthew 12:36 “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” This is a very sobering thought – that one day, we will all give account for our words (conversations, tweets, statuses, instagram posts, snapchats etc), even the careless ones. That’s why it’s better to use words to build rather than destroy.

Once they’re spoken (or written), we can never get our words back. There’s an old story about a rabbi who slandered another rabbi because he was jealous of his apparent ‘success’. This resulted in his colleague having to leave town over something which simply wasn’t true. Many years later, the perpetrator of the slanderous rumour found out that he had a terminal illness. Wanting to make amends for the wrongs he’d done in his life, he confessed to a senior rabbi the untruth he’d said about his colleague. Asked what he should now do, the senior rabbi took a feather pillow case, opened the window and proceeded to rip it outside the room. He then asked his junior colleague to go and retrieve all the feathers. ‘It’s impossible. You know I can’t’ said the junior rabbi. “Yes,” said the senior rabbi, “that is how it is: once a rumor, a gossipy story, a ‘secret’ leaves your mouth, you do not know where it ends up. It flies on the wings of the wind, and you can never get it back” He then strongly encouraged the junior rabbi to urgently seek the forgiveness of his former colleague.

It’s an old story…but the principle is true. Words are powerful. That’s why it’s always better to use them in a way that builds up rather than pulls down. An unwise word spoken (or written) in the heat of a moment might make you feel better in the short term – but it’s damage is often seen in the long term, just at the time when you regret having spoken it. How many relationships have been destroyed by foolish words?

It’s always better to talk well of people. To speak faithfully and loyally of others is to build trust and confidence. Be a blesser with your words – whether this is reciprocated or not. Speak kindly. Speak generously. Speak lovingly. Speak graciously. Speak honourably. You’ll never regret it.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE

WHAT ABOUT MONDAY?
by Roy Todd

No-matter how sacred a church service on Sunday might be, if it doesn’t relate to life on Monday, then something is very wrong. There’s no point in putting it any other way. In this case, church becomes a niche market that a few might like – but which is far removed from the normal day to day life of ordinary people. This is not how Jesus ever intended things to be. His message was NEVER meant to be niche. It’s nation shaking!!

Study his words carefully (in some Bible’s they’re written in red) and you’ll discover why crowds of thousands came to hear Jesus speak. It wasn’t because they had nothing else better to do. These were busy people, many of them would have been running their own businesses (the culture was incredibly entrepreneurial). They didn’t turn up in huge numbers because he satisfied a thirst for intellectual stimulation either. Nor did he speak in irrelevant terms which bore no resemblance to the pressures of everyday life. The very opposite happened. Jesus told incredibly down to earth stories using up to date illustrations. They were so good that kids loved listening too (children don’t listen to boring speakers!). He challenged the pretentious religiosity of the Pharisee’s and was even willing to be misunderstood, getting himself a reputation as ‘a friend of sinners’. Interestingly, this was a term that was intended as a slander against Jesus by the religious establishment but which actually proved an unwitting compliment. The sinners loved hanging out with Jesus – not because he approved of their lifestyle but because he was able to show them a better way. People related to Jesus then and they should be able to connect with church TODAY!

However, Christians can sometimes talk in jargon terms about ‘mission’ and ‘fresh expressions’ – and yet the strange irony is that there can be a suspicion and even criticism against anything that resembles change. We must always be careful (Junction Church included) that we don’t love our ways more than we love our world. If the latter is true for us, then we will do whatever it takes to reach people – even if that means completely changing the focus of our Sunday services. Archbishop Temple was right when he said ‘The Church is the only organisation that does not exist for itself, but for those who live outside of it’

It’s our heart at the Junction Church in Leicester and Loughborough that everything we do will relate to every day life. When preparing to speak on a Sunday, one of the main questions on my mind is always ‘What about Monday?”. In other words, how does this message apply in real life? What about the normal day to day stuff? How does faith work there?

Faith needs to be gritty and real, not fake and surreal. Yet in it’s beautiful vulnerability, there’s a powerful vibe of hope – something which our world desperately needs.

Hey, turns out that reaching out to those who don’t yet follow Jesus is not that complicated after all. It’s about being real. It’s about taking people on the journey of how it all works on Monday. Just watch what happens…

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER HERE.

church leicester

KEEPING IT REAL IN A WORLD OF FAKE
by Roy Todd

A few years ago, I bought what I thought was a high quality watch from a street market stall in New York (yes, ok I know….I was an ejit for getting it). Pleased with my purchase, I proceeded to wear it and show it off with great pride. However within a week, said watch had literally fallen to pieces. It was a cheap imitation of the real thing and I’d been ripped off!!

Cheap imitations never last. Truth is, we live in a world of fake. It’s not just about the dreaded fake news. There are fake relationships, fake appearances, fake lives, fake identities…there is a lot of fakery out there. What’s interesting is how a generation has caught onto it. There is a desperate desire among them for reality. This is one of the reasons I love this generation so much.

However, in a world of fake, we must be sure never to assume that ‘negative’ is real. It can be so easy to revert to the safe ground of cynicism as a way of protecting ourselves against all the falsity we encounter. But the problem is that negativity is also fake. You see, it’s the cheap imitation of ‘honesty’. But it’s not honest.

Negativity is harsh and judgmental. It forms a biased opinion against others without basis or foundation. It’s like a form of predjudice – suspicious, uncaring and unreal. It’s also intrinsically selfish, protecting it’s own self interest instead of pursuing what is right. It is lazy and sloppy, the most convenient route for a distrustful heart to take. But it’s cumulative fallout is huge – and a culture of low trust will always be it’s consequence, something which is never to the advantage of our world.

As Christians, this poses a dilemma for us. After all, we are people of faith. So do we too make negativity our default reaction to all the falseness in the world? It’s all well and good to say that we are believers in God and not in people, but this is utterly flawed thinking. Faith in God will always lead to faith in people – ALWAYS. It’s the faith that people can experience God’s love, the faith that they can live with purpose, the faith that people are valuable, the faith that God can work in people despite the shallow fakery of their lives, the faith that no-matter how messed up someone’s life is, there is hope.

So how do you stay real in a fake world? Faith IS the answer. It’s the only answer. It’s gritty. It’s messy. It’s earthy. It pays a price. Faith is the carrier of God’s greatest gift to our world – ‘love’. Never stop believing.

 

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LEICESTER