online bullying

CAROLINE FLACK, ONLINE BULLYING & TURNING THE TIDE
by Roy Todd

Caroline Flack was a talented TV presenter who had everything to live for. Yet, the online bullying she endured became all too much for her. Just tragic.

But when the headlines fade and life cruelly goes on, what happens next? Will there be soul searching? Will those who carp and snipe think twice about the affect their words have on others? Will the media back off the salacious stories which earn mega-bucks but ruin people’s lives? Naturally, this is unlikely. Shifting bad culture is like trying to turn the ocean tide.

Over the years, I’ve observed the sheer nastiness that can lurk in online culture. In a very small way, I’ve been on the receiving end of a jibe or two myself. It was inconsequential. But still, it was horrible. After one particularly nasty online comment directed at me, I remember having a pretty restless night. I wondered, ‘Do people really think that about me?’ Sure, deep in my heart, I knew it was a rogue remark that ultimately meant nothing. But finding perspective in that moment was very challenging. What I experienced was nothing compared to what others go through. 

If you’re ever tempted to post a judgmental comment online, think twice. It will do nobody any good. But the affect on others can be catastrophic. 

Sure, the cultural tide might be flowing strongly in a terrible direction. But it MUST be challenged nevertheless. There needs to be a fresh alternative. When something’s good, big it up. When you’re thankful, say it. When you appreciate those people who love and care, express your gratefulness. And do it with uncomplicated purity….not accompanied by any hint of sniping and carping. Life is too short for that stuff.

And what about church? Sure, it has it’s challenges. But ultimately, church is a community of people who are all on a journey of faith. If any culture should model positivity and good vibes, surly it ought to be here, right? Well then….let’s start here. Maybe by God’s help, we can start to turn the ocean tide?

BE POSITIVE

BE POSITIVE
by Roy Todd

Let’s suppose that life for you is pretty decent 90% of the time. How do you measure this? Well, let’s say you have reasonable health, a good community around you, potential & opportunity before you, a roof over your head and food on your table…plus a whole lot more besides. Sure, there are some challenges too…but everybody has these. Yet, if it’s true that life is fine 90% of the time, then it begs the question – why do so many people carry negative vibes 90% of the time? It doesn’t make sense.

Negativity is manifested through things like…cynicism, suspicion, gossip, complaining, nastiness, insecurity, backbiting, poor behaviour, mean spiritedness, a sense of entitlement, complaint & criticism, joylessness and a refusal to celebrate what’s good in others. See, negativity feels better about itself when it is putting others down.

Proverbs 11:27 says ‘If you search for good, you WILL find favour; but if you search for evil, it WILL find you’. In other words, you WILL get what you’re looking for. So…what are you looking for?

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the negative culture that so pervades our society today. How many offices are filled with nasty gossip? How many work places are steeped in a culture of complaint? How many times have you seen vile abuse on social media that is unfair and unjust? Yet so often, we just go along with it because we assume these negative vibes are normal. But for a person of faith, this is NOT normal. Faith can never thrive in an atmosphere that is negative.

Truth is, God has called us to be different. This means he wants us to challenge the ‘norm’ by showing HIS norm.

If I could get alongside you and encourage you in this season of your life, then I would strongly advise you….BE POSITIVE. This is the baseline from where you will learn to thrive. It doesn’t mean you won’t have challenges and tough times. But it does mean that you check your attitude in the midst of challenging times. See, you can’t always control your circumstances. But you CAN control your words….always.

Words are powerful because they set the atmosphere over your life. Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: “The tongue has the power of life and death”. This means you have the power to speak life and hope – or doom and dispair. It is completely your choice. My encouragement to you is…don’t be negative. Be positive, relentlessly and incessantly, whether you feel like it or not. It will radically change the vibe in you and around you…and that’s exactly what your world needs. 

church loughborough

WHY I STOPPED SAYING

‘The BEST is yet to come!’. Who coined this phrase? Many preachers have claimed it as their own. But my understanding is that it was originated by an old English preacher called John Wesley who said ‘The best is yet to be‘.

Whatever it’s origins, I’ve stopped saying it. No, it’s not because I don’t believe it anymore. Nor is it because I’ve given up being positive. The reason I ceased saying it is for the sake of my sanity. Let me explain.

You see, too often, our hopes for the future can drown out the highlights of today. This struck me very strongly recently when I was reflecting on our journey at the Junction Church. Back at the beginning, the idea of hundreds of people meeting across three campuses was just a dream. Today, this is a reality…and it’s growing. Yet the visionary part of me kept forgetting to celebrate today’s blessings. I forgot what it felt like at the start. Instead, I was thinking of reaching more people. I was pondering more locations. I was looking at all the things we have yet to see. Nothing wrong with incessant optimism. But for life to be truly appreciated, we need to afford ourselves the space to slow down and breathe. 

It’s like planning to eat at a fine Michelin star restaurant. When you arrive and the meal is eventually presented, you relish it. You eat it slowly. You enjoy the occasion. You don’t just gobble it down with an optimistic grin that says ‘the best is yet to come!’. What would be the point of that? Yet sometimes, that’s just what we Christians can be like. We forget to LOVE the journey because we’re so fixated on the future!! Chill!!!

Ephesians 1:3 says ‘we are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ’. Notice, this statement is present tense, not future tense. In other words, we are blessed right here, right now. We’re living it and breathing it and eating it and sleeping it!! Perhaps our challenge is that we just don’t see how blessed we actually are?

My vision for the future is as strong as ever, My dreams are crazier than ever before too. But I’m also determined to enjoy life more. Dreams are healthy. But drivenness is not. That’s why I’ve stopped saying ‘The Best is yet to come’. This statement, whilst sounding noble and right, can actually rob us of joy. 

For me, I’m living in God’s best right now. And tomorrow, I’ll be living in God’s best too. That’s my journey. If you’ll open your eyes, you’ll find that it’s yours too. Enjoy!

Check out the Junction Church Loughborough, Leicester & Nottingham.

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 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). 

LOUGHBOROUGH

LOUGHBOROUGH

We offer two Sunday morning services in Loughborough - 09:15am (CHAPEL) and 10:45am (CELEBRATION). These all take place in the Main Hall at De Lisle College. Find out more here.

LEICESTER

LEICESTER

We meet every Sunday night at 5pm in Central Baptist Church, Charles Street, LE1 1LA, a great venue in Leicester city centre. We have great worship and outstanding teaching. Find out more here.

NOTTINGHAM

NOTTINGHAM

We host Thursday night Connect each week at 7:30pm in Nottingham city centre. Find out more ( including our plans for the future) here.

church loughborough

THIS RISING GENERATION 
by Roy Todd

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.

Check out the Junction Church Loughborough here.

church loughborough

WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? 
by Roy Todd

If the BBC managed to get the Cliff Richard story so catastrophically wrong, it begs the question…what else are they getting wrong? To wittingly tarnish a person’s character because of crass & inaccurate ‘reporting’ is far beyond unfair. It is a blatant abuse of power. No amount of compensation can ever salvage the reputation of the accused. 

Cliff Richard is a high profile example of what many lesser known people have had to endure because of misreporting and bullying by the press. Most victims of media injustice are powerless against such gigantic organisations as the BBC. Those who peddle accusatory stories without presenting absolute and irrefutable evidence know they can hide behind the protection of the corporation – unaccountable and unconcerned about the collateral damage their cheap headlines create. What is deeply disturbing is the way media rivals have been closing ranks in defence of the BBC, with cries of ‘press freedom’ as their justification. Such defensiveness would strongly suggest a more widespread issue. Anyone who cares about justice will be concerned by this.

It is one thing for the media to speak ‘truth to power’. Problem is, the industry itself has become far too powerful. Can you think of any national institution that wields more clout? And far from conveying ‘truth’, it often feels rather more like peddling opinions than reporting news. While there are many brilliant journalists out there who operate with upmost honesty, it is not beyond the bounds of reason to think that some journalists might have personal vendetta’s they are pursuing. What about the possibility of rich and powerful lobbyists pushing their particular agenda’s through the media too…and paying for the privilege? If it is true that these kind of things go on, then what is the extent of it? Who knows?

One thing is for sure. The idea of a self regulated and unaccountable press is something which can no longer continue. Too much damage has been done to too many people’s lives.  It seems to me that this privilege has been thrown away by a culture of contempt. The media must be profoundly transparent about how issues are covered, just like any other public organisation. This is especially true of the BBC, a corporation which is afforded multiple millions of tax payers money.

Truth is, the media needs to get back to being factual & boring. We should never be aware of the personal opinions, suspicions & biases of journalists, not even the faintest hint. Politicians, yes…because they are accountable to the electorate. But reporters? No. Impartiality is the basis of a healthy media. Sadly, the media’s ‘freedom’ has been used irresponsibly by some who have flexed their position to gain influence which goes way beyond that of an ordinary citizen. For too long, the industry has set itself up as the moral guardians of a nation. Problem is…this kind of ‘morality’ is hypocritical, self-righteous & fundamentally flawed…as the recent Cliff Richard court case has proven. Trust has been eroded, perhaps even beyond repair.

It is amazing to think that not one single BBC employee has yet been held to account for the Cliff Richard travesty. Quite astonishing. If this were the BBC reporting on another organisation’s misdemeanours, can you imagine the relentless outcry that would ensue? Yet, notice the strange quiet around the beeb. The story is fading away. They’ve gotten away with it. Not the victim though. He is left picking up the trashed pieces of his life. 

Distrust is the price of dishonesty. Instead of trying to defend the indefensible, the media would do well to reflect carefully on what has led to the current predicament. Integrity matters. This is what builds trust.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH LOUGHBOROUGH HERE.

p.s. Below is very moving interview with Cliff Richard filmed after winning his court case against the BBC. Yet, notice how the interviewer subtly seeks to defend her profession mid-interview. 

church nottingham

WHO WILL LISTEN?
by Roy Todd

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.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE.

church nottingham

GOD BLESS BISHOP MICHAEL
by Roy Todd

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!! 

CHECK OUT OUR LATEST CAMPUS – THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE.

church nottingham

5 SIGNS OF UNHEALTHY CULTURE 
by Roy Todd

Culture REALLY matters. It’s what will either carry a community to life – or crush it to death. It really is as stark as that. At the Junction Church, we are constantly working to create healthy culture. This is something we’re totally passionate about. It’s the good ground of genuine faith where people will flourish in life. However, in order to cultivate an environment of vitality, it’s important to watch out for the weeds which kill life and promote unhealthy practices. I guess that’s the thankless task of a leader – ha! 

Here are 5 signs of bad culture which we must constantly protect against.

1) Negativity

This is not about denying challenges & difficulties in life (we talk about these a LOT at the Junction Church!). No, it’s about not pandering to grumbling & habitual complaining. Problem is…negative vibes are never helpful and eventually become a blast of noise which tries to bully & silence the voice of genuine faith. Any leader worth their salt will know that people cannot grow in that kind of atmosphere. People are far too valuable to be subjected to that.

2) Pandemonium

In an ‘anything goes’ kind of culture, people do whatever they want. Sure…this might sound like a great idea? But ultimately, it’s the sign of a lack of vision. As Proverbs 29:18 puts it, ‘when there is no vision, people cast off restraint i.e. do their own thing’. Theoretically, this kind of culture might appear like heaven to some Christians – but 20 years of leadership has taught me it’s actually a mess where all hell will eventually break loose. Sadly, people get badly hurt in the pandemonium. Healthy culture is guided by vision. Vision is focused, disciplined and restrained – always carefully working for people. Lack of restraint equals lack of health. The latter is never good.

3) Self-indulgence

This is a culture where the worship becomes all about ‘my’ experience. Meanwhile, Church becomes all about ‘me’ feeling fulfilled. Then if ‘I’ get upset, it clears off to pastures new without any regard for those it leaves behind. Make no mistake about it….nothing will ever be accomplished in a culture of self-indulgence. Everything about the Kingdom of Heaven challenges selfishness. It’s about living for a cause that is bigger than ourselves. Anything else is just a club…and not a very good one at that.

4) Coldness

How many times have you encountered an environment that is cold, clinical and unfriendly? It’s one of the tell tale signs of unhealthy culture. It is unloving, uncaring and complacent about the grace of God. How could it be anything other? Yet when there is a rich revelation of God’s love, this is a culture that is attractive, especially to those who don’t yet know Jesus. People will WANT to be there. A lack of warmth is uninviting, and simply drives people away.

5) Staleness

Bad culture is stuffy & bereft of freshness. When new ideas are mulled over, there’s a kind of resigned doom which says ‘lets see if this works’. In reality, it is destined to fail…because nobody ever believed it would work in the first place. Healthy culture is fresh, cheeky and vibrant. Young people are drawn to it and older people love it because it keeps them young at heart. Stale culture eventually becomes dead culture – where nothing ever happens and endless committee meetings rule the day. That’s why it’s important to stay hungry to grow and keep the main thing the main thing.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE – STARTING WITH LIFE GROUPS IN 2018 AND OFFICIALLY LAUNCHING IN 2019.

church nottingham

THE MIRACLE THAT RELIGION HATES MOST 
by Roy Todd

In John 2, Jesus performed a controversial miracle. He turned water into wine. Sometimes, it feels like the Church has been trying to change it back ever since. I suspect legalistic types would prefer it if this story had been excluded from the bible. After all, the party context doesn’t sit well with religious sneering & seething. See, religion never approves.

The story can at times be dismissed as a kind of irrelevant footnote which happened just before Jesus officially got going in ministry. But such a crass conclusion would completely miss an important point. The Holy Spirit included this incident in scripture for very good reason. We must be sure we never reduce a momentous miracle to a monotonous monologue which sounds more like water into whine than ‘water into wine’. That’s sadly what the spirit of religion tends to do. But joyless religiosity is un-representative of the culture of God’s Kingdom. 

It’s interesting that this first recorded miracle of Jesus occurred at a party. It was a happy occasion…well, apart from the little crisis behind the scenes. The problem? They’d run out of wine – a big deal in that culture.  Here was a situation which was clearly brought about by human error. Wedding celebrations in those days would have lasted up to a week. So, the lack of wine might have been because someone had miscalculated and not purchased enough? Or perhaps the budget for the wedding party had not been properly prepared to cater for all the guests? Then again, maybe some attendees had been a bit selfish with their consumption of said beverage, thus denying others? Whatever way you look at it, somebody somewhere had badly messed up.

Yet, it says something about Jesus that he graciously went ahead and performed a miracle. It could have been all too easy for him to resist. He might even have preached a judgmental message on the imperfection of humanity and the ultimate reason for this pitiful mess up! But he didn’t. Instead, he did something about it and created a miracle. But not just any old miracle. From water poured into ceremonial vats which weren’t even meant to be used for drinking (aye…Jesus is always mixing things up), he did something in a moment which should have taken literally years to produce. After all, good wine requires a long process. But there and then, Jesus created the best wine anyone could possibly imagine. I have a sneaky suspicion this was the finest wine that has ever been consumed. AD30 was definitely a year of rare vintage.

The danger when studying this story is that we can try to read more into it than the Holy Spirit intends. To do so is to miss the real point of the outcome. Of course there are lessons which can be gleaned about faith, obedience and courage. But what this event is really all about is… God’s grace. It’s a picture of undeserved favour in the midst of humanity’s failure. Isn’t this what the Gospel is all about? Isn’t this the good news that all who follow Jesus experience every day of their lives? It’s why we celebrate – not because of our own religious works but because of God’s amazing grace. Just like the wine Jesus created, his love & forgiveness are incomparable too.

It is surely no coincidence that the miracle occurred at a wedding party in Cana. Religion doesn’t like this. Yet it represents the vibe of God’s kingdom…gracious, joyful, celebratory, honourable. How on earth could any Christian ever portray Jesus as tedious, intense and clinical? Such a portrayal is a downright travesty. After all, Jesus is the source of real joy…and the finest wine maker on this planet and beyond. If he can work a miracle in the midst of a crisis in Cana, his grace can do the same in your life. Now that’s a message worth celebrating.

CHECK OUT THE JUNCTION CHURCH NOTTINGHAM HERE.