Halloween is a big part of our culture. Nic and Jason, youth leaders at Holland Road, discuss Halloween, and how we as Christians can engage with it in a positive way.
Halloween is a big part of our culture. Nic and Jason, youth leaders at Holland Road, discuss Halloween, and how we as Christians can engage with it in a positive way.
The internet is an amazing tool. I remember in 1999 when we first got the internet as a family – I remember the dial-up noise, the anticipation, the excitement, and wondering if it was actually going to connect (it often took a few attempts).
As an 11 year old boy, I loved cars. And once I discovered Lycos (a search engine, like Google, but with an awesome black labrador as it’s logo) I realised I could download as many pictures of Aston Martins and Lotuses as I could fit on our 3 gigabyte hard drive. And back in those days, images appeared line by line over the space of several minutes.
It didn’t take long before I morphed into a grumpy teenage boy and pictures of cars became pictures of something else.
When I was at school, porn wasn’t just something that was accepted, it was something that was expected. If you were a boy, and you weren’t looking at porn, then you were considered a bit strange. And that was 10 years ago. Most teenage boys will be looking at porn, and most men will have at some point, if they’re not now. If you’re reading this and you look at porn, you are far from alone!
Porn is everywhere. Porn is a problem for the Christian. Porn will affect your relationship with Jesus. If you don’t believe me, or you want to know what the Bible teaches about this subject, Mars Hill Church have published a very helpful short book that you can download for free.
Yes, I shamelessly stole the title of that book for this blog post. A wise man once said:
“There’s no copyright in the kingdom of God” – Now there’s a topic for a future blog post…
When I became a Christian three and a half years ago, God changed me. He changed my desires. I no longer wanted to participate in a pornography culture. Sadly, it’s not very easy to stop. It took a long time, with many failures along the way, but with God’s help I made it through.
One of the things that God providing to help with this was software. Software to block websites. Software to take away the possibility, and therefore part of the temptation, for me to look at porn.
You can use it for this, you can use it to protect your family, and I’d recommend using it even if you don’t think you have a issue. It just takes away even the possibility of stumbling into a problem with porn.
If you’re facing this issue alone, don’t. Find someone to talk to, a friend, or come along on a Sunday and speak to an elder, or a member of the prayer team. Find someone who can walk with you; you’ll find it a lot easier.
I can recommend a free bit of software called K9. K9 will only protect your PC or Mac, so it leaves other devices (smartphones and tablets) unprotected, but we’ll cover that in a bit…
Another piece of software that people commonly use, and one I use with other people, is XXX Church. This sits in the background and monitors all websites you visit. It doesn’t block anything, but once a week it emails a friend that you’ve chosen to be accountable to a list of any questionable sites that you’ve visited (sometimes with hilarious false positives).
All major mobile phone networks block ‘adult’ content by default. But when smartphones and tablets are connected to wifi, they use your home broadband connection which is unprotected by default.
Recently, the government has been asking internet providers to give people an easy way to block porn, and thankfully most major providers now offer a way to do this really easily. Below is a list of providers, and links to their instructions on how to turn this on:
EE apparently do offer a way to do this without installing software, but do not provide instructions on how to do so. You’ll need to log in to your account and have a look around, or contact them directly and ask for the ‘Content Filter’ to be turned on.
As I’ve helped other men through this issue, the biggest complaints I’ve heard about any software or blocks are that they slow down your computer (the ones provided by ISPs don’t) or that it blocks things that shouldn’t be blocked. My response to that is pretty simple:
What do you care about more? Your relationship with Jesus and overcoming this problem, or a computer that goes a tiny bit faster and lets you access that one obscure site that you don’t really need anyway. Think about it!
What if your Bible was small enough to carry around with you, and it reminded you to read it every day?
I’ve had a smart phone since about 2008. My first was the T-Mobile G1. It was massive, had a slide out keyboard, was really slow, and really not that great. To be honest, I much preferred my slightly smaller, but still quite chunky, Sony Ericsson k800i feature phone. I only really had the G1 to build apps on. By the time 2010 came around (the year of my ‘re-birth’, the year I met with Jesus and began my journey with him), smart phones had moved on quite a lot. Now I had a much thinner, faster, lighter smart phone: the Nexus One.
With my new found faith and relationship with Jesus I did what any slightly geeky young man would do; I went to the app store and looked for a Bible app. I found a lot of rubbish. Sadly Christians these days aren’t really known for their design, artistic, or creative skills. Somehow, somewhere, after the world-leading likes of Leonardo da Vinci, we’ve found ourselves rolling in Comic Sans, cheesy fluorescent posters, and Papyrus. The Church has gone from being the leaders in arts, science and technology to generally trailing a long way behind. There was however, one rose amongst the thorns.
One group that is leading with technology is YouVersion, a ministry from the American group of churches LifeChurch.tv. Their vision is to “lead people to become fully devoted followers of Christ” and “to demonstrate and teach people how God’s Word relates to everyone, no matter where they are in life”. They do this through technology, and most commonly though The Bible App.
At its most basic level, The Bible App gives you access to hundreds of different translations of the Bible to be read on pretty much anything that can access the internet. That on it’s own is amazing. But you also get videos that bring parts of the Bible to life, and the ability to share verses of the Bible with friends, amongst other things.
But the thing that I think can most change our lives (yes, I’m that serious) are the reading plans.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
There are hundreds to choose from, ranging from plans that focus on particular books of the Bible, to whole Bible plans, and even topical plans, often with notes to help you understand each day’s reading. Not only that, but you can even ask the The Bible App to remind you to read it at a certain time every day, which will help if you’re anything like me in the morning… (generally quite confused).
If you have already downloaded the app, then start a reading plan! Dig into the Word of God, hear God speak to you and guide you as you read your Bible (app) regularly.
And for the good boys and girls who are already doing both, I leave you with a link to something much prettier than comic sans or papyrus, a beautiful infographic about The Bible App usage in 2013
September saw the relaunch of our youth work at Holland Road: a triple-threat of Youth Thursdays (our regular night for young people to hang out and have fun), Encounter (a monthly Sunday evening service specially geared towards them) and Encounter Extra (food and general madness just before the Encounter service kicks off).
One of the main changes has been the introduction of ‘options’ on Thursday nights – each week we have two or three different activities for them to choose from, including baking, band, tv club, Youth Alpha and even a rowing machine challenge! Or, if they fancy, they can just hang out in the hall where we have a great set-up including table football, pool, table tennis, a dance mat, a Nintendo Wii and comfy sofas. The tuck shop has also proven popular, and not just with the young people…
It’s been a crazy few months but we’ve seen amazing growth, with around 30 young people coming on a Thursday evening, great friendships developing, and a surprising amount of egging.*
But don’t just take it from me – here’s what some of the youth have to say about it:
So if you’re in years 7-13 and you want something new for a Thursday or Sunday night, come along and join us! Find us on Facebook or Twitter, or check out hrbc.org.uk/youth for more. Looking forward to seeing you there!
*Of the leaders, obviously. Health and Safety.
I’ve been part of the Transform team for about two years now, but last Sunday I said goodbye to it as it came to an end. I will still be part of the church and will still be involved in different areas of church life.
The past two years have been absolutely amazing, I’ve gained so much experience by being involved in such a wide variety of different ministries, I’ve led children’s groups at holiday clubs, played in the band, built a website, made flyers, stacked chairs, led youth work, led the AV team, answered the phone, preached, regularly got up at 6am to fill the baptistry, coordinated the Wales mission twice, and I’ve done lots of cutting, folding and stapling to name just a few things, and God has really ‘transformed’ me throughout this time.
Doing Transform is therefore a little bit like being put in a greenhouse. It’s an intense period of pruning – of experiences, of opportunities, of learning, of growing – and you cannot help but be changed.
Having only been a Christian since November 2010, I’ve been very fortunate to have spent most of my Christian life so far in this ‘spiritual greenhouse’, but I know that moving forward I will still see my relationship with God go deeper and I will still continue to be transformed by him.
I was in a job interview a few months ago and the CEO of the company asked me “what has been the biggest surprise of your time on Transform?”, and I wasn’t really sure at the time, but I spent some time thinking about it afterwards and decided that the biggest surprise has been my involvement with our youth work.
Two years ago the thought of talking to teenagers would have scared the life out of me. But I followed God’s promptings to get involved in our youth work and have found it to be amazing, I’ve found that God has grown me in my faith through it and I’ve found that he has really blessed me through it.
One big highlight for me (other than getting engaged of course!) has been Encounter, our monthly service aimed at younger people.
Around a year ago God spoke separately to Sam Dracott (one of our teenagers at Holland Road) and myself about putting on an event where we worshipped God though music in a different style to a typical Sunday morning and it was out of this event that Encounter was born.
It’s been great to see how God has grown the teenagers and young adults involved in Encounter, and even more amazing to see how he has met with and spoken to the people that come along to Encounter.
A few days ago I started a new job with local Brighton company ribot as an Android developer (making apps for phones and other devices).
I’ll also still be very heavily involved in the youth work here, leading our week time youth ministry with former Time Teamer / Transformer Nic Bryant.
You’ll also find me regularly contributing to this magazine in a new feature called ‘Connected Church’, looking at the technological world we live in and issues we face as Christians.
A few weeks ago we took a team down to Wales, partnering with New Hope Baptist Church in Atlanta, and Turning Point in Florida. We have been going to Wales for 19 years, and now partner with over local welsh 50 churches, reaching out to some of the poorest and most impoverished people in the UK.
[Transform is a made up of a team who have given a year of their time to serve full time at the church in mission, ministry and through training]
God spoke to me through a dream a few nights ago.
We often read passages like Daniel 2, where Daniel interprets the King’s dream, or passages like Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2 and forget that the God of the Bible is the same God we have now! God loves to speak his followers, and he does that in many different ways, including dreams!
In my dream one of my friends had been kidnapped by a group of people. After a short space of time they also took my fiancée’s Gran. For some reason (dreams are often slightly strange like this) it was up to me to go and rescue them, very similar to the plot of the film Taken. I knew in my dream that this was a mission that was probably impossible. I’m not Liam Neeson, I don’t know any martial arts, I’ve never fired anything bigger than air rifle, and I don’t know the first thing about tracking down highly organised criminal gangs. But in my dream, I went for it anyway.
As soon as I started to try and track down where they had taken my friend and future Gran-in-law I kept coming across obstacles, but not the sort of obstacles I was expecting. The obstacles were the people around me: no one around me seemed to care, they were all caught up in the more mundane trivial things in life, people kept trying to get me to help them with their village fête or their homework, or come and talk about the TV shows they’d been watching. No one else seemed to get that this was a life or death situation!
I woke up from that dream feeling really disturbed, much like the Pharaoh in Genesis 41:8, and as I was washing up after breakfast God gave me an interpretation of the dream. He said people coming into a relationship with Jesus is a life or death situation and sometimes we (myself included) get caught up in the more mundane trivial things in life. We worry more about parties than people, we care more about television than the transformation of lives by the power of God’s spirit, we prioritise personal opinions and our own comfort over sharing Jesus with people.
My prayer for myself and the church is that we would care as much about seeing people saved as Liam-Neeson-Dream-Jason did about saving his friends. He knew the mission was hard, probably impossible, he knew he was completely un-equipped, completely incapable, but he loved his friends so much that he did everything he could to save them from certain death. One thing he didn’t have, which we do, is the Spirit of God living inside of him, and that’s all we need to reach out to our friends.
Nic reflecting on something he’s been watching on TV, The Chef’s Protege, and increasing your joy in God.
For nearly 100 years Holland Road Baptist Church has been producing a regular printed magazine called ‘Fellowship’. As of today Fellowship Magazine has become an ‘online first’ magazine and has dropped the word ‘fellowship’ from its title.
As a church we will still be producing a printed version of the magazine every few months that will include most of the textual content from the magazine’s online home, but it will look very different to the previous editions of the printed magazine. We hope that most of our readers will enjoy our articles online, rather than on paper.
We see in our culture an increasing demand for more easily accessible, sharable and searchable content. I know that people have often said to me that they’ve read a great article in the church magazine a few months (or even years!) ago and would love to be able to find it again but there is not currently an easy way to do this! Having the magazine online also allows you as readers to easily share our articles with people you know, via social networks or email, or even a text message! It also allows people to have much broader discussions around articles that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
There are also some very practical reasons for the change at this time. Adam and Sue, who have been the editors of the magazine for many years, feel that God is leading them in a different direction with their time and are therefore no longer able to continue to put together the magazine together. This gave us as a communications team a great opportunity to really seek God and his direction for the magazine.
A few people have said to me that they are fearful of ‘blogs’, and that they don’t really understand them. If you can use the internet, then you have probably already used a blog! In the very early days of the internet, blogs were essentially individuals’ personal sites, where they would periodically add new ‘posts’ about whatever they chose to write about. Since then blogs have grown and developed into full-blown magazines, with many authors, writing many different articles!
The Holland Road magazine/blog will have very similar articles to the old printed version of the magazine, plus a few more! We also now have the flexibility to be able to deliver video as part of the magazine. Also, instead of all the articles appearing at the same time at the end of the month, they will appear periodically throughout the week as you would expect from any online magazine.
We’re just getting started with this project, and we’re looking forward to discovering where God is going to take us with it as we journey with him!