Are football fans putting Christians to shame?

ImageAt first glance this question sounds outrageous and somewhat comical especially with all the negative media attention surrounding football at this current moment in time. This last month has seen many damning comments about the integrity of the game and the conduct of both players and fans alike. However the more you look beyond the initial negative press and look at the evidence, the opening question begins to seem a little less comical.

In Matthew’s gospel (22:34-40), the Pharisees questioned Jesus asking what the greatest commandment was; he replied “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” I’m sure these words will be very familiar to most of us and we will have read or heard this passage spoken at least once in our lives. The reason for this is simple as Jesus said himself (v39) “This is the great and foremost commandment”, it is the blueprint for Christian living laid out plain and simple for all to see. Jesus continued, “The second is like it, you shall love your neighbour as yourself”. Now I wonder how many of us can genuinely say we have followed those commandments.

Let’s switch our attention back to football fans for a moment. We all know that officially no football team is a religion in its own right, however I put it to you that some football fans love their chosen team (their god) with more of their heart, soul and mind than some Christians love God. Before you dismiss this idea completely let’s look at the evidence- every weekend hundreds of thousands of football fans gather up and down the country, embarking on a weekly pilgrimage across the country to wherever their team are playing to join with fellow fans to watch their chosen team and players. Huddled in the stands, through wind and rain, fans support their team full-heartedly with a passion unseen in most churches today; cheering, shouting, clapping and displaying banners. Songs echo around the ground exalting, praising and encouraging players whilst celebrating past successes. I wonder if this description of football fans praising their team mirrors the praise given each Sunday morning in our churches.

Let’s look further. Some extreme football fans would openly admit that their chosen football team comes above anything else in their life. Nothing emphasises this point better than a banner that is seen week in week out at Old Trafford stadium- the home of Manchester United football club. The banner simply states the fan’s priorities in life- “United, kids, wife. In that order”Image and since its first unveiling has become synonymous with the club. Many football fans have centred their lives on their chosen football club, travelling huge distances and overcoming many obstacles to ensure they can be at the ground to watch their team. I wonder if we were to honestly look at our own priorities in life if God would genuinely be in front of our children, wife, friends, job and other commitments. Would we really travel for hours, against all obstacles to ensure we were at church on time each week?

I can imagine that comical question earlier isn’t looking too comical anymore. For many fans their identity lies in the team they support; fans will proudly and unashamedly plaster themselves, homes and cars in club memorabilia signifying their allegiance to that team. This passion for a team unites people, creating an inherent sense of community, a family of like-minded people, overcoming many barriers in place in society today such as sex, age, race and upbringing that would normally divide people. Children are brought up into this family, educated and inducted. Passion, knowledge and memories are passed from generation to generation. For football fans’, supporting their team doesn’t end when the final whistle goes, it is a lifelong passion. Over the years fans constantly check for news, updates and information to ensure they are as up to date as possible with their team. This constant learning and accumulation of information inevitably leads to discussions with rival fans, both trying to convince the other that their team is the best team to follow. This comprehensive knowledge and passion allows them to confidently debate, and even if they’re knocked back, the ingrained love they have for their team will ensure this does not waver their support.

I think we should be asking ourselves; how do we show our unashamed allegiance to God to the world? What do we do when the final whistle goes and the sermon ends? Do we go off in search of more information, debating and discussing? The list could go on. There are many issues in the world of football today but it isn’t by chance that attendances at football matches easily exceed 30 million people a year in England alone.Image Football fans on the whole are passionate, knowledgeable, confident, proud, welcoming and committed it’s little wonder the ‘religion’ of football is growing. We can learn from football fans and I believe it is a challenge to us all. If football fans can produce such passion that spills out of their heart, body and mind for mere mortals playing a game… how much greater as saved sinners should our passion for Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour be.

 

Stefan Heasman.

The Power of Testimony

 
Recently we spent an evening with most of our small groups talking about our story with God. A few leaders shared personal experiences of their lives, including some very traumatic moments, and explained how God either intervened or how He was the firm foundation on which they could stand.
 
The young people were stunned to silence, the atmosphere in the room was all you could wish for as a youth worker – God had moved powerfully amongst everyone in the room through these accounts.
 
During the evening everyone took time to reflect on what God had done so far in their story, whilst understanding that everyone they’d heard from had a lifetime of experience – more than the teenage years barely experienced by most of the people in the room.
 
The time to sit, reflect, and talk amongst friends in a safe place that encourages honesty is invaluable at any age. It seems for the teenagers we work with that this is a practice they are able to find little time for. We hope we do all we can to cultivate a culture of meeting regularly to talk about life, the difficulties, and pray for one another. It is a vital part of life.
 
Jesus and his disciples walked great distances. Going for a walk or travelling together is a great way of finding time to talk with one another, to share difficulties, comfort one another, encourage one another, and admonish one another. We are made to live in community, what is this if not a vital part of that?
 
It’s like being in a band and having a good jam together – nothing planned, just wasting time. It seems that our cultural influence tells us wasting time is a bad thing. We compartmentalise work, sleep, and leisure, all of which have a purpose and leave no time for spontaneity or to get around to a point where we can share the harder aspects of life.
 
This is certainly a practice we endeavour to encourage and model ourselves. If only the week had more hours.
 
Tell us what you think;
 

It’s Just a Phase part II

Things that children and young people attach meaning to can sometimes seem trivial or insubstantial to adults, but we need to remember that the fact that a child or young person finds something significant makes it such.  Things are all relative. 

Perhaps, rather than seeking to console ourselves over the more worrying things by writing it off as ‘just a phase’, we might do better to try and understand where this ‘phase’ has come from and what it means for our child, and for our relationship with them.  If we don’t do this, the child will almost always pick up on our ambivalence towards this part of their life, which may leave them feeling at best ambivalent towards us in return, and at worst rejected, belittled, misunderstood and angry.

Although it may feel like unchartered territory to try to understand a young person’s preoccupation with a particular band and their work, their desire to adopt a certain style of dress, the need they feel to control what they eat, surely is it better to find out what meaning these things hold for our young person.  If we can do this in a sympathetic and supportive way that comes from a genuine desire to know him or her better, rather than a desire to fix things or simply get them out of this ‘phase’ as quickly as possible, then perhaps we might come to understand them better and start to see the world through their eyes.  That could be the first step in helping them to understand their feelings and choices and perhaps together we can seek to overcome unhelpful ‘phases’ and embrace the individuality within each of us.

 Joy Wright

It’s Just a Phase part I

It’s Just a Phase

A few things lately have got me thinking about this commonly used phrase.  It’s something I have said from time to time about my own kids when they have been doing something funny or concerning.  When my son goes around roaring at people or my daughter was fixated on picking up stones as a toddler.  It’s a phrase used to explain away various childhood oddities in a harmless manner.  However, recently I have begun thinking about its use in a more negative light also.

For example, when a child or young person is doing – or not doing something that causes their parents to worry, like refusing to eat properly, displaying challenging behaviour or showing an interest in leisure activities that parents don’t approve of.  In such situations it’s a phrase others often use to give them comfort.  

“Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.”

A phase in this sense is defined as a stage in a process of change or development.  As we know, childhood and adolescence is a time of so much change and some of this can be challenging for children and parents alike.  It’s true, children do go through harmless phases of things, like being obsessed with a certain toy or character.  However, more worrying behaviours or attitudes need to be understood and learnt from, rather than being written off as simple ‘a phase’.  Doing this can devalue the experience the child is going through and undermine any sense of understanding or being ‘in it together’ between parent and child.  It can be a way of dismissing whatever the cause for concern is, as nothing more than a childish whim which is relatively meaningless and will soon pass to be replaced by something equally unimportant.

Imagine for a moment, how a child or young person might feel if this was applied to their passion for sport or music, their following of a band or artist who they find gives expression to their feelings and  questions, their eating disorder.

“It’s just a phase, you’ll grow out of it.”

Part II of this topic will be in a couple of weeks.

Joy Wright

End of Term

And so, as always at this time of year, we reach the end of the school term. In the youth office here that sometimes means we can heave a sigh of relief as we reflect over the last term. It’s an important time for us, as we give thanks to God for the work he has done through us, learn from our mistakes, and look forward to what the New Year will bring.

 

With the Autumn term being as it is, the busiest through the year, we have seen the challenge of our culture that resides with an attitude saying, “do as much as you can.” Sometimes this attitude goes further and reads, “do as much as you can while you are young, because you won’t be able to when you are older.” What a load of rubbish. This term we’ve been encouraged by the young people we come into contact with every week. There is a growing sense of community within this age bracket that breaches the walls of our church. Hallelujah!!

 

Some particular highlights have been gathering our small groups together to hear what they think of the youth work – what is done well, not so well, and – most importantly – what they want this youth work to be. What a joy to work with teenagers in ministry. For some of these young people, I’m beginning to see them as my co-workers rather than young people. What God is doing in them is an amazing witness.

 

One of out last tricks of the term tends to be Christmas assemblies where we get a chance to say what Christmas is really about. At the end of the term we look forward to the opportunity to share Jesus with 900 young people! Join us in prayer for this end of term celebration – without prayer our words will fail where His truth prevails.

Soul Survivor 2012

Each summer we are thrilled to take the young people from various groups we run away to a festival called Soul Survivor. Over the years we’ve taken hundreds of different people and it is always great to see how they all grow over the five days. Here is what one young person made of it this year after going for the firt time;

 

Soul Survivor 2012

Soul Survivor is a Christian Youth event which gathers around 30,000 young people a year over four separate weeks to worship and meet with Jesus. As there are so many people wanting to attend Soul Survivor the event is split up into the four- Week A, B, C and ‘Momentum.’ Week A, B and C are aimed at teenagers and ‘Momentum’ is aimed at people aged 20-30. Guildford Baptist Church attended week B and had an incredible time despite it being a mud bath on the first two days. The main idea of Soul Survivor is to worship Jesus and there is no end of this. There are two main meetings every day in a massive tent which fits around 11,000 people and we spend time worshiping, praying and learning about God and his word. God’s presence was definitely there and over 1500 people made the decision to follow Jesus over the two weeks A and B. It was clear that many were healed in various ways too. When you see the things God is doing in people’s lives it is a real faith boost, makes you truly thankful for what God has done and there is no doubt that God is real- not just a myth. It is proof that the Holy Spirit is alive and is working in the lives of thousands! Not only were there main meetings in a massive tent but there were also many seminars such as “Soul Man Meets Soul Sister” which is about sex and relationships in God’s eyes and what he thinks of it. Other seminars were “Leadership,” “Why does God allow Suffering?” and “10 ways to get deeper with God” and many, many more. The most amazing thing was to see God’s power healing and touching many.

5 Tips for anyone going next year:

* Prepare for all weathers

* Buy a programme (Without this you will not know what is going on)

* Bring a deck chair (unless you enjoy sitting on the floor)

* Turn up early for events to get good sets

* Bring some spending money (you’ll find you are hungry all the time)

Daniel James