Reflections on 1 year of UTB

Understand the Bible has now been going for one year! (Well, more or less – was registered on 26th November 2019). It’s been a funny year in all sorts of ways. One year ago, when God gave me the opportunity to begin this ministry, I never dreamed where we would be one year later. Coronavirus, lockdowns, BLM, how much has happened! It seems like the world has changed completely.

In a funny kind of way, I think the lockdowns have actually been good for UTB. It gave me some extra time to be able to develop the App and to work on a few new courses. I think more people have been considering Christian things as well.

Let me run through what I’ve been able to do in the last 12 months of UTB.

What happened in 12 months of UTB

  • I produced about 120 videos which have been uploaded to the YouTube channel.
  • I developed the teaching programme. This was something I created entirely from scratch. At least it meant I was able to put my software development skills from a previous life to good use!
  • I also developed the mobile app – first time I’d ever developed an app. I think it’s not bad for a first app, but when I get the time I will go back and revisit it.
  • I’ve completed several new courses: What is Christianity, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the How to Live as a Christian series have all been completed in the last year.
  • I’ve completed one or two blog series, most recently Get to know God.
  • I also started several regular features – Thought for the Week, Learn to read the Bible, and Your questions answered.
  • Finally, I think the website is looking much better than it did at the start of the year. I think it could stand to be improved, but it’s much better than it was.

It’s been a busy old year! But let me move on to talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Reflections on the year

Getting something started from scratch is really hard

I don’t think I quite appreciate how hard it is to start something from scratch. I suppose that’s the only reason anyone ever does it, or at least, does it for the first time! In some respects it’s been a long, hard slog. I don’t want to make it out to be like it’s been a really difficult year – there have been lots of blessings.

2 corinthians 5:7, "for we walk by faith and not by sight"

But it takes strength to keep putting out content – videos, blog posts, etc – when there doesn’t seem to be much interest in watching them. It’s helped me to really focus on the reason I started UTB in the first place: there aren’t really any other places on the internet which teach the Christian faith in the same way. Understand the Bible is unique. For me, it’s been an exercise in walking by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). You have to focus not so much on the present, but on the future.

Over the last few months, my mind has often gone to Noah. God asked him to build a boat in the middle of the desert. How ridiculous! And yet, he started building – and his faithfulness was rewarded. I have sometimes felt like Noah – creating videos and courses which teach the Christian faith, which not many people are watching right now. And yet, I have faith and trust that God will use them in due course.

Publishing regularly really helps

Over the summer, I did some reading up about how to get websites going. One thing they suggested was publishing regularly. So, since September, I made the decision to start publishing much more regularly than I was doing. Initially this was three times a week, but I’ve now extended this so I publish something every weekday on this blog. I publish videos three or four times a week.

It seems to have begun to work: the algorithms which run the internet now seem to have noticed and the website traffic has begun to increase. The number of people who subscribe to UTB on YouTube has slowly increased.

In some ways it feels a bit like being a slave to the algorithm: if you publish regularly, the algorithm will reward you with more visitors. At the same time, I think publishing regularly isn’t a bad thing, so long as you’re producing useful things. It’s the reason I started the Thought for the Week and the Learn to read the Bible series, and I think both of those have been appreciated. Writing regularly can actually be a good discipline – perhaps it’s no bad thing to be forced into doing it!

God is faithful

The biggest lesson I’ve learned over the last year is that God is faithful. This has been shown in many ways. Let me just give you one example. At the end of 2019, I was thinking that I needed to get a new computer: I had been producing videos on my old laptop, which was getting very slow. I needed something faster, but the problem was computers are expensive. Or at least, the kind of computers you edit video on are expensive. I had a figure in my mind of about £1000, which I didn’t have.

Anyway, before Christmas, we were at our church cafe’s Christmas meal. I was chatting to someone who wasn’t from our church. She just happened to be there that year, and she said that someone else had told us about our situation and UTB. A day or two later, she rang up and said her son had been saving up some money and wanted to give it to us. It turned out to be exactly £1000. That money went on a new computer, which I’ve been using to produce the UTB videos for the last year.

That’s not the only time coincidences like that have happened. Every time I or the family have needed something, God has provided. We have not gone without this year. God is faithful.

A time for thanksgiving

I just wanted to give thanks to God for his faithfulness in sustaining UTB over the last year. I’d also like to give thanks for all those who’ve participated in UTB – whether via YouTube, Facebook, or the website. It’s been a joy to see that people have been appreciating it (I’ve collected some comments on the Testimonials page).

My prayer for UTB is that God would use it to help many people come to faith and grow in their faith. That’s why I do what I do here. I thought I’d finish with Psalm 100, which seems appropriate:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures for ever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.
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