Discipleship for busy blokes: conversation with lots of blokes about life, faith and what it means to follow Jesus!
Episode 26: Special Edition on Loneliness with Mark, Gordon, Liam and Nick
In a special and extended edition of the podcast, we feature four of Elim’s MPower team: Mark Lyndon-Jones, Gordon Allan, Liam Husband and Nick Whittome.
We have gathered some of the team to speak especially via the podcast into a big issue affecting men’s lives: loneliness.
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Mark explains that men can find it hard to build and maintain friendships and avoid isolation – and the recent pandemic has undoubtedly made this worse.
Isolation is a real threat to men: King David slipped morally with Bathsheba once he was isolated. And despite the availability of social media and messaging, men don’t always connect in a way that is healthy. Mark reported that the suicide rate in England and Wales in 2019 was the highest for 20 years, with 3 of 4 of these being men. The highest risk age group for suicide is men aged 45-49.
The MPower team believes it is absolutely crucial to speak into this issue to offer men a way forward, and to remind men that God loves them and that he has a plan for their lives.
Mark shares a couple of stories of how isolation has been playing out for a couple of the men in his network.
Liam shares the story of a man connected with a former church who had been in and out of prison. He was very difficult to connect with, no matter what was done for him – and very sadly he took his own life on Boxing Day. Liam said that he and the guys from that church responded to the tragedy by being so much more intentional about connecting, because even though we might be surrounded by people, we may still have few meaningful connections.
Gordon identifies a whole range of reasons why different men might feel isolated or lonely, but he also reminds us that under God, we are never truly alone, because we belong to Him as our heavenly Father.
Spending time in the bible and spending time in prayer helps us to remember that God is always with us and for us. Church is a family and a connected body, and Jesus promises us that he will not leave us orphans and that we will receive the Holy Spirit, as sons of God.
Gordon also reminds us that Jesus himself experienced loneliness in the wilderness, in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.
Nick reminds us too that the Bible offers us powerful rescripting to counter the negative messages we may have received from all sorts of sources which might be driving us towards isolation through falsehoods we might be wrongly believing. He reminds us that Jesus calls us his friends.
To counter loneliness in practical ways, Mark suggests that as the pandemic begins to lift we should now start connecting with friends – and sometimes it’s good to make it about them even if it us who is feeling lonely. Perhaps have a coffee and take a walk, or maybe play some sport – just connect.
Gordon suggests we ask God to reveal us the truth about us from the bible, and get our ourselves to church and get involved! We need to get a passion, and get a project. Once men are working on something jointly they will open up. We need to check around us to see who needs our help, and to count our blessings.
Liam rightly points out that the biggest challenge is reaching out in the first place, and admit that vulnerability to ourselves. Being involved and helping at church is such a great help for blokes struggling with loneliness. Community sheds are also a great way for guys to connect – Google ‘community shed’.
Before closing this important episode in prayer, Mark encourages us all to keep inviting those guys in our networks who might be on the fringes of church or who don’t know Jesus. He also recommends that we listen to an audio reading of the bible via YouVersion.
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Episode 25 with James Glass
We are chatting with James Glass, who is the Elim Regional Superintendent for the North West of England and for Scotland. James is married to Beryl who is also an ordained Elim minister and they have three children aged 24, 21 and 16.
In this episode of the podcast we discuss the idea of truth: how culture interprets, handles and presents truth, and how far that might differ from what the bible says about truth.
James suggests that in our western culture there is a prevailing trend for relativism, which is the postmodern idea that we each have our own truth, and that there is no such thing as objective truth.
In this way of thinking, things like ‘fake news’ come to the fore, as seen particularly under President Trump’s administration; or we have telling ‘your truth’ and ‘my truth’, as seen in the Oprah interview with Harry and Meghan.
On the one hand it seems that we do really want ‘the truth’ and to be sure that things aren’t just made up; and yet at the same time we don’t like purely objective truth – and this is a tension that our present-day culture struggles to resolve.
We talk about the debate over the numbers in attendance at President Trump’s inauguration, and ask whether politicians are especially prone to difficulty with truth. James makes the point that no one seemed able to come out with genuinely balanced commentary during Trump’s presidency – things were either strongly for or strongly against him, but no sensible middle ground. Perhaps this made worse by a whole swathe of people feeling that they weren’t well represented.
James shares some thinking from the philosopher John Gray, former professor of European thought at London School of Economics and visiting professor at Harvard and Yale. Gray’s perspective is the much of western politics seems built on Christian ideals, yet with the kingdom and person of God stripped out. When politicians throughout history (including figures like Pontius Pilate) start trying to make the truth subservient to an ideology, the situation can become really dangerous and not just truth becomes casualty – people themselves get damaged. Jesus’ trial was based on a religious ideology taking supremacy over the truth.
After noting Justin Welby’s response to Harry and Meghan about the true point at which they were really married, we ask whether the church has the responsibility to tell the truth always. James wisely advises that we can be more effective as Christians in the arena of truth-telling when the church picks its battles – a bit like wise parenting!
James reminds us that truthfulness is enshrined in the ten commandments: ‘we shall not bear false witness’. It affects our personal relationships, and not being truthful erodes political credibility. He draws some great analogies: in taking a aeroplane flight we really need to know that the pilot flying the plane is just not ‘making things up’; or in crossing a bridge that the structural engineer is not just ‘inventing’ equations!
For the apostle Paul, the truth of the resurrection is the ‘yes or no’ hinge point for Christian belief: it either happened or it didn’t.
And in answer to the question about where men should take a stand on the issue of the truth, James again wisely reminds us of the need to keep in step with the Holy Spirit about the times when we need to be courageous, versus the times when we need to be wise! Sometimes we are battling with unregenerate minds, and we have to decide just how fruitful we are going to be in making a point of pursuing truth.
On the other hand, we should always stand up for others if they are being misrepresented, and make sure that false witness does not prevail.
James offers some great advice for blokes who perhaps struggle with always telling the truth.
We conclude that truth-telling usually needs accompanying with k
Episode 24 with James Aladiran
We are chatting in this episode with James Aladiran who leads Prayer Storm, a charity that aims to “gather people together around divine encounters and equip them to be increasingly fervent and strategic in prayer.”
James opens by telling us about his family and explaining the background to his journey towards Prayer Storm. He confesses that to begin with he never had an ambition for Christian ministry as such, and on top of that hated public speaking! He likens how he felt about his speaking ability to one of those really bad X-Factor candidates who can’t sing!
He then shares about a turning point in around the year 2000 in a meeting where the Holy Spirit really took hold of him in an unusual way, however, delivering him from holding back and birthing a fire in him to speak about God, describing it as a personality transplant!
He also shares openly and honestly about how marriage is like a crucible or an amplifier, where lots of things in our lives suddenly get a much bigger focus for change from God. Becoming a dad also then takes this process to the next level, requiring us to dig deep and hard into our maturing process, making us want to be the kind of person that our kids aspire to become.
James speaks candidly about four main issues that he sees are facing blokes in 2021: purity, identity, security and spirituality. If there is one thing that really stands out for him as ‘charged’ in our society right now, that is a huge challenge for men, it is the area of sexual purity – in thought and action. He feels that the church needs to be spiritual hospital where people feel they can go and get wholeness and healing, rather than being shamed about it, although sadly this is not always the case. (Note from MPower: visit https://mailchi.mp/m/destroying-the-stronghold-of-sexual-impurity for a sexual impurity stronghold buster you can pray through daily for 40 days)
James identifies strongly with both Moses and Elijah from the bible. He wants the same connection with God that Moses had – that he can walk with God as a friend. He also prizes how Moses interceded for the undeserving nation of Israel. He is also really stirred by the prophecy of Joel that the Holy Spirit will be poured out on all people.
We press into the issue of unanswered prayer. James believes there is a mystery connected with prayer that has not yet been answered: just as Elijah kept on praying for rain, we need to keep being persistent in prayer, and stand on what God has told us. Sometimes though we also need to check our motivation about the unanswered prayer: is it coming from a place of taking offence at God, or is it coming ultimately from a place of trust in God’s character? If we are trusting in the middle of the mystery, then we are being positioned for greater revelation.
James also reminds us that we must not let our unanswered prayers become the definition of our prayer life. Whether our prayer needs are met or not, we still have a relationship with Him. If God were not going to answer any further prayers, He has already done enough!
James shares a great testimony from a time when a missing cartilage in someone’s knee got formed from nothing during some worship; and some of the recent Prayer Storm livestreams have also seen great turnarounds in people’s situations in response to worship and prayer. He also reports that there have also been some stunning answers to personal financial needs – sometimes to the exact amounts of finance requested!
He encourages us all as men to keep on contending strongly for the breakthroughs we seek.
James admits to a liking for Jaguar cars, and shares about a wonderful holiday in Spain at a villa with an infinity pool.
He closes in prayer for all the guys listening.
A great conversation, James, thanks so much from all of us in Elim and in the men’s MPower ministry!
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Episode 23 with Luca Russo
In this episode we are chatting with Luca Russo, who looks after the livestream production and the student and twenties ministry at Birmingham City Church in Birmingham UK, as well helping to lead worship on Sundays and create video productions.
Luca is Italian, the son of a pastor from Sicily, and he became a Christian as a teenager in a youth camp. He went on to study in bible college, and has always wanted to serve God with his life. Luca is married to Deb and they have a son.
Luca shares his strong confidence in God’s capacity to provide for his needs, because of the number of times that God has come through for him and his family, again and again, even if it has come through at the last minute!
He also reports a time when he had bronchitis so badly at the age of 17 that he had to go for a hospital for a week. Initial x-rays showed some very concerning scarring, but after praying with his dad, Luca received complete healing, so much so that the doctor called it a complete miracle. As men we are prone to trying to fix things ourselves, but Luca advises us to trust God’s character and capacity more often!
Luca relates strongly to the character of David in the bible, because of his humanity. What marks David out was that every time he got things wrong, he had the ability to keep on returning to his heavenly Father’s house straightaway in repentance. If you sometimes don’t feel as spiritual as Jesus as a man, then all you have to do is look to David for a great biblical example!
We play the spin wheel, and Luca shares his love of football and how he grew up playing it in the streets in his home nation of Italy. He also admits to being excellent at Fifa on his games console.
Luca also highly recommends his Boss Tuner app which he uses all the time to tune his guitar, which works brilliantly.
He also really enjoys his Pure electric scooter which he uses to ride in to church, with his son on board! It takes 4 hours to charge, and whisks him to his train station in the morning really quickly. In has a better range in warmer weather of up to around 18 miles but quite a lot less in colder weather, and can almost reach 26 miles per hour.
Luca closes the podcast for us all in prayer. Thank you Luca, it was a great chat! https://vurbl.com/station/6UHJxuc7etf/
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Episode 22 with Mark Ryan
We are in conversation with Mark Ryan, Pastor of Birmingham City Church.
Mark became a Christian in the mid-70s through an R.E. teacher who was the pastor of a small Pentecostal church.
Mark’s interest in Christianity grew as his class worked through the gospel of Luke in school, and it was after Mark got invited to church by his teacher that he made a decision for Jesus.
He shares a strange encounter with God when he was filling in a survey about whether to go into Christian ministry, which convinced him that he was called to it.
Mark went to bible college and on from there to lead a number of different churches in his journey of ministry.
He explains that strong and good older male role models have really helped him move forward in life, and that he has always felt God’s pleasure over him as his heavenly Father. He also describes a deep reverence for the holiness and majesty of God too.
Mark’s connection with his own father was interrupted because of some absence overseas through work, and then through his premature death with Mark was only 8.
Mark describes his current teaching season from the book of Nehemiah, and points out that sometimes we all just need to respond to the needs of the hour more than always being able to operate in our main gifts: jewellery and perfume makers help Nehemiah by mucking in and reconstruct the walls.
Mark also counsels wisdom from Nehemiah about how opposition to us works – often there will be a surface reason, and then underlying reasons. We need to develop a reflective capacity to see what’s really going on.
Nehemiah was also able to avoid distractions from the rebuilding work at hand, staying fully on purpose, just as Jesus saw through his calling to completion on the cross.
We chat about Mark’s new book called The Pastor’s Soul Care, which he wrote in response to all the pressure that church and ministry leaders have been facing as a result of the pandemic. Through the book, Mark highlights a few key areas to help pastors have clarity of thinking and keep them functional. Do what you know to do, and do it well; and make sure you’ve got some friends around you helping you. You can order the book from www.pastorssoul.com, and you can also access some free downloadables for leaders there too.
Mark identifies strongly with the story of Saul, David and Absalom, and in particular David and his mighty men. David had the patience to wait for the right moment, even though he was anointed and even though he was in the right. Being able to wait is a real key to manhood. And a great insight for men is to know which leaders to coalesce around, just as the men of Issachar did.
Following on from the observation that Saul never really tackled his insecurities, Mark gives some great wisdom on how blokes can face their insecurities: always get something from God in our time with Him; and then also make sure we have a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy in our world. The ‘Paul’ person gives us something to look up to; we can relax and connect with the ‘Barnabas’ person; and helping the ‘Timothy’ person is a great and godly model for us all to heal our insecurities.
We play Spin The Wheel, which brings up App and also Food/Fitness. Mark highly recommends the app What3Words. For fitness he also advises blokes to get the right kit to support any fitness endeavours, and to avoid snacking.
Mark closes in prayer for all the blokes listening – great conversation Mark, thanks!
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Episode 21 with Steve Legg
We celebrate 3,000 plays in episode 21, in conversation with Steve Legg, evangelist, escapologist, comedy magician and editor of Sorted Magazine.
Steve is the only bloke in his household with 6 other females (7 if you count the dog), and as you might imagine he occasionally pines for male banter about football!
He opens with an incredible story of leading three hundred people to Jesus from the main stage at the occult Festival of the Dead in Mexico.
We also chat about how he came to launch Sorted Magazine after a conversation with his accountant, after lamenting the questionable quality of ‘lads mags’ in general. Steve describes how the first edition was a big step of faith financially, but God rewarded his risk with a generous donation following the first edition.
Now enjoying its 13th birthday since launch, Sorted Magazine is now widely available and sold in newsagents around the UK and internationally alongside GQ and FHM. Two different airline pilots have become Christians as a result of picking up a copy of the magazine in airport departure lounges. It goes into 75 prisons and has been known to cause scuffles among the inmates when there aren’t enough copies to go around. It
The magazine has an annual subscription price of £21, and it boasts some incredible stars, such as Bear Grylls, John Boyega and Jenson Button. Steve sources articles through personal relationships, people coming to the UK to promote their movies or journalist interviews.
Subscribe at https://www.sortedmagazine.men/
Steve’s favourite bible verse is Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” His favourite character is Ananias from the book of Acts who was ready, available and friendly, and therefore open to be being used by God in the story of the conversion of Saul to Paul.
Steve describes how he became a Christian after getting home from a Boys Brigade summer camp in Devon. Steve has gone on to become really well-known for his evangelistic gifts, because (in his words) good news is for sharing!
We play spin-the-wheel – and game, car and app came up. Steve reports he loves quizzes and Trivial Pursuit, and admits to winning good prizes occasionally through pub quizzes! Steve likes his very reliable Skoda; and he thinks the Waze route-planning app is tremendous.
As is the custom on the dfbbpodcast, Steve closes for all the blokes listening in prayer.
Thanks for a really lively, fun and uplifting chat, Steve, it was great!
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I thank God for these podcasts!
It’s a real blessing to hear other men talk about their challenges, and what their relationship is like with the Lord.
We are not alone, we are a band of brothers in Jesus.