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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/
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!
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!
In this episode we are chatting with Piet Van Waarde, a pastor at Shoreline Church in Texas, America - a longstanding friend of 'Discipleship For Busy Blokes' podcast host, Nick Whittome.
We are discussing a parable both of us have gained so much from over the years – the parable of the Prodigal Son.
Piet shares how the younger son in the parable reflects his own experience as someone raised in a Christian home who decided to go off to live a life of wild living, self-indulgence and drug-taking.
He shares a ‘coming to his senses’ moment after a huge party that totally trashed his apartment. A friend was delighted at the mayhem afterwards, declaring to Piet: ‘We’re always going to live like this’ – but a realisation rose up in Piet that this was really not the life he wanted.
Piet contends that wild living, partying and drinking is really not all cracked up to be – and he agrees that some blokes do have to reach the end of themselves before turning to God.
There seem to two main reasons that turn people to a different way of life: the pain of the present existence makes an alternative necessary; or the hunger for a better experience is what turns into a search. Some guys are a little thick-headed and have to go through the pain!
We explore why the younger son seems to cast himself in the role of a servant. Piet identifies the source of this lowered status as rooted in shame at the former lifestyle and wastefulness. The rehearsed speech of the younger son is a sign of genuine repentance, and is exactly the point where God loves to extend his grace.
A background for the story is that the Pharisees were critiquing Jesus’ outreach to the lost, and the parable was Jesus’ response to them - and the older brother is emblematic of a lot of the Christian church today, where we tell ourselves that we would not ever be rebellious like the younger son, and yet we can also so easily slip into a dangerous disdain for those who have not figured out how to live life with God in a healthy way.
It’s about the three Rs – rebellion (younger son), religion (older son) and relationship (right connection with the Father).
Another teaching hinted at in the parable is the need for us to live with margin. Wild living makes a presumption on our own future, that there will never be a crisis coming – and yet the younger son does get caught out. Part of his restoration is to realise that margin is a blessing of relationship with the Father.
Our contemporary culture sells us the lie that independence from the Father is the way to go, but it is essentially empty. The enemy does a great job of twisting things that are meant to be deeply life-affirming, like sexual relations and genuine celebration.
The welcome, the embrace, the cloak, the ring and the celebration are all expressions of the extravagant grace of God as Father towards us – and a picture of how we ourselves should welcome sinners, in turn.
There are big parallels between the older brother and Jonah’s sulk out in the desert! Piet counsels that to avoid being like the older brother we need to make sure we have people around us who can speak to our attitudes about others – do we see every single person as a beautiful expression of God’s creative work, in which every person is valuable to God?
Piet closes the episode in prayer. A great chat Piet- thanks!
In this important episode, we are in conversation with Mark McClurg, Pastor of Ards Elim Church in Newtownards, County Down in Northern Ireland.
Mark described how he contracted coronavirus amongst some of the first wave of those infected with the illness in March 2020. He started feeling unwell, and when he started to experience chest pain, one of the nurses in his church told him to take himself to A&E, even though he did not have the other usual symptoms.
He was triaged swiftly, because his oxygen levels were low and his temperature had started to peak by this time, and he was then taken into the COVID ward after a positive test for the virus. He was given 70% oxygen, then 80% - then 100%.
He describes the feeling of not being able to breath as though someone had dropped two bags of broken glass into his lungs, battling with every painful breath, like running uphill.
Mark shares that he had a really hard conversation with his wife Claire, in which he told her he thought he was going to die.
The hospital then transferred him into ICU, which required them locking the whole hospital down to let him through, with porters guarding doors.
Mark prayed that first night alone in ICU for help and healing. The Lord said to him in reply that he was “more than a conqueror”, which encouraged him to face his battle.
The doctors told him they would have to put him on a full ventilator if he didn’t improve – and at that time the stats coming out of Italy for people going onto a ventilator were not at all good.
During this time Mark was listening to worship music, and one song messaged him by his niece, Sanctus Real’s “Unstoppable God”, was really strengthening him, as he worshipped from his heart as he couldn't use his voice.
He asked God to help him and heal him again – and he felt someone squeeze his hand. He looked about in surprise, as he’d not had any human touch in days, other than doctors getting lines into his arteries. He asked the nurse at the bottom of his bed whether she had squeezed his hand – and she said no. Then it happened again.
He was reminded of the phrase Jesus said to the little girl: ‘talitha koum’, and Mark gives full credit to Jesus for coming to him, and bringing him strength, healing, encouragement and more faith.
Mark also praises the NHS throughout our conversation.
From this point on, Mark knew that he was going to be OK. The following day his infection levels dropped dramatically, and the day after that, his need for oxygen started to drop.
Mark got returned to his ward, and as he was deciding how to pray, he was reminded of Joseph being raised up in a time of famine: he saw himself in the story, but being raised up in a time of fear instead.
Mark then posted a video on Twitter on his phone from his hospital bed, asking people to take coronavirus really seriously and to trust in Jesus.
It went viral, was seen by 1.8million people and made it onto the 6 o’clock news on the BBC, attracting worldwide attention.
Mark still struggles with the after-effects of coronavirus, with fatigue, breathlessness and also chest and back pain. He has also suffered from muscle deterioration. His doctors estimate it will take him a year to recover fully.
Mark says that his church have been amazing – praying for him continually, connecting together on WhatsApp for him, giving him time and space to make a recovery and supporting him and the family.
Mark asks for prayer from listeners that his lungs are not permanently scarred (pulmonary fibrosis), for his wife Claire to be restored emotionally and for kids to stay free from coronavirus in all our schools.
Mark closes in prayer for all of us, with a focus on those with the illness and also those caring for anyone with it.
In Episode 18, we are chatting with Boyd Ratnaraja, pastor at Elim Christian Centre in Aukland and head of Elim in New Zealand, which comprises a network of 38 churches around that nation.
We kick off with an unfortunate international time zone mess-up, which means Boyd is chatting over WhatsApp wifi audio at 7am in the morning his time, rather than 9am. (Thanks for being so gracious Boyd!)
Boyd who is originally from Sri Lanka introduces us to his wife and two young boys, and also shares a great story from his childhood about ‘playing church’ and practising pastoring, including baptising his twin brother Lloyd lots of times in their parents’ fish tank!
We talk about how God makes us feel so at home in different churches around the world, and the family atmosphere among Elim churches. Boyd says that his network of churches all have a sign saying ‘Welcome Home’ to affirm that sense of belonging for everyone participating.
Boyd describes a 21-day prayer initiative in Elim New Zealand, where they come together in prayer twice a year as a movement to seek God on lots of issues. He affirms that prayer is the foundation for everything they are about, bringing clarity, focus and prayer. Prayer should be a first response and not a last resort.
He always encourages men to kick-start their prayer life by starting where they are right now, even if it is just for 5 minutes a day. It’s the quality of our faith that makes the big difference, not the number of words we are speaking. Boyd prays throughout the day, and he prays with others, and he encourages us to use technology to connect with others to pray too.
As a self-confessed extrovert, Boyd says he likes to move around while praying – while out walking, or going down to the beach. We should be enjoying prayer, not, enduring it!
God has been speaking to Boyd recently about the faith of Abraham and Sarah, and how they were called to step out by faith, and to trust in God. If we take the first step, we can trust Him for the journey, and He will do the extraordinary provided we do the ordinary to initiate the process, in response to God’s call.
We unpack how blokes can easily become averse to risks in God, whereas we need to be modelling what steps of faith look like to the next generation. Caleb and Joshua looked the land with different eyes than their colleagues – with eyes of faith.
We talk about what the flip side to faith can produce, and discuss how Zechariah’s experience with doubt caused two of his senses to be temporarily removed. An applicable solution to feeling stuck in faith is to speak out God’s promises and truths.
Our ‘spin the wheel’ game reveals that Boyd experienced a time when God spoke incredibly strongly to him when he was in early twenties at a Hillsong Conference in 2003 about his future ministry; and also reveals an addiction to his son’s computer game ‘Cooking Fever’!
Boyd closed the podcast in prayer for all the guys listening. Thanks so much Boyd!
‘Discipleship For Busy Blokes podcast’ got a great opportunity recently to catch up briefly in conversation with Billy Vunipola, rugby player for Saracens and England.
Originally from Tonga, Billy and his family are now resident in England. He plays at Number 8 at the back of the scrum, and although he shares about notable games, tries scored and man of the match awards, he’s keen to stress how much it’s all about the team as a whole working together to gain victory.
He also shares about the special bond he has with his brother Mako, who is also in the same two teams, and how they sometimes chat in Tongan.
Billy describes the training and discipline needed to get match fit, and the importance of a balanced diet.
His parents always message Billy and Mako before their games to wish them all the best, and to encourage them to read Psalm 91.
Billy said that although he went to church with his parents all his life, he reports turning to Jesus after a feeling of emptiness and disappointment with trying some of the other things life had to offer.
He sees his ability with rugby as something God-given and a platform to reveal the glory of God, and he reports that his team-mates know about his faith.
Billy says his faith has been ‘a shoulder to cry on’ in tough times, but also an encouragement too, because the characters on the bible haven’t all been perfect nor have they had trouble-free lives. If we fail, we just need to pick ourselves up and move forward.
Rugby is similar to the church, in being made up of individuals from all different walks of life. We are to accept people as they are, we are not here to judge, and we are to come together to keep pressing towards being the best that we can be and to know Jesus better. And while there is there is space for individuals in a rugby team, there are also times when the individual has to give way to the team.
He is realistic about the occasional conflict between professional sport and faith. It’s about not stepping too far over the boundaries, but asking God forgiveness if you need, even though that is not permission to do the wrong thing.
With regard to navigating pain or disappointments, Billy reminds us that Job in the bible had things go wrong for him, even though he was blameless. Stuff can always go wrong, but God will always love us and forgive us.
Billy’s advice to a young person with a sporting talent is to keep on learning, and to keep listening to your coaches. And if there are failures or disappointments along the way, sometimes it’s because God has a big and better plan for you.
He closes in prayer for all the guys listening.
Thank you so much Billy, it was an honour that you would make the time for us. God bless!
In Episode 16 we are chatting with Elim’s national leader Chris Cartwright. Chris introduces himself, his wife Annie and his three grown-up children and briefly outlines his journey in faith and ministry, up to his current role as the General Superintendent of the Elim Pentecostal movement worldwide.
We ask the million-dollar question: how can really busy blokes manage all the different priorities they are confronted by? We all get pushed into an extraordinary level of ‘busyness’, but we mustn’t beat ourselves up about that!
Chris shares that he has been slowly working his way through the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer, along with a couple of really helpful principles for really busy blokes:
First is to try and avoid carrying things that can’t be dealt with today, but ask instead for wisdom, courage and energy at the time it is necessary to deal with those things.
Second is to become familiar with those things that energise us – whether it be worship, exercise, or being around nature (for example).
Lockdown has allowed some adjustments to the usual crazy pace, and an opportunity to re-evaluate some of our rhythms – and we mustn’t lose sight of what God has been saying to us in this time.
We explore a concept from Stuart Keir of Audacious Church about the difference between a load (Isaac carrying sticks up the hill, and able to put it down) and a burden (Abraham carrying an instruction up the hill, and unable to put it down), and how Chris deals with the continual weight of leadership burden.
He explains that he is making this more of a journey and a connection with God versus a set formula, by opening up to God honestly about concerns and issues, and asking for help and patience. Many things that seem pressing can be allowed some time before they get tackled – and we can ask for God’s help with these.
We sometimes give unwarranted attention to things that drain us – so by making our prayers really practical, it allows God to step in. Chris also observes that the load can and does build up over time, too – and it can creep up on us in a subtle way.
Chris talks about his love of Paul’s letters to Timothy, and the vulnerable honesty with which Paul shares his heart, mind and disappointments, especially in 2 Timothy 4.
Christ also shares his love of reading, and at present is working his way through Scattered Servants by Alan Scott, We Need To Talk About Race by Ben Lindsay and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell attributes success not only to innate ability and hard work but also ‘outrageous opportunity’.
Before closing in prayer for blokes listening, we play ‘Spin the Wheel’ and it turns up ‘car’ and also ‘journey’. Chris reveals that he wouldn’t mind owning an Aston Martin (wouldn’t we all!) and he also shares a staggering testimony from a 2009 trip to the west coast of America and Hawaii.
We’re in conversation with Maldwyn Jones, who has been an Elim minister for 54 years. Maldwyn is married to Ruth and they have three children and two grandchildren. He is proudly Welsh, and became a Christian when he was 14. He has been a pastor at several Elim churches including in Plymouth, Belfast and Birmingham.
In this podcast episode, we discuss why men find it hard to face mental health problems. Maldwyn shares about a time when he himself suffered a mental breakdown at the age of 27, which took him several months’ recuperation to overcome.
He points to several factors that helped him get better: his wife Ruth acknowledged the struggle without letting him slip into a morasse of depression; he had a daily routine supported by a mutual friend; he talked with the psychiatrist referred for him by his GP, and he spent a period of time doing physical work on a church building project, which helped him not just to feel useful but which also gave him better sleep at night.
Maldwyn talks about struggling with self-confidence, and with battling his own self-esteem for much of his ministry. He credits the increased confidence of his later years both to Jesus and also to the strong love and support of his wife Ruth.
He also describes the terrible issue of suicide particularly among younger men – and points to the love of God for us as men as the foundational starting point of who we are and for a strong sense of worth. He says that Philippians 3:10 (KJV) has been the biblical touchstone for his life and ministry: “That I may know him (Jesus), and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…”
Maldwyn’s own father died when he himself was only 14 months old, and he was known in the village as ‘the little boy without a dad’ – and he does feels that he missed out because of this, particularly in his teenage years when lads need a man about the house to show them how to be.
The fatherhood of God has been a vital factor in replenishing this loss – and also having older guys around him in his life and ministry who have really helped him in his life, mentoring and encouraging him.
He gives some great advice for guys needing to connect a bit more – which is to give other men permission to be in your life, perhaps looking to those a bit older who can encourage. Alongside this older guys also have a big responsibility to look out for younger men, to meet with them, talk and be fatherly.
Maldwyn closes for gents listening in prayer.
We are in a lively and fun conversation with Elim’s head of evangelism, Mark Greenwood, recorded just before the coronavirus lockdown in late February.
Mark opens by sharing the story of his family’s journey to faith in Christ, through a door-to-door evangelist called Brian Hardacre, who had only been a Christian himself for six days, amazingly!
We ask whether the way in which people come to faith can be a shaping influence in their later ministry, and Mark suggests this might be the case, referring to Bill Hull’s book “Conversion and Discipleship – You Can’t Have One Without The Other”
We also explore whether people can be effective in evangelism from very early on in their faith; and unpack how this works from one of Mark’s ‘life passages’, the story of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4. This woman didn’t have all the answers about Jesus, but was able to get across the essence of who He might be in the town – in contrast to the disciples.
Jesus knew with the Great Commission that if He could the disciples could back out there quickly after the resurrection, ministering and talking about Him, this in itself would be best to restore their confidence in their ministry and effectiveness.
We also look at the widening scope in the John 4 story of the awareness of just who Jesus is, leading to the realisation that He is the Saviour of the world.
Mark notes the capacity of Jesus to continue reaching people, even though the story says that he was tired and thirsty; and also the counterintuitive way in which He asks the woman to do something for Him. As Christians we can sometimes think the onus is always on us to serve and be kind – but He asks for help from the woman as an ‘opener’ to a meaningful and impactful conversation.
We talk about Mark’s new podcast, and look at the relationship between the ‘why’ and the ‘oomph’ i.e. once the purpose is worked through, that can often provide the necessary drive and momentum.
Mark provides some great advice about this to blokes listening, referencing another ‘life passage’, the Parable of the Talents. Those given the talents were all given something of great value, and also according (and this is key) to their ability. As guys we have to keep remembering what our ability really is – and go for that. Find out what are you good at and what you enjoy doing, take a leap of faith with it and also invest in it, with a sense of personal ownership.
Before Mark closes in prayer for listeners, we play ‘Spin The Wheel’, and talk about a car that Mark has always wanted: a Range Rover Evoque, and also getting it personalised plates to celebrate turning 50.
The game also turned up ‘insight’ and Mark unpacks 2 Corinthians 5:20: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” Mark also draws the really important distinction between ‘having to’ and ‘getting to’ – and always wanting his ministry to be characterised by the privilege it is to ‘get to’.
(Please note that the release of this episode was delayed because of the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, so one or two references discussed are a little out of synch…)
In this episode we are chatting with Will Neville, who is a member of Birmingham City Church. Will is a big West Bromwich Albion fan, enjoys rugby and golf and loves going out on his carbon-fibre road bike. Will plays drums on the worship team at BCC, he is married to Charlotte and they have a young son called Ben.
Will is programme coordinator at the William Booth Centre, which is a ministry of the Salvation Army providing services to homeless people, in the heart of Birmingham in the UK.
Following the divorce of his parents in 2005, Will frankly describes his early years in church as having two sides: one that he presented on a Sunday and another where he partied in the week.
He goes on to talk about a really difficult season in his life as he turned 21 when he tried to start repairing a relational breakdown with his dad. Just as he decided to connect again, his dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away before he had the chance to re-build things. Will admits that he felt very broken over the news, and he started to blame God about what had happened.
He disconnected from the church, started drinking heavily and increased his party lifestyle, all the while trying to put up a front. He resorted to stealing in order to continue his way of life, but then he came into some inheritance money, and carried on partying.
A friend then introduced him to casinos, and Will talks honestly and openly about what it’s like to fall into the grip of a full-blown addiction to gambling – sharing about both the thrill of the possibility in gambling, but also the heavy financial losses involved. Will contrasts an addiction to drugs, which he sees as always searching for that first high, with an addiction to gambling, which is continually seeking the thrill of the win.
Eventually Will wasn’t able to pay his rent, and he stayed with friends, but relational bridge after bridge kept being burnt as he begged, stole and borrowed to fund his habits, which now also included taking cocaine.
Will identifies strongly with the younger son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and understands from his own experience what it is like to be in need in the far off land.
A possibility of residential accommodation came up with a chance to complete his college placement, but he lost this chance as a result of a laptop theft – and suddenly Will found himself completely homeless, and being redirected to the Salvation Army in the centre of Birmingham.
Will ended up staying with the Salvation Army for just over a year – but quite early on his stay there, he was walking through the town centre, and he stopped to listen to some Christian music that BCC happened to be playing as part of some street outreach.
One of the team, Leon, gave him a hug and he just broke down. He then got invited to church that Sunday. Will decided to come along, Leon was waiting to greet him and then Pastor Mark Ryan had a word mid-sermon that happened to be for Will, about it not mattering how far we get from God, and that it only takes a step to come back to Him.
Will asked Jesus back into his life that day, and his life started to turned around.
Nowadays Will is a key leader in the Salvation Army centre that he originally stayed in as he was being helped back onto his feet, and even line manages the person who helped him when he first arrived!
From a practical point of view, Will gives five great bits of counsel for anyone listening who might want to know how to help organisations doing work like the Salvation Army: keep a compassionate heart for the lost; develop our understanding of the needs involved; give time; donate finance; and pray for homeless outreach ministries – wherever you live.
Before closing for us in prayer, Will also admits to an outrageous passion for coffee; and he also recalls with great fondness West Bromwich’s ‘great escape’ season when they avoided relegation.
In this brief but entertaining episode, we are in coronavirus lockdown conversation with podcast host Pastor Nick Whittome’s own middle son Simon!
Simon talks about what lockdown has meant for him with school closing in his GCSE year, and going forward on predicted grades rather than having to sit a whole lot of exams.
He has started his own small farm in the garden, with Greek cress, spicy Arabic broccoli and radishes, which he reports has turned out to be easier than he was anticipating, surprisingly!
Simon is taking Drama, Music and Maths, and he recounts some of the drama productions he has been in, and shares about some drama performances in the east end of London.
He shares a great impression of his English teacher Mr Laverty, and reveals a talent for a scary deep voice. Simon also plays us a bit of Scott Joplin on his keyboard.
Simon’s favourite story from the bible is when Herod is eaten by worms; and also the transformation of Saul into Paul on the road to Damascus.
He shares about making his A-level decisions on the basis that he both loves these subjects and he feels capable with these.
He also tells listeners about the general superiority of the colour orange, which he chose for his room.
Simon also shares about a family holiday in Pembrokeshire which was particularly memorable, as a result of severe storm – he subsequently wrote about this storm in an entrance exam for a school transfer.
Simon closes in prayer for everyone listening. Thank you Simon – it was fun!
In this episode, which we recorded by iphone and Bluetooth speaker because of the coronavirus lockdown, we are in conversation with Gordon Allan, the lead pastor of Edinburgh Elim Church.
Gordon opens briefly about his family, background and liking for rugby – and then we discuss the impact the coronavirus lockdown has had on life in the city and in his church and how it has affected the way in which they are ‘being church’ together.
Social isolation has brought a steep learning curve with many challenges of different kinds, even for a ministry that was already ‘tech savvy’.
This has included connecting with the congregation online and via social media and making sure that those on the periphery or who are vulnerable are being looked after.
Pre-existing intentions at Edinburgh Elim to create an online congregation have been rapidly accelerated, in line with so many churches globally in this season.
Technologies they are using include Facebook, WhatsApp, their own website, Zoom and the Life Church online church platform – and of course the phone.
After initial anxieties, people in the church have responded by seeing the season as a time to sharpen their faith, take charge of their emotions and use some of the lockdown for some sanctuary.
Gordon has found himself drawn to Psalm 20:7 ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord...’ By drawing near to Jesus, who is in charge of everything, it brings great reassurance, and this gives us some great opportunities in this season to connect meaningfully with a world too used to living for the ‘here and now’ and without the wider perspective on life that faith can strengthen us with.
Gordon also reminds us that every time the church scatters, the gospel does really well, and this has given him confidence that ultimately the church will be strengthened as a result of the virus in the long term, even as the virus causes so much difficulty and loss.
Being put on furlough is not necessarily all negative for blokes. With furlough, we have a very unusual opportunity to take some time, spend some time in the Word, connect with a few other gents and stay linked – and perhaps some new purposes will emerge.
Gordon suggests we take the opportunity to complete some jobs round the house that we’ve been putting off for years, and connect properly with the kids. It’s about embracing the situation and making the most of it, whilst managing our emotions well before the Lord.
Sometimes being under lots of constraints but simultaneously having more time available, there are some great opportunities to skill up or brush up again on old long disused skills. Gordon talked about recently re-joining a pipe band with his bagpipes, and bringing some of his musical ability back. He stood and played ‘Scotland The Brave’ on his front drive to salute the great work being done for us by the NHS.
‘Spin The Wheel’ came up with ‘car’ – and Gordon confessed to wanting an Aston Martin, and also having lost his Honda Civic recently as a result of a theft, although this has been replaced since on insurance.
It also came up with ‘decision’ and Gordon shared about a recent big decision to bless another charitable organisation with a large sum of money from church funds. This has kept this organisation operational and flourishing, and helped to keep fulfilling Edinburgh Elim church’s stated mission statement ‘Bringing The Kingdom Of God To The City And Beyond’.
Gordon closed by praying for all the gents listening.
In a special extended episode of ‘Discipleship For Busy Blokes’ we are in conversation with Danny Easton, one of the elders at Birmingham City Church.
After initially starting out in an apprenticeship in tool-making and then moving into Computer-Aided Design (CAD), Danny is now a car-seat designer for a company with automotive clients including Jaguar-Landrover and Nissan.
Danny describes a ‘step out of the boat’ season in his career when he had to deliver results for a new client rather quickly, and where he felt right out of his comfort zone. He spent a couple of weeks convinced he would get “found out” and stood down – but instead much to his surprise he was congratulated for the work he was producing.
Danny credits God with seeing him through, in response to some urgent prayer – and recommends we all seek help from God in prayer during pressure times; and that we should take our main cue in our workplaces from God, and not from what is going on around or above us.
Danny also shares about a very challenging time in his life when he got seriously injured in a motorbike accident on his way to a men’s weekend with church. He came off the bike and went a long way into a field, sustaining a broken collarbone, ribs, fibula, damage to his foot and also some bleeding on the brain, as a result of the impact which cracked the bike helmet.
Danny got flown into hospital in Coventry by air ambulance, and recalls coming round and first just seeing the ceiling and the lights, and then his family and pastor at his bedside. At first he was asking the same questions over and over again as a result of amnesia, but gradually things began to piece together. He is convinced that as a result of a whole lot of prayer from family, relatives, friends and churches all around the world (America, Philippines, Australia, Africa, Italy), the bleeds on his brain were not as severe as the neurosurgeon and his team at first feared they might be.
The medical team were amazed at the speed of his recovery while he was in hospital, so much so that he was discharged on the Sunday evening, 48 hours after the accident had occurred. Danny reports that shortly afterwards he also visited the pound where the bike was stored, and the owner of the pound was amazed to see Danny on his crutches, given the extensive damage to the bike, which was a write-off.
After he got home from hospital, Danny was off convalescing for three months and found himself having to confront his own vulnerability, and his confidence took a real knock. During this time off, however, he started to appreciate how much it really is God in charge in our lives – and the period of time after the accident became for him another form of having to "step out of the boat", in trusting God for restored confidence and full recovery.
Danny also describes a time when he kept on asking God what His plan for his life might be, especially during his daily commute on the M6 upon his return to work after the accident. After about 3 weeks of asking, he was really surprised to hear God say: “I’m not going to tell you!” When he asked God why that was the answer, he felt God say: “Because you’ll try and do it in your own strength and you’ll mess it up!” The next day God then said: “I want you to be in the place where you hear my voice and do what I tell you to do.” Danny says that he also suddenly realised that he was already walking in the middle of God’s plan for his life already, and that God was not far off as he had supposed.
He closes in prayer for all the guys listening in.
In this episode we are in conversation with Mark Lyndon-Jones, leader of ministry to men across the Elim movement in the UK.
We open with a review of Mark’s written devotion from Philippians 3:13-14, that he brought to set the tone for men across Elim in 2020 at the beginning of the year. We reflect on the great athletic achievement from Eliud Kipchoge, who became the first athlete to run a marathon distance in under two hours, beating the mark by just 20 seconds.
Mark encourages us as men to remember that if Paul is able to bring us such inspirational words, to strain towards what is ahead and forget what is behind, both from a prison context and also from a history of being against Christianity, then we too must not dwell on our past failures or the limitations of our current situation.
Equally we are also to avoid being comfortable solely with historic victories. We must keep pressing ahead, to the new mission and ministry Jesus always has lying ahead for us.
Mark summarises it well with this: “You can’t start a new chapter in your life if you keep re-reading the last one.” He says a great way to unblock and free us up from spiritual inertia is to take Paul’s advice and do ‘one thing’ i.e. crack on and get at least something done. Ask a friend, ask a leader and ask the Lord for the ‘one thing’ we should be doing next.
The clues as to what that might be can lie in either what we are frequently wound up about; or conversely whatt we are delighted by. There are dramatic parallels between Paul’s exhortation to strain ahead and Lot’s wife looking back, and so we need to lean into what the Lord has for us in the future.
Gents – be encouraged, keep pressing into Jesus, and take hold of what He has for you!
We also talk about the MPower plans for hosting at least 200 instances of the #mpowerbigbreakfast around the nation this September, in partnership with Reach, Elim’s evangelism team. We are aiming for a couple of thousands guys to join these breakfasts, and for a couple of hundred men to start following Jesus. You can sign up for a pack to host a breakfast at https://mailchi.mp/m/mpowerbigbreakfast
We discuss MPower’s ‘Fuel for the Week’ weekly devotional email, and the growth of the'Discipleship for Busy Blokes' podcast since we launched last October.
We round things up with some great banter from the ‘spin the wheel’ game – Mark tells us his hero, shares some ‘know how’ on getting men to connect better and also a tremendous life-hack around, would you believe it, tiling in the bathroom!
Mark closes with an encouraging prayer for us all as guys.
We are in conversation with Dammy Awosika, one of the elders at Birmingham City Church.
Dammy is a network solutions architect designer, and he explains how he built his career in IT starting out from building PCs to working with servers and systems – and how he ultimately got into networking, which he has been doing over the last 20 years.
On this podcast we unpack the ‘Parable of the Good Samaritan’:
The surprise it holds of who is supposed to be helping but doesn’t
Who our neighbour really might be; and
How we should help people in dire need, no matter what their or our beliefs are.
We need to take action when a deep need confronts us – not just hold views.
People sometimes get into difficulties in ways they could have avoided – but equally people can get into need through no fault of their own. Dammy described a time when a ‘good Samaritan’ passing by on a motorbike stopped to help him out on his journey to work one day when his car broke down.
Dammy identifies some helpful boundaries regarding the way in which we should offer people help. There are some things we ourselves should do; but also other things where we should make a ‘wisdom call’ to get others involved, where perhaps we have reached the limit of the help we can provide.
The priest and the Levite seem to apply personal boundaries that are just too strict around their willingness to offer any help at all to someone in need.
In telling the parable, Jesus is setting out his expectation that everyone should offer others help, and not just walk by. Jesus Christ died for each and every person, and therefore everyone should in turn show kindness toward others.
In many ways it’s a simple message behind the parable: help others!
The innkeeper seems happy with the promise of finance offered by the Good Samaritan if the stay is extended – so much so, that it raises the question of whether he knew the Good Samaritan already. If he didn’t, perhaps the innkeeper was inspired by the kindness of the Samaritan to be trusting towards him.
Dammy shares a great story of how just listening properly in the workplace opened up a professional colleague formerly viewed by others as difficult to get along with – so much so, that a great friendship started. Everyone needs to be heard properly from time to time; and we shouldn’t just accept the received wisdom from a group or tribe about another person or tribe – we should try to look behind the reputation for the real person.
Dammy closes by sharing about his recent driving holiday around 9 states in America, and how he experienced warmth and love from God as Father on the trip, and he prays for the men listening.
We are in conversation with Chris Fletcher, lead pastor of Manna Church, Fayetteville Fort Bragg in North Carolina.
Manna Church is right next to the largest military base in the world, offering around 15 services a weekend and has an ambitious vision to plant Manna churches in every U.S. military base across the globe.
Chris has a Masters in Christian Leadership, a big vision to equip people and plant churches and focuses 100% of his time on leadership development day-to-day.
He describes how Manna church has had to become highly competent at both leadership development and outreach, in response to the high throughput of military personnel in response to the continual redeployments from the base.
He offers some great and perhaps surprising advice for men who'd like to increase their leadership influence: that we need to start in the place of our own personal trustworthiness.
Leadership change is firstly ontologocial i.e. focused on the shaping our own being before God - who we are and what God is shaping us to be. Secondly influential leadership is mimetic i.e. we are called to imitate Jesus. We are to take our lives and allow the Father to shape us, and we then pour that out on behalf of others.
Ontological is saying that the first person I start with in leadership is me, surrendering everything to God. Mimetic is saying that everything we do copies Jesus.
Chris explains that trustworthiness results in promotion: if you're a man that is trustworthy, you'll be hired no matter what path you follow in life.
We also unpack why it is that the centurions come across well in the New Testament: the military lifestyle seems to imprint on people that they exist for a higher mission and a purpose, which can lead well into a life of faith following Jesus. People who join the U.S. army find that it is not about them as the individual - it's about the team, the mission, the country and the greater good. In other words: "If I don't do my job as a trusted team member, I can place the team, the unit and the higher cause above me at risk."
This also plays out in personal evangelism - if not you, who? If not now, when?
Chris talks about how it can be challenging at Manna Church to bring the Father heart side of Christian faith into a military environment with a bias to a command and control structure where people are under authority. So they focus on the value of a person to God being the price of the life given up by Jesus - and that they are loved by God.
What also makes the centurion whom Jesus picked out as having such great faith is his care for his servant, who was subordinate to him. Tis has a powerful outworking in marriage: as men it is our job to lay down our lives for our wives, just as Christ laid down his life for the church.
A side- effect of a disciplined military life can be a see-saw effect, so that people switch into an 'anything goes' mentality when off duty. Personal devotions, a Life Group and accountability all help men tackle this. Chris also recommends that men should find a healthy hobby or outlet.
Chris is a huge Manchester United fan, through his NBC Sports Gold subscription over in the States, and also coaches youth football for the Villarreal Academy. Chris has an all-wheel Subaru Outback which he loves driving, and he confesses to making the MK Dons on his Fifa game European champions in his spare time.
We are in conversation with Gavin Calver, CEO of the Evangelical Alliance in the UK.
The Evangelical Alliance seeks to represent evangelical Christians in the UK, to bring Christians together and help them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society.
Gavin's infectious energy, vision and passion for Jesus and life is inspirational.
We talk about how men can be less passive and take more of an activist role in their faith. Football fans just start a song, which is not passive at all - whereas church can sometimes be a bit polished, and men feel they have to 'receive'.
As a practical outworking of this, Gavin encourages men to take a more activist stance in pointing our kids to Jesus, for example. We need to set the pace as men.
Gavin talks about his passion for AFC Wimbledon, how he used to play with Scott Parker and Sean Wright-Philips, but injury put paid to his hopes of playing football at national level.
Gavin ran 1000 miles in 2019, and so we discuss the connection between fitness and faith. Gavin uses a lot of his time running talking to Jesus and listening to Him.
Gavin gives us three great bits of advice on picking up the fitness after the excesses of Christmas: (1) compete with yourself, not your mates; (2) be aware that any routine takes 6 weeks to build; and (3) build fitness and exercise into your daily routine as much as you can.
Gavin identifies with the disciple Peter for being such a normal guy, who blows it big time, but who also kept coming back, and being used by Jesus to be effective in the Kingdom of God. If Jesus can use Peter, he can use you!
Gavin shares about being convicted recently by God about being more brave - through a conference message, and then later by his daughter. This conviction led to his decision to step up into his current role at the Evangelical Alliance.
Christianity is an incredible adventure - and Gavin urges us that we must not let the wildness that God has put in us as men to be tamed. Aslan from the Narnia chronicles is 'not a tame lion' and as men we do not follow a 'tame Jesus'.
Gavin's heroes are Corrie Ten Boom and Robbie Earle, who played for Wimbledon in the 1990s.
This is such a great podcast to kick off the new decade - thanks Gavin!
We are in conversation with Darren Passmore, who is pursuing a part-time degree in Applied Theology at Regent’s Theological College. We discuss Darren’s decision to study theology as a mature student, what led to his decision and what God has been revealing to him through his study, particularly around trust in God, identity and confidence.
Darren opens up about how he was really challenged while he was growing up as a result of the divorce of his parents; and of finding out about his adoption as a young teenager. He describes how God has been building healing, strength and wholeness back into him as he has journeyed in his faith.
Darren’s key ‘takeaways’ are to keep on trusting to do things God’s way; to keep on taking risks; to keep on saying ‘yes’ to challenges; to keep on harnessing the power of prayer; and to keep on accessing the strength available in partnering with God as Father.
Also instrumental in his growth has been the affirmation and encouragement from the blokes around him, working as ‘a band of brothers’ – and also being intentional about these things towards other men.
Darren shares a picture he had at a men’s event a picture of men ‘going over the top’ in a World War I trench by themselves, when really men are all meant to ‘go together’.
Darren particularly drew nearer to the ‘father heart’ of God through a Peter Jackson conference in Bath that was instrumental in helping him to receive fatherly affirmation in his heart and in taking ownership in his emotions, to bring deep healing after finding out that foundational things about family weren’t as they seemed.
God is always able to make a message out of a mess!
We talk about the importance of establishing reference points and healthy boundaries as Darren describes coming back to church in 2009 after a 12-year gap, seeking to develop meaningful faith and manhood for himself.
Darren picks out David and Paul as two particular men from the bible with whom he particularly identifies, with the studies at Bible College helping him dig much deeper than just a surface grasp.
He describes his aspirations to help blokes work out how to be Godly men, and how to understand what the bible meant back when it was written as well as what it means now.
He also describes his wish for men’s events to be good quality, relational and missional in focus – to reach out to men in local communities around our churches, and for men not be alone on their journey.
Darren shares his liking for his BMW, and how much he enjoyed the men’s “Band Of Brothers” MPower event at Elim’s International Centre in November 2019 – including a confirmation from the Lord about a name for a men’s ministry Darren is developing at his church while we all trekked up the hill overlooking Malvern.
On this episode, we are in conversation with James Chipwete about the book of Jonah. James is a doctor, and he is one the elders at Birmingham City Church.
We are also running a free prize draw with Episode 4, with the chance to win a £50 Amazon UK voucher to spend, just ahead of Christmas!
To enter, you need to contact us via the voice message facility on the Anchor app, or at https://anchor.fm/elim-mpower leaving three things on the message: (i) your name and contact number – for us to get hold of you if you are the winner, (ii) the prize draw code word which is mentioned in the podcast; and also (iii) suggestions for things you would like to hear us discuss in the future on the ‘Discipleship For Busy Blokes’ podcast.
The closing date for entering the competition is Sunday 8th December 2019 at midnight, and full terms and conditions have been issued via the Elim_MPower mailing list. The prize will be drawn on Monday 9th December, and the winner announced that day.
We talk about why Jonah runs away, and why blokes in general can sometimes run away from responsibility or equally from fear of failure. James suggests that Jonah may not have received the best role modelling, and that this could be why he disappears off towards Tarshish to begin with.
Role modelling is such a help for men when it is available, and equally destructive when absent. We also explore what the captain says to Jonah when he is asleep – to wake up and call on his God.
Jesus could sleep despite a storm because He was within the centre of God’s will, whereas Jonah was perhaps asleep in a rebellious place and the cause of a storm.
Jonah seems to represent those men who have to get to the very end of themselves before turning to God, where all other options have been taken off the table. This in turn leads to a turnaround moment for Jonah – and listening and acting more quickly in response to God next time around.
We look at how receptive the Ninevites are to Jonah’s rather terse outreach message, because God has been doing work on them in the background – and deeper than this that Jonah’s outreach work perhaps lays the foundation for the later exile of Judah to Babylon.
If blokes have blown it with things, the message of Jonah is that we worship a God of second-chances.
We unpack whether blokes sulk, like Jonah, and our tendency not to share our feelings, and how narrow Jonah’s perspectives really are, and its lack compared with the other people in his world. The Ninevites also seem to be so much quicker in their spiritual turnaround than Jonah is in his geographical about-face.
We round up with this thought: that God sees us as men where we are, and if we need someone to walk alongside us, God can do this; and James closes by praying for everyone listening.
On this episode we are in conversation with Robson 'Robbie' Alencar from Birmingham City Church. We discuss Robson's journey to faith, and also how he navigated a recent tough time with some extreme pain from gallstones.
He describes his experiences of crippling pain, of having to wait ages for intervention, the frustration of repeatedly postponed surgery and of all the different ways in which the continual pain impacted him as a person: it affected him being a dad, he wasn't able to drive because of the heavy-duty painkillers, it impacted his work and it caused him to lose weight.
He found himself continually talking to God every day about it, asking him to have mercy and singing in the Spirit.
On this podcast you will hear Robson share some great counsel for getting through a hard time:
That difficulties don't last forever
That even if you have a little faith before God it will be a great help
To seek out prayer support
That God is always looking on our heart attitude, especially during hard times
To keep praying and petitioning God despite any disappointments and setbacks
To gain inside help from someone who knows how to work the system if possible!
Sealing in outcomes in prayer even after the event
Robson defines prayer as normal conversation with God and his view of prayer from his experience is that it is a powerful key or tool to get situations resolved.
Robson closes in prayer for anyone navigating long-term physical pain.
PLUS: we had a message sent in to the podcast and a new jingle! Listen out for these at the beginning.
In this episode we are in conversation with Liam Husband, the lead pastor at Hope Community Church in Bournemouth.
We talked about:
Liam’s family and the perils of keeping ducks!
Recent church missions to Kenya and Estonia
The local ‘coffee and bacon rolls’ ministry to the homeless of Bournemouth
Advice for a bloke thinking about going on mission, and how we draw on skills we already have once we are in the mission field
Progress for the Hope Community Church team through the Church Leadership Academy being offered out of Birmingham City Church
The issue of fatherlessness
Communication weaknesses among men, and how to overcome these, including modelling vulnerability
The impact of hope and God’s plans from Jeremiah 29:11
Liam’s love of playing and watching rugby, the parallels between rugby and church and what spiritual victory looks like in church
Mark Lyndon-Jones leads Elim's national men's ministry MPower - and Nick Whittome at Birmingham City Church caught up with him just before a men's event, and asked him a few questions.
We talked about:
Mark's heart for men and ministering to men around the country, in his capacity as leader of Elim's men's ministry MPower
How you might start a men's group, with some practical advice, tips and experience
Struggles with isolation
Blokes being very busy - and countering that with prioritising and planning
Helpful resources, including the brief weekly MPower devotional email, starting in the Bible with Proverbs, books by John Eldredge, MPower events, audio bible such as The Bible Experience and listening to the YouVersion bible app, and the Bible Project on YouTube, which summarises bible books and themes with animated drawings
Rhythms of conversation with the Lord throughout the day
Timothy Keller on prayer
Daily patterns for prayer
How to counter being kept awake at night worrying by praying
There is also a prayer for anyone listening, to close the podcast.