Join us for a laugh and a moment of rest as Katie and Joy interview our Founding Network Leaders, Stuart and Irene Bell, cooking up a delicious Persian meal. Stuart and Irene founded the Ground Level Network over 40 years ago. They have 3 children and 6 grandchildren. They are also the Senior Pastors of Alive Church. Their ministry takes them across the world and they have been widely used by God to bring renewal in regional and national settings.
As followers of Jesus going into every sphere of society, we’ve been talking to people about how to bring our world into line with God’s purpose. Over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been feeling tired. This is a moment for us to recharge, take a breath, and figure out where we are to move forward in strength. In this episode, Stuart and Irene share their perspective on rest and sabbath and how that has evolved over the years, letting us into funny stories and family jokes.
After explaining the process and some of the ingredients required for Smokey Beef, Potato and Pea Pan Fry with Eggs and Yoghurt, Stuart and Irene let us into why they started recording cookery shows during the pandemic, saying it was a good opportunity to bring joy into people’s homes as more turned to social media for entertainment and company. Stuart shared that he also took up running again alongside cooking, using it as an opportunity to shield the communities and people in his life with prayer.
I took up running, which I used to do years ago. I’m not brilliant at praying on my own in a room, so I like to keep moving. - Stuart
He rushed back to stir the potatoes and as they hissed in the background, Katie asked Irene if she felt life had returned to the old normal following the end of Lockdown. Irene said that they didn’t want to pick up activities just because things had always been that way. They wanted to take their time and not resume the busy lifestyle they’d once lived. Stuart said it was a good opportunity to think about priorities. The culture of “being busy” can quickly make its way into church life, and they wanted to avoid that.
I think some things are going back but we were determined that some things wouldn’t go back to the way they were. - Irene
Being so family-centred, Irene recharges when she spends time with her children and grandchildren. During Lockdown, she really missed this and found replenishment in sending gifts and home-cooked meals to those close to her, so that it could feel like spending time together.
Putting the potatoes to one side, Stuart started to brown the onion and (good quality) minced beef in his favourite pan as Irene let Katie and Joy into a family joke. She explained that Stuart likes to be early while travelling, and goes into a state of mind his kids call “aeroplane mode”. This then opened the gate to streams of travelling stories from both Stuart and Irene.
It’s about setting priorities. As we go back, what are the main things? We don’t want to go back just to being busy. My problem is I’ve been brought up in a culture of ‘very busy’. - Stuart
Joy brought the conversation back to the theme of recharging, saying we are recharged for a purpose to carry out our calling and asked the Bells when they feel most alive and where God called them to. Irene answered that they feel called to input into leaders and nurture the church. Together, they shared their history through various employment and church leadership seasons. Irene says she feels fulfilled when she sees generations grow and follow Jesus.
Joy then asked what Sabbath has looked like for the Bells and how the idea of Sabbath has evolved for them over the years. Stuart shared his perspective of having a day of rest and how it used to be measured by what you couldn’t do, rather than what you could. To him, Sabbaths seemed boring as most things were closed. Now, Stuart and Irene see Sabbath as an opportunity to rest and enjoy the life God has given them. He thinks his understanding of Sabbath has grown a lot stronger in the past few years. He went to break the eggs which would cook from the heat of the meat while Irene agreed that they now spend their Sabbaths doing things they enjoy, like going to the cinema or out for a meal. During the pandemic, this became a takeaway hot chocolate during a drive around Lincoln to see the lights.
Sabbath isn’t to do with what you can’t do, rules and regulations. It’s to do with genuine relaxing. - Stuart
As the group waited for the eggs to cook, Stuart encouraged people to be patient as we step out of the pandemic. Everyone will be moving at different paces. He also said it’s important in this season to remain energetic and passionate about our faith in Jesus even though we’ve been through a difficult time. Irene agreed that sometimes it takes baby steps to move out of a hard season. Stuart said it’s the same God who’s with us in the good times as in the hard times. Every day we’re given the gift from God of time and we have to use it to the fullest.
You can share this moment of recharging and encouragement by tuning in on any podcast platform for audio, or youtube for the video.