From your partners in men’s ministry
A bi-monthly e-mail letter from agency officers and staff
to leaders of United Methodist Men
An unexpected blessing
By Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.
We were in Zimbabwe to attend the 25th Anniversary of Africa University, but we took an extended side trip and one day we found ourselves in a local village.
We sat under a tree in Zimbabwe and we talked about life. Three men from Mississippi, one man from Nigeria, and three men from Zimbabwe, including the man who invited us to his house.
Oh, did we talk.
The conversation was mostly just about how to survive in this changing world.
One topic was marriage. We discovered that in Zimbabwe polygamy is still practiced in principle. But that it is only feasible if one can afford more than one wife. It was practiced in the past because the number of children provided laborers for the household but, our host explained to us that today it the practice is less prevalent because of the economy and the demands of educating children.
We were thoroughly impressed with our host's and his family's understanding of the interrelatedness of life.
He said, “We live because we are in harmony with all that is around us. We've learned from the non-governmental organizations how to rotate our crops; we rest part of our land so it can replenish itself.”
Sounds biblical, doesn't it my friends.
He also told us how he exists with animals.
“We have dogs that alert us when the elephants, impalas, cape buffaloes and others come to eat our crops. We then we get up, beat the drums and make loud noises to scare them away. And then sometimes the cats and the hyenas come looking for our chickens and cattle. They come at night, so we start fires and beat the drums to drive them away, as well. But, we never kill any of the animals. Even the wasps build their nest inside our round houses and the empty nests later become a source of medicine. Everything is used, recycled and has some great purpose.”
He explained that the 300 families in the village often they get what they need through a “barter system” with their neighbors.
Our host inherited his land and three round houses from his parents; he has since added two round houses. His yard and round houses are clean. And the clothes hanging on a clothesline are cleaned by soap made from charcoal.
So what did we learn from our host and the conversation?
- We have more in common than our surroundings might lead one to believe.
- The world was created “for” us and not “against” us.
- Despite our reputation that “men don't like to talk,” we talked a lot.
- We all love our wives, have hopes and dreams for our children, and require little to meet our simple needs.
And we discovered, when it came time to part company, we had become friends for life.
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. president
General Commission on UM Men
Living in a culture of ‘snark’
By Bishop Gary Mueller
It’s an understatement of ginormous proportions to say we are living in “interesting times.” Social media outbursts are the norm. Shading others has become an art form. Personal attacks are increasing in intensity. And the media and the U.S. president are engaging in an increasingly hostile dance that seems oddly mutually beneficial.
But there is a great deal more going on than individual tweets, posts and jabs. These individual acts have become pervasive. This behavior has created a pattern. The pattern has become the norm. Suddenly this new norm has created a culture that is divisive, hostile and negative. And sadly in such a culture, anything seems to go.
So how are you going to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ in a culture of snark?
Recognize reality for what it is. Get honest, and confess how you may have been swept up by the world around you without even knowing it has happened. You can’t do this alone. You need God’s help to engage in an honest assessment of your world and yourself.
Embrace how your relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord changes you. What Jesus does for you fundamentally changes your life. So much so that even when it seems most difficult you are not throwing shade, snarking others or adding to the flood of hate. Rather, you are sharing Jesus’ unconditional love that he already shared with you. Quite simply, you live an alternate fact in a world desperately in need of it.
Focus on less snarking and a lot more praying.
Frankly, it can be a real challenge to do all of this when people hurt you deeply, try to sabotage you, and do things that make you righteously––as well as rightly––angry. So start praying. Pray to understand what’s going on with others. Pray that they will not poison you. Pray that you will not respond in kind. Pray that you will cling to God. And pray for them, even if it’s hard. While your prayers may make a difference for them, they definitely will make a difference for you.
Our current culture of snark began with individual tweets, posts and jabs. God’s promise of a new world begins with individual prayers, conversations, acts of mercy and relationships. I pray that you will become excited about all the ways you can help God transform the world by starting in your small corner of it right now.
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
Time for a Road Trip
By Gil Hanke
Recently, my wife and I visited some family in Northern Virginia. We each selected some of our favorite CDs and put some bottled water, tea, and lemonade in a cooler, put some snacks in a bag, and had ourselves a delightful, daylight road trip.
We had a nice breakfast and left for home and in eight or nine hours arrived safe and sound in Nashville.
Now it is your turn! On July 7th, you and a few of your friends can leave your homes, and ride together to the National Gathering in Indianapolis. You can leave together as we did, or pick up guys along the way.
You could all meet at a central point and take the church bus or van. Several conferences are planning to take chartered busses, and I have found there is an Amtrak station in Indy, and in the past, with the right number, some have purchased discounted tickets for flights, (Southwest does fly to Indy).
For those who might consider the “road trip” Indy is an eight-to-nine-hour drive from Washington D.C., Baltimore, Harrisburg, Buffalo, Minneapolis, Lincoln, Kansas City, Fayetteville, Memphis, Montgomery, Atlanta, or Charlotte.
So, if you’re in that circle- Road Trip!
I know there is cost to this, but if that is the only issue, ask for some help from your church. Wouldn’t your church, want four guys to have a God-inspired weekend?
My mentor in UMM told me his wife insisted that he attend these events because he was so much better when he came home! ASK! Now is the time! Don’t wait.
Invite your bishop, district superintendent, your pastor, a few young guys, some guys who have always wanted to go, but haven’t, guys who came when it was at Purdue. Invite your son, grandson, dad, brother. Invite that guy that moved, and you would like to see him again at this event.
Yes, it is ok to quote from the “Blues Brothers,” you ARE on a mission from God!
The “table” is set, don’t miss this great chance for a road trip that will change your life.
See you in Indy.
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on United Methodist Men
God’s greatest gift
By Steve Nailor
The gifts of Easter are the most precious gifts any person could ever receive because they cost God so much to give. God’s greatest gift of all––his act of love for us all––was sending Jesus into our world.
Just before the Easter season, the National Association of Conference Presidents held its annual meeting in Nashville. There was a good turn out and several new conference presidents attended. Out of 56 conferences, 38 of them are actively engaged in men’s work. Gil Hanke, general secretary of the commission, and Bishop James Swanson, president of the commission, have been working on a “restart program” in the other 18 conferences and have made some good progress.
During the Easter season, we think about what we have received and what we have given––to God, our families, our churches, and our friends, our most precious relationships.
In one of the daily devotions of the Upper Room Disciplines the Rev. Dan Dick, assistant to the bishop of the Wisconsin Episcopal Area, told about two churches in the same community. One church had 3,000 church members and the other 300 members. In the larger of the two churches, the lead pastor proudly proclaimed: “Let us celebrate together all the good and wonderful work we are doing for God!” The lay leader of the smaller church framed it a little differently. She said, “Let us celebrate together all the amazing things that God is doing through us!”
How is it with you this Lenten season? What are all the amazing things you are doing for God? And there is a second question: “What are the amazing things God is doing through you?”
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents
Scouting and religion
By Larry Coppock
Chartered by an act of Congress in 1916, the BSA has served as an important civic youth-serving agency for more than 100 years. Founded by Lord Baden-Powell, a British general, scouting included religious components. The Scout Law ends with “A Scout is reverent.” Scouts regularly recite at weekly troop meetings, “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.”
The charter concept (of ownership) allows religious partners like the UMC to integrate religious principles and religious education. Many offer PRAY programs that are age-appropriate and used for confirmation classes, prayer before troop meetings, annual Scout Sunday recognition services, chaplain aide support and more.
The first official relationship with the BSA and the UMC is found through a letter written by James V. Thompson, superintendent of the Young People’s Department in February 1920.
He notes in a letter to James E. West, the first Chief Scout Executive, “I am sure that the use of the Boy Scout program… as a basis for mid-week activities would greatly improve the work of our Methodist Sunday School teachers leading classes of adolescent boys.”
Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts
Baden-Powell said “There is no religious side to the movement. The whole of it is based on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God. Religion is essential to happiness. … This is not a mere matter of going to church, knowing Bible history, or understanding theology. . . .Our objective in the scouting movement is to give such help as we can in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth by including among youth the spirit and the daily practice in their lives of unselfish goodwill and cooperation." *
Seventy percent of BSA units nationwide (packs, troops and crews) are chartered by religious organizations and related faith groups, the largest of any charter partner.**
Over 6,500 UM churches charter at least one scouting unit and house 327,000 youth weekly. It is our hope and prayer that scouting and religion may continue to flourish as an integrated concept, knitted into the very fabric of our church’s outreach to its surrounding community.
* Excerpt from BSA Publication
** Dec. 31, 2016 BSA reports
Larry W. Coppock, director of scouting ministries,
General Commission on UM Men
On Being Christ’s ambassadors
By Rick Vance
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”
––2 Corinthian 5:17-18
I hope your Lenten journey to draw closer to Christ has been fruitful.
Today as I was praying, Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth came to mind. The scripture tell us that in Christ, we are a new creation.
However, today, the question “So what?” came to my mind.
As I went back to the letter, I found Paul continues by saying:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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.”
––2 Cor. 5:18-20
WOW! God reconciled us to Himself, not just for personal satisfaction, but that we might be Christ’s representatives with a message of reconciliation. Simply put, Easter is not only a message that Christ rose that we might have life. It is, rather, a message that we will have life through the risen Christ and because of that, we now have an imperative to call others to “on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor. 5:20)
As United Methodist Men, we have an amazing opportunity to be Christ’s ambassadors not just within the walls of our local churches, but in all of the places we find ourselves, calling men into an on-growing “reconciled” relationship with Christ.
By doing this, we are not only hearers of the Easter miracle, we are co-labors in living it out in the world each day.
My prayers and wishes are for you and your family to have an amazing, holy and blessed ONGOING Easter season.
Your brother on the Journey,
Rick Vance, director men’s ministry
General Commission on UM Men
The Trinity is in it all
By Jim Boesch
Turmoil, unrest, and riots, seem to be occurring in every corner of our world today.
If we dare comment on such things, we are bullied into taking an extreme position. We are pushed into positions of black or white and there is no tolerance for gray. We are urged to not only hate a position, but to hate the person holding the position.
It’s hard to find an unbiased source of information that just report the facts and events without espousing positions on what’s right and wrong in our world.
In spite of this rancor and division, we are called to establish sustainable relationships with men who want answers to questions which will help establish secular or biblical worldviews.
We need to offer prayer and love as an antidote to this hate mongering.
This God-breathed love is offered without condition, requirements or borders. This love provides grace and forgiveness instead of the hate that manifests itself in judgement and revenge. This love can overcome the crippling disdain that exists for anyone who thinks, looks and acts differently than us.
The beauty of the timeless master plan of God is He makes this love available through the Trinity at all times, for all people and without conditions. All we have to do is seek and believe.
Jesus came to all the world as another source of empowering and sacrificial love. Jesus brought into our world the light that can take away all darkness through the power of a loving, personal relationship with Him.
In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
Jesus fulfilled His earthly mission of teaching us to seek and save the lost, to live and transform as His disciples and to love God and others.
While we were still sinners, Jesus sacrificed Himself as an act that provided the forgiveness that through Him a bridge exists for us to connect to the Father. By first following Jesus, we can serve and become His disciples to become disciple-makers as we love and influence others in His way.
The Holy Spirit
Prior to His ascension, Jesus assured us the Spirit of God would take His place to love us, guide us, and direct us in being His church.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Through this sanctifying love of seeking to be like Christ, we can be equipped, coached and mentored through our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Agents of change
We are called to be change agents. As men committed to do ministry with other men and their families, we must seek to become the calming voice that reaches above the fray of all the hate and judgement that exists in our world today.
While we seek to minister to others through loving, transformative relationships our charge will be to help them grow in their daily focus on God, the Creator; Jesus, our Savior and Lord; and the Holy Spirit.
As servant leaders, we should seek to gather men wherever they are in their faith journeys and share the news of the unconditional, sacrificial and sanctifying love known through the Trinity.
In doing this we can become the men God is calling us to be in the building and serving of His kingdom.
Jim Boesch, deployed staff member
General Commission on UM Men