From your partners in men’s ministry
A bi-monthly e-mail letter from agency officers and staff
to leaders of United Methodist Men
Millennial generation and the church
By Bishop James Swanson
“What kind of aroma do you give off?”
Many in the church are fully aware of the numbers of the millennial generation who are opting out of the church.
If the numbers are consistent with the gender disparity that we have become so accustomed to seeing in the church then this would mean that we are seeing a larger number of men from this generation opting out of a relationship with the church.
Philip Yancey, well known Christian author and journalist, writes about the unattractiveness of the church to the millennials: “My assignments as a journalist take me to places where Christians give off a perfumed aroma and places where Christians offend the nostrils.”
Yancey is saying that many congregations, regardless of their theological position, either give off an attractive aroma or an aroma that repels those who dare to visit their buildings or encounter those who represent their communities of faith.
John tells us. “If anyone boasts, ‘I love God and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar.’ If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see?”
The command we have from Christ is blunt: loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both.
When we love God and humanity we become willing to transform ourselves and our institutions to reflect more of what God desires so that more experience the gospel message as an attractive beckoning wooing presence of Christ.
Robert E. Quinn writes in his book Deep Change, “As fast, furious, and constant change takes root in our everyday work lives, putting pressure on both organizations and individuals to adapt or perish, many of us are choosing a dangerous tactic keeping our heads down, our mouths shut, and simply taking our paychecks to the bank—a no-passion, no-risk, no-commitment work ethic.”
I’m sad to say this, but, in many areas of our beloved United Methodist Church we are taking this approach rather than making the “deep change” in order to become truly loving.
We are challenged to create a sweet smelling aroma if we are to create a church culture that is attractive to everyone.
So how do we make the “deep change” that brings the sweet aroma?
Quinn lays it out in his book; but, one thing we can do in advance is to begin with prayer and confession.
I ask that you join me in doing that and then get the book and invite a few men to join you in prayerful study.
Let me know how it goes for you.
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president
General Commission on United Methodist Men
The Cup is more than half full
By Gil Hanke
As many of you know, I spent most of my adult life in Texas, and for 30 years I have been a delegate to Houston Area Annual Conference.
So––as many of you––I recently attended my annual conference. I also attempt to piggyback as much as I can when I travel, both personally and professionally. So when a pastor friend of mine invited me to preach at his church the Sunday of our conference, I jumped at the chance.
This is not a typical UMC. The 136-year-old congregation is debt free, filled with young families and growing at an amazing rate.
After the service I met with the men for a few minutes, and then we all went outside to watch a balloon release for Pentecost. When I re-entered the church to get my stuff, the men had reassembled to make some plans based ideas that had come from our worship that morning. They are clearly “on the grow.”
Two of the most impressive sermons at annual conference were given by a gifted young candidate for ministry and by a joy-filled pastor entering her retirement.
Some of the mechanics of the conference sessions were challenged by floods in Houston, but grace prevailed and this room full of leaders showed flexibility.
We had an unusually high number of resolutions, but they too were managed with grace. For our conference, this was a voting year, and when the delegation met for breakfast on the last day of conference, the group had many new faces and was slightly younger than our last delegation. Four of the delegation members serve the church outside the state of Texas.
Were there concerns and disappointments? Sure, and I spent time with friends whose most loved ministry has morphed into something less than it should be. But even in that, God is being trusted for my friends to do something even better and greater.
Maybe things went well because I wanted to see growth and excitement. Maybe things went well because I chose to look for things to celebrate. Maybe I’m delusional. I know that this is not a perfect conference or a perfect church, but as you have heard me say before, I get to see this church at its best and at its worst. I choose to look for the best, and work my hardest to turn problems areas around.
How about you?
What is the greatest blessing you see in your church this week? How are you going to celebrate that? Who are you going to tell inside your church and more importantly outside your church?
What will you do this week to make the church even better?
Striving to serve
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth time Gil has been elected as a delegate to General Conference.
By Dan Ramsey
In Matthew chapter 28 we find these words. Jesus came and told his disciple’s, “I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all 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.”
Recently, we have gone through a lot of rain (and I mean a LOT), and a Houston radio station wanted to know how the homeless were surviving under difficult circumstances. They interviewed Victor.
Victor is always positive.
He knows where to go to stay dry, and he knows where to go to sleep without being robbed.
And Victor knows a lot about people; many times he even knows what they are thinking.
He knows God takes care of his needs every day, and he never complains about anything.
On the day of this interview, the only thing he had in the way of food was some ketchup packets from a Popeye’s Chicken store. Yet, he also knew that all he needed was something to go with the ketchup and he would be satisfied.
Victor knows several intersections to go to for handouts, and he knows where not to go. The local city government passed an ordinance prohibiting anyone from going downtown to give food or clothing to the homeless, so Victor, along with many others who are homeless, hungry, and in need, stay away of many areas downtown for fear of being arrested.
Yet, Victor never utters a curse word or negative word about anyone. He is thankful for what God provides, and he respects the rights of others. He doesn’t drink or use drugs. He helps local businesses by picking up trash in front of their buildings and asks nothing in return.
And many people know Victor and help him when they can.
Do you have Victors in your community?
Do you think that God is affording us the opportunity to serve others no matter where they are or how down on their luck they may seem?
What happens when the Victors disappear?
Victor knows that God is with him even until the end of the age.
Is your ministry a servant leadership ministry where you change lives and make disciples for Jesus Christ. They might even be Victor.
Dan Ramsey, president
National Association of Conference Presidents
Strength for Service progress report
By Larry Coppock
It’s hard to believe that it’s has been 14 years since the re-publication of Strength for Service to God and Country.
From its humble beginnings as an Eagle Scout service project, this little devotional book, first published in World War II, has been given to thousands of public service personnel, including members of every branch of the military.
In 2014, SFS became a separate nonprofit corporation (SFS, Inc.) with its own board of directors and advisory committee. SFS remains a partner of the men’s commission.
Some interesting facts about SFS include:
- 485,000 books have been distributed toward the goal of 1 million copies as of May 15, 2015.
- There have been 11 printings of the book.
- Over $2 million has been raised, with all funds plowed back into the project.
- 5,000 donors have contributed to the book (approximately 50% are UM Men’s groups and UM churches).
- Strength for Service to God and Community, a devotional book for first responders, was introduced in 2013; over 30,000 copies distributed to date.
- A BSA edition of SFS to God and Community was introduced in 2014; and it enjoys brisk sales through BSA Council Scout shops,
- Over 1,200 separate chaplain distributions.
- Churches and organizations in every annual conference have raised funds for SFS.
- L. W. Smith, former SEJ men's president, was elected president of SFS.
- Every member of commission staff devotes some percentage of their time to SFS.
We continue to get requests for both devotional books as a result of stateside tragedies such as the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., and the Boston bombing. And chaplains continue to request free books.
You can support SFS efforts through your prayers, gifts and/or service.
On behalf of L. W. Smith as well as our staff and board of directors, thank you for your gifts of time, talent and treasure that have made SFS a significant outreach ministry of The United Methodist Church.
Larry W. Coppock, CFRE
Acting executive director, SFS, Inc.
Sowing seeds of truth
By Jim Boesch
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.”
“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”
As servant leaders you are frequently going to be asked for your opinion, direction and advice on matters of importance.
Your responses to these requests provide opportunities to sow seeds of truth that will be selfless and kingdom-building. Your responses will counter the seeds of untruth provided by our culture to sustain today’s self-serving, all-about-me status quo.
The seeds of untruth provide satisfactions that are immediate and fleeting; the seeds of truth can change lives for eternity.
Opportunities to provide positive direction will often be yours and yours alone. The seeds you sow may not be the most popular, headline grabbing ones, but they will be the best ones.
Examples of seeds of truth are:
- accepting and abiding in God’s unconditional love;
- seeking God through a posture of solitude;
- praying to discern God’s will and direction;
- getting involved in God’s Word by reading scripture; and
- building supporting and nourishing relationships with others.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It would be without the encountering more popular seeds of untruth that are going to be sown in as great––if not greater––number than the seeds of truth you are attempting to sow.
There are days you will sow seeds of truth attesting to God’s unconditional love for all mankind among those who are consumed by the fear of not measuring up to the world’s standards of success, importance and value. Just know on those days you will be waging war against seeds of untruth that say where you live, what you wear and how much money you make are of the utmost importance in our society.
There will also be times when you find yourself sowing seeds of truth of humility as you minister to those behaving with pride in order to mask their insecurities before their audiences. Be wary of the seeds of untruth that declare only the loudest, most boastful and arrogant men will survive.
There will be days when you sow seeds that declare it is through a meaningful prayer life that we will be able to determine God’s will, direction and perfect plans for our service on this earth. On these days, the seeds of untruth may declare, “God doesn’t answer trivial prayers and they are a waste of time unless it’s an emergency.” Others may say, “We don’t need God because we know what is best for our own lives.”
When sowing seeds of truth that heart transformation best occurs through supportive and nourishing relationships with others, be careful. Seeds of untruth will say, “No one cares about you; they have troubles of their own, and people can’t be trusted.”
Most people in leadership roles will influence––one way or another–– those with whom they interact. They also may influence them by their absence.
An effective servant leader is always looking for opportunity to sow seeds of truth. These wise leaders also realize the world around them is always sowing seeds of untruth ripe with self-serving, prideful and destructive behaviors that will overwhelm people when left with no alternatives.
Give your men an alternative to the secular worldview by sowing seeds of truth!
You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
––2 Timothy 2:2
Jim Boesch, deployed staff member
General Commission on United Methodist Men
Jim facilitates equipping workshops for “Lead Like Jesus,” servant leadership training; “Understanding Men's Ministry,” discipling leadership training; and “Equipping Equippers” learning-facilitation training. You may host any of these workshops in your area by calling him (407-721-0416) or by e-mail.
Satan’s most successful tool
By Mark Lubbock
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
What can take out 50 percent of our pastors and 64percent of our men?
There is a spiritual disease that has become pandemic. Merriam-Webster defines pandemic as:
“Occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.”
This pernicious disease targets men in particular. It has found a stronghold in men from pre-teen through adulthood.
It cannot be treated by medicine. Millions of households and families are suffering the consequences of this terrible infection.
Most serious of all is that it stops Christian men in their tracks. There are countless Christian men who are trying, really trying, but inexplicably failing in their spiritual lives. Some have absolutely no idea why Christianity is not working for them. Why they cannot connect spiritually to Jesus. Why, in spite of prayers and Bible studies, prayers seem to go unheard.
Hebrews 12: 1 instructs: “. . . let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely . . .“ teaching that we must not allow sin to “stick” to our routine. But this disease consists of a sin that is difficult to shake loose!
What might this terrible pandemic malady be? It is something that is interwoven all throughout our culture, and that is almost impossible to avoid: Pornography.
Studies from Barna Group show that 64 percent of Christian men aged 31-49 look at porn monthly. The rate for all ages is 54 percent. The percentages for clergy indicate that at least half of the men behind pulpits struggle with this sin.
On one hand it seems harmless – after all, it is only “looking,” right? Not so, says virtually every study of the impact of regularly viewing pornography.
The spiritual impact is devastating, but the physical consequences are also dramatic.
Research shows that men’s brains actually change physically as a result of viewing porn, a change that is more extreme than that experienced by drug addicts. Pornography damages relationships, leads to dysfunctional marriages, destroys integrity, and builds a spiritual barrier between men and God.
Does this mean that God no longer hears men’s prayers? No. God hears the prayers of sinners. However, unrepentant sin will hinder our relationship with God. When we are trapped by habitual sin, our spiritual life hits rock bottom. We cannot rise above the sin to reclaim a spiritual victory.
Pornography is pervasive. The ability to access pornography by cell phone and computer seemingly leaps out at the user. So what can be done? How do men free themselves from the addiction?
There is good news for everyone who truly wants to escape this dark bondage! God is raising up effective tools and resources to combat this malady of society.
For example, Ted Roberts a former Marine fighter pilot and founding pastor of a megachurch was himself set free. Out of his experience was birthed his Pure Desire ministry which documents a 95 percent success rate in becoming totally free from pornography. His process involves a covenant small group that meets regularly using two powerful tools from Pure Desire
Another interesting support resource is a web based forum on a site called The Samson Society. In addition to resources they utilize an online forum for mutual support and encouragement.
A favorite tool of mine is a website reporting software product called Covenant Eyes. This software installs on MAC and Windows PC’s and also some smart phones. I learned of this many years ago at Promise Keepers and have been using it ever since to ensure my integrity. This software sends regular email reports to covenant partners that alerts them to any websites you visit that have sexual content..
Other ministries work with training resources that address men, women and event pastors like Pure Man Ministry.
The Rev. Mark Lubbock, deployed staff
General Commission on UM Men
Contact me with ideas, questions or requests for training such as “No Man Left Behind”, “Understanding Ministry to Men” or to schedule a speaking engagement:
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Find additional news and resources on this webstie and the www.strengthforservice.org website.