Reflections by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
By Bishop Swanson
John Maxwell has written another great book on leadership titled Developing the Leader within You.
One sentence really caught my attention: “We have to be intentional about our lives and the path we choose to walk.”
Many of us approach our walk with Christ as if we eventually will become the disciples Jesus envisioned us to become when he gave his life for us on Calvary. We assume that this will happen with little or no effort on our part.
Of course, you are familiar with the old axiom. “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” How intentional are you about maturing in Christ? To use John Wesley’s words, Are you “going on to perfection?”
Bishop Ernest Fitzgerald served as my episcopal leader for one quadrennium when I was a young elder in the South Georgia Annual Conference. During our Pastors’ School, he said, “The people you serve may never rise to the level of your expectations, but they certainly will not rise if you have no expectations.”
I would paraphrase Bishop Fitzgerald’s words and say, “You may not reach perfection or Christian maturity, but you certainly will not, if it’s not what you’re aiming for intentionally.
Do you have an intentional plan to grow in Christ?
I realize that in this climate especially for Baby Boomers, this may not be very popular, but it is refreshing that many Millennials, though often criticized for their lack of spiritual depth, demonstrate a remarkable desire to be serious about their walk with Christ. Many of them are seeking mentors to help guide them in this quest.
You can’t lead where you haven’t gone or you are unwilling to go.
I leave you with this: Elisha got a double portion of Elijah’s spirit because both of them were intentional (2 Kings 2).
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. president
General Commission on UM Men
Sinning in the age of Facebook
By Bishop Gary Mueller
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I cannot conceive how anyone who calls himself or herself a Christian can think it is acceptable to go through life with a callous heart or fail to care about what happens to those who struggle to survive. Hard hearts and callous indifference to those who suffer is absolutely, totally and completely contrary to God’s Will.
Because I feel this way, I must admit it’s tempting to rail against those I’m convinced are sinning on Facebook. But, even as I ponder how good this might make me feel, I’m acutely aware how careful I must not be swept up in a phenomenon that is occurring right now. It is our penchant to criticize––even demonize––others for their actions, and think we’ve done everything we need to because we’ve said something on social media.
The fact of the matter is that my real first priority needs to be to deal with my own heart and my own callousness to injustice. Moreover, so is yours. Not just in generic terms, but by being willing to name it for what it really is––Sin.
But, there’s good news. Our sin doesn’t have to be the final word. We can change; not because of our own heroic efforts, but because of Jesus Christ’s unconditional, transformational and invitational love that has the ability to do what we struggle to do on our own––enlarge our hearts and unleash passionate care for every single human being we meet.
My prayer for all of us is that we will be courageous enough to be God’s salt and light in a world that needs it so desperately. Not just when everyone is talking about it. But, every single day––in every single way.
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
One example of the UMC at its best
By Gil Hanke
I, and others who hold my position in other agencies of our church, met for a few days at a remarkable UM-affiliated ministry in El Paso, Texas.
The Lydia Patterson Institute (LPI) is eight blocks from a footbridge to Juarez Mexico.
About 80 percent of the 7-12-grade students live in Juarez, even though some are U.S. citizens.
Their day begins with an hour-long bus ride. They then go through Customs and pay 50 cents to walk across the bridge to arrive at LPI by 7 a.m.
The students work at the school for an hour before classes and an hour or more after class in order to defray the cost of the school.
Many students also participate in music or sports until early evening when they retrace their steps back across the border to their homes in Juarez.
LPI graduates are able to speak, read, and write in English and Spanish. They have taken math and science courses with some of the finest high-tech teaching resources found anywhere.
More than 90 percent of the graduates receive scholarships to attend UM or public colleges and universities in the U.S.
The rest of the story is that they all engage in a ministry of repaying or paying forward for the remarkable education they received at LPI.
As a denomination, we want to expand our ministries with the poor and to welcome younger and more diverse people into our churches. We also seek an improved understanding of immigration.
LPI is one of many places where that happens every day. I invite you to learn more about the school, and join me in supporting this remarkable ministry here.
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on UM Men
Answering the bell
By Larry Coppock
In the summer of 2002, Strength for Service to God and Country devotional books rolled off the presses. Responding to 13-year-old Life Scout Evan Hunsberger’s request to serve as the sponsor for his Eagle Scout project, the commission answered the bell to help create a new and exciting chapter in the book’s well-documented history.
The pragmatic nature of the SFS ministry has been apparent. The SFS team responds to requests from military chaplains or books for the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen they serve. Their testimonials may be found on the SFS website.
Much of the success has hinged on chartered men’s groups and UM churches who raised funds to cover the cost of free book distributions.
As we celebrate the 16th anniversary, let us reflect on some 2017 accomplishments:
- The 12-member SFS board met for the fourth time.
- The ministry distributed 13,500 SFS books, including 3,500 to the Boy Scout Jamboree; 30 military chaplain distributions; 1,000 for Florida Annual Conference hurricane relief; 100 to Sisbee, Texas for hurricane relief; and 52 to Southerland Springs, Texas, following a church shooting.
- The board completed its first audit and first annual report,
- More than 3,800 copies of a BSA edition of SFS to God and Community have been sold since 2013
- One dollar from SFS books sales goes to the commission.
- Four people joined the Strength for Service Society, indicating they will remember this ministry in their wills.
To “answer the bell,” and for more information on how your church may participate, click here and download the 2018 Initiative forms.
On behalf of SFS President L.W. Smith, thank you for your gifts of time, talent and treasure that have made Strength for Service a significant ministry of the UMC.
Larry W. Coppock, director of scouting and top staff executive of SFS Inc.
Back to our Wesleyan roots
By the Rev. Rick Vance
As I began this new year, I reflected on the best practices for me to embrace on my spiritual journey.
As a good Generation X person, I began to look for the “new.” New devotionals, new online materials, new applications of scripture all were available, but in the end, I found myself going back to our Wesleyan roots.
I challenge you to join me.
John Wesley laid out a plan for us to become spiritual disciples of Christ and a way to make spiritual disciples of others. Below you will find a list of these practices.
Works of Piety
Individual Practices – reading, meditating and studying the scriptures, prayer, fasting, regularly attending worship, healthy living, and sharing our faith with others.
Communal Practices – regularly share in the sacraments, Christian conferencing (accountability to one another), and Bible study.
Works of Mercy
Individual Practices - doing good works, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, and giving generously to the needs of others.
Communal Practices – seeking justice, ending oppression and discrimination (for instance Wesley challenged Methodists to end slavery), and addressing the needs of the poor. (http://www.umc.org/how-we-serve/the-wesleyan-means-of-grace).
By practicing these spiritual disciplines, I believe we will not only personally grow in our spiritual life, but we will also be a witness to our church and community that will “help men grow closer to Christ, so others may know Christ.”
Your brother on the journey,
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of men’s ministry
General Commission on UM Men
You can’t sell what you won’t buy
By Steve Nailor
I just returned from the 2018 UMM planning session.
The commission staff, jurisdictional presidents, the president of the UMM Foundation, and the president of the National Association of Conference Presidents gather annually to establish plans for the coming months.
Some of the discussion centered on accountability and our EMS/Legacy and Charter programs. We agreed each man in a leadership position should be a legacy builder and belong to a chartered church. Gentlemen, we cannot encourage men to commit to something we are not willing to commit to ourselves. Our goal is to renew all lapsed EMS/legacy builders and charters in 2018.
If you have not done so, please consider renewing yours and if you’re not chartered please do that as well. These are vital in sustaining our ability as UMM to develop and implement ministry programs.
Currently, the commission raises 75 percent of its annual budget. The remaining percentage comes from World Service apportionments. We believe the amount received from the general church may decline, so we will have to increase the amount of money we raise.
In 1996, the year General Conference created the commission, our goal was to become self-sufficient. That is still our objective; however, we cannot attain that target without your help.
Remember the mission of UMM is, “Helping men grow in Christ so others may know Christ.”
Finally, at the planning session I was given the book, How to Disciple Men. Forty-five contributors provide information on “How to Start Men’s Organizations,” “Growing Your Organization,” “Men and Small Groups,” “Successful Men’s Events,” “One-on-One Disciple Making,” and “Keeping Yourself Strong.”
I highly recommend this book; it will help you see what you can do to start and/or grow your organization.
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
By Mark Lubbock
In my travels across the nation, I’ve discovered effective leaders engage in the same five spiritual habits:
- Fix daily time in God’s Word.––No matter the time of day, every man should set aside time to read his Bible.
- Engage in daily private prayer.––Too many men think a weekly prayer at church is all that they need. Group prayer is good, of course, but Scripture teaches us to set aside time to speak personally to Jesus.
- Keep a journal.––There is a wide variety of types of journaling, Keep a diary, a prayer journal and just write notes about personal thoughts. Do not be legalistic about this practice; it is OK to miss a day or two.
- Participate weekly in a small group. ––There is a wide variety of small groups, but they are all held weekly and they all develop intimate relationships. Long-term groups may use the Wesley Class Meeting, Men’s Fraternity & 33 the Series. A few participate in 4th Day communities following Walk To Emmaus and Cursillo events.
- Engage in service projects–– Every man needs to engage in a project that serves the church or community.
Men of today are repelled by pointless, action-less meetings. Growing churches create new spaces and interactions for younger men. It is not a “build-it-and-they-will-come approach,” but rather an “empower-them-to-build-their-own process.”
Consider an inclusive planning session for the year. Invite men of all ages and walks of life, but be sure to include leaders from your target age group. Share your experiences but allow them to fix the plans.
What does your church offer to help men grow spiritually? Let me know and I may highlight this in a future article.
Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and a deployed staff member of the General Commission on UM Men
What are God’s plans for you in 2018?
By Jim Boesch
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
January is the month of resolutions.
Here we begin to discern what we need to start doing, what we need to stop doing and what we should continue to do to be successful in 2018.
Too often people find their planning doesn’t work the way they had hoped. Some will then give up these hopes and dreams. Others will seek alternate ways to achieve what they think they want.
Sometimes these failed attempts lead people to curse God because He did not show up to help them succeed in their preferred manner and timeframe. Others have no God who has any involvement in their lives; they rely solely on their own strength to succeed.
But, if you believe God’s message above delivered through the prophet Jeremiah, He does have a plan for you.
When we respond to His loving call, our lives will look different and our planning will not be in our power, but in His.
God wants us to prosper, and not to be harmed.
Many people think God is an angry and judgmental God who does whatever He wants even if it hurts us. This passage says that isn’t true. God does not want to harm us. God wants us to come to Him.
God says when we pray to Him, He will listen and when we seek Him, we will find Him.
We all are seeking something in our lives; why not have it be God?
Jim Boesch, deployed staff
General Commission on UM Men