Seasons of our journey
By Rick Vance
A few weeks ago, I attended a worship service, and the guest preacher was a member of the church staff. He began his sermon by describing his faith struggle before becoming deeply involved in his small group.
“Welcome to church. The place where hypocrites gather together to further their belief that they have it right and everyone else has it wrong. Here we look to the sky and speak presumptuously of an invisible construct known as God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, which name we use just depends on the day. We are people that believe that ‘God sent himself in the form of his son to sacrifice himself to himself so he could save humanity from himself.’ We hear music and stir ourselves into a frenzy, praying for God to show up… this was me … a little less than a year ago. I began to doubt everything.”
He continued to speak about how he felt “suffocated” because he knew if the church knew of his struggles they might reject him and his ministry. He described this cold, lonely and bitter time as his “December.” This story, though, had a positive ending. The church leader continued his sermon by talking about his small group that “through it all” accepted and loved him. The love and support he received helped him move to a new season he calls his “July,” a place where he met Jesus anew.
He stated that the seasons are not the opposites of each other, but rather the times are similar with some of the same struggles and challenges. The difference between his “December” and his “July” was that he now has a small group of fellow travelers who help him through times of doubt and help him see Jesus.
Research tells us that the vast majority of men in our church do not have another man to whom they can go when they are in their “December.”
Do our United Methodist Men’s groups offer a place where men can risk being vulnerable about their struggles and find support from another man or group of men?
Are our men’s ministry groups a place where, as a friend’s nine-year-old grandchild stated, “God changed me in a way I never knew that He could change me. I thought God was a myth then, through church and all the prayers, I now know that God is the best thing that anyone could ever have in their life!”
Do our men have other men who will be willing to risk saying as this same friend’s 13-year-old grandchild said, “God changed me because I used to lie and say ugly things and I prayed that [God] would help me stop doing that and He helped me with that.”
Men’s ministry is about transformation. When our men come together, do they leave transformed and renewed having experienced hope and joy?
If not, I encourage you to embrace the theme of the 12th National Gathering of UMM and “Make discipleship building a contact sport!” Use resources available at the web site of the commission to develop ministry and accountability groups that will meet all men where they are and help them experience Jesus’ love and acceptance during all of the seasons of their life.
The staff member I spoke of earlier was in his 20’s. Many times, people ask me; “How do we reach younger men?” Do it as Jesus did! Meet them where they are; accept that they may have struggles and let them share in ministry. Love them like Jesus loved and loves.
If you are looking for resources, always check the resource pages of our web site or contact me. I am always available to be your brother on the journey.
Rick Vance, director men’s ministry
General Commission on UM Men