Bishop Jonathan Holston (left) and George Williams are among the 30 men from South Carolina to attend the National Gathering of United Methodist Men in Nashville.
Thirty men from the South Carolina Annual Conference attended the 11th National Gathering, and Herman B. Lightsey Jr., president of the UM Men in the conference reported on their reactions to the three-day July event.
“Like the church, UM Men are experiencing a decline in men willing to become involved in the local church and other connectional ministries of men, like the national gathering, spiritual retreats and other ministries,” said Lightsey. “But seeing those who attended the gathering gave me a renewed hope that UMMen in South Carolina can change this trend. If we can disciple men back to the church to be the men God intended us to be, then the church and its mission to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world will become a reality.
Prior to the event, South Carolina Bishop Jonathan Holston challenged the men to have “God-sized visions.” He did not say, “You go;” he said, “Let’s go.”
“And participate he did,” said Lightsey. “He shed his suit and tie, sat with the group, clapped and sang to the music and stood and offered an “amen” to the messages of the presenter when he felt moved.”
Curious about theme
First-time attendee, the Rev. James Friday, superintendent of the Greenwood District; said he was particularly curious about the event’s theme, “Inside Out for the Glory of God.”
“What I experienced through the worship services and the presentations of the workshops was mostly a focus on the interior or on the hearts of men and their relationship with God as they are being formed and developed as followers of Jesus Christ,” Friday said. “I believe the gathering was on point with this focus on the heart of men and our quest to reach more men for Christ.”
Concern for millennials
Don Love, associate conference lay leader, said. “I met men who are committed to Christ from across the United States. A common concern was the lack of younger men active in our UMM organizations. This was addressed during the event and especially in the Saturday morning session with Don Davis, as he told us that we have to minister to 80 million millennials! The opportunities for service through the potato drop, meal packing and PET projects were a great experience. All in all, it was a good three days well spent. I am grateful for our bishop and the district superintendents from S.C. that attended.”
Pastor responds with a ‘yes’
The Rev. Stephen Love, pastor of the St. Thomas Charge, said, “I believe that the response to which I am called to give is, ‘Yes, Lord!’ Yes to making room in my life and the life of our local churches for men’s ministry, yes to serving at a different level than we ever have before, yes, yes, yes! Then believing that my yes and the yeses of men across our conference will empower us to be the change, the difference we have been seeking. So it was good for us to be here at the 11th National Gathering of United Methodist Men, but we could not stay on the mountain, for we received what we needed. Now we are called to return to the valley to pray, fast and mobilize for ministry. It’s time to say ‘yes’ in our homes, churches and communities. I ask that you join me with ‘yes’ to the will of God.”
Helpful tools provided
The Rev. Frederick Yebuah, superintendent of the Orangeburg District, cited powerful preaching, soul-inspiring music and workshops that provided useful and helpful tools for Christian growth and maturity as integral to a successful and uplifting gathering .
“In all it was a beautiful, fruitful and meaningful weekend,” Yebuah said.
“Above all, we were all honored, humbled and inspired by the presence of Bishop Holston as a registered delegate. But the sad note was that the numbers were disappointing. In my opinion, we underestimate our importance. We mistakenly devalue the power of our presence and our contribution. This mind-set has to change before things can become better, and this change is not optional, because if and when we are not changing, we are not growing, and if we are not growing, we are slowly dying. I therefore challenge every man to see his ultimate and supreme value, and to help other men discern the importance of their presence and contributions.”