The power of presence
By Mark Lubbock
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
We often use the term “community” in the context of gatherings, neighborhoods and times of fellowship. However, in television reports the concept of “community” is too frequently replaced by news of riots and anti-social behavior.
One dictionary definition of community is “a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. . . . the sense of community that organized religion can provide.”
Biblical descriptions of community focus on meeting the needs of others.
There are no limit to the ways in which men can be of service to the church, neighborhood, schools, the elderly, children, and the needy.
My experience in the great Louisiana flood
The Washington Post reports a 2016 “no-named storm” dumped “three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina.” More than 500,000 people were affected by the August rain. Areas that had never been flooded in recorded history were under water––including my own home.
We lost everything––as did thousands of others living in areas previously considered safe from flooding. And we––along with 80 percent of neighboring homeowners––were not covered by flood insurance.
Occurring during an intense election cycle, very little about the Louisiana flood was carried by network news.
What to do? Where to go? FEMA officials offered some relief, but they could not begin to provide the resources necessary to make this many people whole.
Yet, God, through His Church had an answer!
Churches and religious disaster organizations from across the nation responded to this unprecedented disaster. God used the connection to minister to our immediate need and to offer hope for the future.
The response of UM Men was overwhelming!
Volunteers showed up almost immediately to help remove all the contents of our house including cabinets, furniture, sinks, bathtubs and sheetrock.
My wife and I could envision restoration, even without any insurance, simply from the way that God supported us through His people. I cannot begin to say THANK YOU in ways that express the depth of my heart to all who have been a part of this outreach.
Through an amazing string of “connections” we received a flood bucket that was packed by a UM church in Arizona, staged at the UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Louisiana, shipped by a volunteer trucking line, distributed by a non-denominational church who first heard of our needs from my son. The bucket was hand delivered by a volunteer to my home!
This morning, Victor came by for copies of Strength for Service books. He knows me through Gulf South Men, a non-denominational men’s ministry. I had previously told the group about how UM Men provide first responders with copies of the devotional books.
Victor works with an organization that provides care for first responders in Baton Rouge who were taxed and stressed because of the cataclysmic flooding. Even two months after the flood, folks were a long way from being able to go back into their houses.
These first responders were caring for flood victims even while they were trying to restore their own flooded homes.
Victor’s group wanted to care for these first responders and Strength for Service provided a helpful resource. So, this morning, he came by to pick up books to distribute for the responders they serve.
See the thread take shape? A Roman Catholic Eagle Scout conceives of an idea to republish the 1942 book Strength for Service to God and Country. The General Commission on UM Men steps in to help him publish it. That book and a companion volume for first responders is subsequently developed and distributed all across the U.S. Information about the books is relayed by me to a non-denominational group, and the books are now being read by first responders in Baton Rouge.
You could not plan this kind of activity. God uses our Christian connection in amazing ways.
The UM Men connection
Let me bring this home now. Above are examples of how God makes use of the connection.
UM Men organizations are uniquely positioned to become vital and integral components in God’s Church by virtue of our mission and our structure.
The mission, of course, is to help men know Christ so others may know Him. The connectional structure involves local church groups, district organizations, annual conference organizations, jurisdictional organizations, the National Association of Conference Presidents, and the General Commission on UM Men.
Envision this: An opportunity arises in your area and 500 men show up to help.
This is more than a possibility with the UM Men connection.
Take steps to develop fellowship
Fellowship must be intentional, not left to chance. It is simply too important to ignore. When the men of the church gather regularly they get to know and eventually love one another. As this happens, men will also be more likely to attend regularly, and will also invite their friends.
You can make a difference in a couple ways.
- Encourage men in your local church to rally around a common interest. This can be anything at all. But you need to meet weekly, and you need to incorporate a spiritual element. You might begin by creating small accountability groups who use the “class meeting” model created by John Wesley and described by Kevin Watson in The Class Meeting.
- Join district UM Men activities as a group in order to establish friendships with men of other churches and provide for additional support for mission projects. The district should then join with other districts to engage in annual conference projects and conferences.
Understand this: you are not alone. The commission staff and certified men’s ministry specialists are here to help. We can provide speakers for events, help facilitate training on The Class Meeting, provide officer training, and establish a “No Man Left Behind” or a “Lead Like Jesus” seminar.
Please contact me with any thoughts, comments or questions.
Mark Lubbock, deployed staff
General Commission on UM Men