A bi-monthly e-mail letter from agency officers and staff of the General Commission on UM Men
What's going on?
By Bishop James Swanson
Lately, I've been listening to Marvin Gaye's seminal album “What’s going on?” This album debuted in 1971. Ironically, it was the same year I was deployed to Vietnam. If ever an album reflected the tenor and temperament of its time, this album did. Marvin was asking questions about our responsibility to each other and to this world. He didn't offer many answers but he did cause many of my generation to become more aware of the actions that were affecting our world in 1971.
He sang of the Vietnam War, without naming it. He sang about the growing drug epidemic, the beginning of damage to our ecology, and he questioned God's role in all this. He did a masterful job of weaving all of that with a person just trying to live and make sense out of everyday life. He juxtaposed the question, “Will our ball club win the pennant?” with “Who is willing to try to save a world that is destined to die?” He even dares to ask, “Who is to blame when we can't stop living?” The answer he offers is “Live life for the children.” Marvin offers one other answer: God only asks us to give each other LOVE.
He dared to look deep and maybe he cared too deep. Looking deep and caring too deep can either cause you to live in despair or to live your life seeking to make a difference that counts eternally.
My question to men in our church today is, “Are you willing to look deep enough beyond superficial labels and slogans to truly love and let the Holy Spirit help you to make your lives count?”
I recommend you listen to Marvin's "Right On" on that album before you begin to tell others what to do. Spend time with yourself to discover what talents, graces and inclinations you have been given by God, Use them in order to say "Right On!"
Here’s what I want you to do: Take your everyday life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and offer it to God. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you that drags you down to its level of immaturity, God can bring the best out of you and develop a well-formed maturity in you.
I’m speaking to you out of deep gratitude for all God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you. Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourself as a person who brings this goodness to God. No. God brings it all to you.
We are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we’re talking about is Christ’s body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of His body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn’t amount to much, would we? So, since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves to each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them.
Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
Laugh with your friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.
Don’t hit back. Discover beauty in everyone, and get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy is hungry, go buy him lunch. If he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” (Romans 12:1-21 MSG).
Let's just be what we are made to be!
Discover beauty in everyone!
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., president
By Bishop Gary Mueller
A massive change is occurring that already is dramatically affecting your congregation. But you’re not alone, because it’s also touching every other United Methodist across the connection. And while you may not fully understand it, you must come to grips with what’s going on because it is the “new normal” that will shape how your congregation makes disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped to transform lives, communities and the world.
This new reality is the result of an American culture that previously favored a Christian orientation now becoming decidedly post-Christendom, and caring less and less about what the church has to say. Indeed, this new reality shares much more in common with the Apostle Paul as he evangelized in the formative years of the church than it does with the world of my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s.
Here’s what this means. You cannot expect the people you encounter – and this is especially true for the young – to believe they have any need for God, the Christian faith or being part of a church. You cannot expect cultural values automatically to reflect the basic tenets of the Christian faith. You cannot expect the church of the future to be like the church of the past.
But, there’s more. You can expect that upwards of one third of our United Methodist congregations will close in the next 15 years or so. You can expect your church to decline unless you begin praying for spiritual revival and are willing to adapt how you do things in your church. You can expect to continue to hear about the necessity of walking out of your church doors into the mission field that surrounds you.
All of this may seem to paint a bleak picture. But don’t be disheartened. This is an incredibly exciting time to be a United Methodist Christian! That is all the more so for United Methodist Men, who can be at the forefront of leading the church into becoming a mission station for Jesus. God is at work stirring up people of all ages in all kinds of churches empowering them to be vitalizers who are growing as Jesus’ disciples, making disciples and being involved in God’s transforming work of lives, communities and the world. And here’s what excites me so much. People will not just become Christians because they are expected to become Christians. They will become Christians because they really want to be Christians!
So here’s the Great News! People still need Jesus. The people called United Methodists offer an understanding of Jesus’ Gospel built on God’s unconditional, transformational and invitational love that people are longing for – even if they don’t know it yet. And God is inviting you to help lead this exciting work. Are you ready to get on board with God?
Come, Holy Spirit, come!
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
Looking into the future –– Looking at today
By Gil Hanke
In response to potential changes, challenges, and conflicts that we see in our society and our denomination, I receive many questions about the future of our commission.
I want you to know that I am neither foolish nor frightened.
Our mission is clear. We will continue to bring men and youth to on-growing relationships with Jesus Christ.
Our mission has not changed, and we are not delaying, waiting, or pausing in any of our work because of the possible impact of the upcoming meetings in 2019, 2020, or 2024. We know changes are coming in this denomination, but our mission will not change.
Our mission is at the core of who we are as a Wesleyan community of faith.
When our staff or our many volunteer leaders speak to churches, they highlight a ministry that goes far beyond monthly meetings. Our ministry is more than “letting the Scouts use our building.” Our work is about transformation––it is about shedding the old broken parts of our lives in order to embrace and live out Christ’s message.
Our mission is immediate and urgent.
Don’t be foolish or scared. Don’t wait until later to decide questions of faith. Don’t act like “the frozen chosen” paralyzed from action. Some better questions to ask might be:
Am I closer to Christ this week than last?
Where have I seen Christ this week?
How can I serve the Kingdom of God better this week than last?
Please join me in asking those questions, and then taking some time listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May we both have the courage to act.
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on UM Men
The Bible in 50 words
By Larry Coppock
When we first started the leader letter, it was given the moniker ‘e-leader’ by virtue of being sent electronically to UM men and scouting leaders.
As I considered my submission for October, I recalled a column I submitted to the UM Men magazine when we first started the commission in 1997. These fifty words continue to describe the Bible in a manner that still resonates with me. I pray it has meaning for you as well. Perhaps share it with a youth Sunday school class or some other appropriate venue or setting.
The Bible in 50 Words
by Dana Livesay, Wanganui, New Zealand
Larry W. Coppock, director of scouting and youth-serving agencies
The first steps to change
By the Rev. Rick Vance
UM Men have varying reactions to the enormous number of issues facing the church and society.
Some men are paralyzed by the complexity; they don’t know where to start so they do nothing.
Others, who have served in men’s ministry for many years, are tired; they feel it’s time for someone else to take action.
Galatians 6:9a reminds us, “And let us not grow weary of doing good.”
Whether we are confused or tired, as Christian brothers, we are still called by God to be agents of change in our own lives, our church, and our community.
The first step is to act on that calling.
Loren Eiseley tells the story of an older man watching a young boy throw starfish back into the ocean. “See the thousands of starfish,” said the man. “There is no way you can make a difference; there are too many.” The little boy looked at the man, picked up another starfish and said, “It made a difference to that one!” (Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley).
In his book, The Three Simple Rules, A Wesleyan Way of Living, Bishop Rueben Job reminds us that we are to “Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.” Each of these statements requires action.
In your church and community GO and do no harm, GO and stay in love with God, and GO and do good. God needs you to bring hope and change to your church and community.
If you are looking for resources, always check the resource pages of our website or contact me. I am always available to be your brother on the journey.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of men’s ministry
The Class Meeting can revitalize UM Men
By Steve Nailor
Our denomination and UM Men are struggling to find ways to minister with the next generation of disciples.
In a review of The Class Meeting, a book by Dr. Kevin Watson, Bishop Robert E. Hays Jr. states: “Dr. Watson has managed to reconnect us to a timeless practice that has the potential of ‘revitalizing’ our denomination. With the declining membership and loss of relevancy, we are invited to rediscover what made Methodism and the Wesleyan movement so vibrant for over a century.”
Watson’s compelling case for reinventing the Methodist class meeting recognizes that holy living must be rooted in confession, accountable community, testimony, and discipling others.
Dr. Watson’s emphasis on renewing the Methodist movement takes a simple approach: As we share our own testimonies, we encourage others to become “fishers of men.”
Most of us want to know and be known by others. We want to hear each other’s stories and tell our own. The principles outlined in The Class Meeting provide us with a fresh way to that.
This is a defining moment, not only for the UMC, but also for each one of us.
The author of 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light.”
Living in the shadow of Good Friday leaves us in pain, sin, and death. However, we are invited to live in the light of the Resurrection, the greater and final reality.
Jesus tells us to “follow him” and live as resurrected people. Follow him, and fish in new places, and in new ways.
We are asked:
- “On which side of the boat are you fishing?”
- “On which side of the cross are you living your life?”
- “Are you living your life in the dark space of Good Friday or living your life in amazing light of Resurrection?”
Some key questions for each of us to answer are:
- How is it with your soul today?
- How are you following Jesus?
- How are you fishing in the amazing light of the Resurrection?
When we share the Word, listen to others, and offer personal testimonies, we become men who have our feet firmly planted in the Word.
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
Live a life that transforms
By Mark Dehority
In 2016, at our local Iron Sharpens Iron Conference, I met Dr. Dan Erikson. I enjoyed his presentation about grandfathering and his book Grand Fathering -Live to Leave a Legacy. Dan passed away earlier this year. His message is grounded in Scripture and relevant to all men, especially grandfathers. My plan is not to do a book report, but most of this comes from Dr. Dan.
Chapter one of Dan's book is about a life that transforms. He stated, “The ultimate goal for us as grandfathers is to live a life that serves to transform our descendants into the men and women God wants them to become.”
When I look at this goal, I immediately think that we could change the word transform to disciple. It could read, “Live a life that serves to disciple our descendants.” This is the mission of our church “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
This certainly includes our family and who better to disciple than the people we identify as grandchildren.
Dr. Dan stated, “The ultimate question for us is, am I part of the transformational solution or part of the problem?”
We are leaving a legacy
Our role in this is our legacy. We are leaving a legacy.
Is it the legacy we want to leave?
Think about the legacy left by your grandparents, especially your grandfathers. Even if you never knew them, you probably heard about them. If they were a total mystery, that is their legacy. For most of us, there is a legacy, good, bad or indifferent there is a legacy.
We have an opportunity to control the legacy we want to leave our grandchildren.
Meet them in heaven
We have an opportunity to impact their lives with Christ. We have an opportunity to meet them in heaven.
Impact comes from relationship. Discipleship comes from relationship. There is no substitute for a strong Christ-centered relationship with the people we identify as grandchildren.
Again, 1) you are leaving a legacy; 2) you control that legacy; 3) you can change that legacy; and 4) God has a plan for your legacy.
Just a note, grandchildren may or may not be biological. We may not be physically or geographically connected with grandchildren. We can always make an impact and we can always find young people that desperately need grandfathers.
Get right with God
First, get right with God. You must develop your relationship with the Lord. He wants to share His plan for you and your family. It is His plan and you don’t have to invent it, but you do need to understand it. Engaging in prayer, studying the Scriptures, and participating in other spiritual disciplines are the keys to communicate with God.
Get right with your grandchildren
Second, get right with your grandchildren. You must engage your grandchildren in a personal relationship. This requires active love and time. Time is the commodity we have the least of and nothing replaces it in building relationships.
Get your grandchildren right with God
Third, help get your grandchildren get right with God. This is making disciples. This is the ultimate goal. As Dan said, “The ultimate goal for us as grandfathers is to live a life that serves to transform our descendants into the men and women God wants them to become.”
For information, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Dehority, deployed staff member
Three steps to personal spiritual growth
By Jim Boesch
Whether you are a brand-new follower of Christ, wondering where to get started on your journey or a maturing Christian looking for ways to grow even closer to Christ, a personal spiritual growth plan can help you figure out what steps you need to take to grow.
Use the following steps:
1.Make time to connect with God.
As a Christ follower, our relationship with God is the most important relationship we can have. To keep this relationship thriving, we must spend time with God learning more about him while connecting and growing closer to Him.
a. Read and reflect on the Bible. Find a Bible reading plan that’s right for you. The Bible is God’s word where we learn about God and Jesus through the words and the stories that reveal them to us.
b. Pray. Prayer is simply talking with God. Give thanks to the Lord daily. Pray for others in need. Pray for direction. Pray for your own concerns. Be in continual conversation with God by making prayer a part of your daily routine.
c. Join a Bible study or prayer group. God created us to live in community and it’s in these Christ-centered relationships with others that we grow spiritually. We share our lives with other followers as we disciple, encourage, and challenge each other in our faith.
2.Connect with other Christ followers.
God created us to live in community with others and did not create us to walk through life alone. Authentic spiritual growth does not happen outside of relationships. Here are some ways to connect:
a. Attend church services regularly. The Bible encourages us to meet regularly with other followers (Hebrews 10:25). Serving a local church is fundamental to spiritual growth as in doing so we get opportunities to share our lives with other Christ followers and believers. In a community of faith, God uses other people to help us through a struggle or give us encouragement while using us to speak and minister to others.
b. Be part of a small group. Small groups allow us to connect with other believers and followers for encouragement and accountability. The Bible tells us to “carry one another’s burdens.” Small groups can be that place.
c. Be in mission serving others. There are many ways to serve both inside and outside of the church:
- Get involved in a ministry-through-men group. Many of our churches offer varying formats of this that can provide many ministry opportunities. Pray and ask God where He is calling you to serve. When we respond to our calling, we live into God’s purpose for our lives and excel in our walk with Christ.
- Get involved in missions. Missions give us an opportunity to serve God through meeting the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of other people, while often being empowered with God’s Spirit in doing so.
God has created us on purpose for a purpose. Our relationship with God is not just about “doing”. It is first about “being” who God want us to be in all aspects of our lives, not just our church lives.
What part of your life do you need to allow God to be more a part of? Is it your relationship with Him? With others? What area of your spiritual life provides you the best opportunity for growth?
If you have an interest in what this personal spiritual growth plan could look like for you, please contact me, and I will gladly share a template to support you in this endeavor.
*This Spiritual Growth Plan is adapted with permission from River of Life UMC, Jacksonville Fla.
Jim Boesch, deployed staff