A bi-monthly e-letter by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
This is really macho
By Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.
Old Testament writings have been terribly misunderstood by Christians today; many rules seem antiquated and have been cast aside because of our cultural biases or our lack of academic knowledge about them.
One law in Leviticus can help the Christian community have a reasonable debate about whether or not they should wear masks during this Coronavirus pandemic:
“Anyone with an infection of skin disease must wear torn clothes, dishevel their hair, cover their upper lip, and shout out, “Unclean! Unclean!
–– Leviticus 13:45 (CEB)
The key to understanding laws in Leviticus is to realize that the newly liberated Hebrews were being molded into a community and developing a community DNA that would help them live together for the benefit of the whole––something that might make us uneasy today.
Anyone who was deemed a threat to the welfare of the community was viewed with suspicion and that individual was expected to deny himself for the good of the whole.
Someone with a skin disease could spread and infect the entire community. That person was expected to isolate himself for the good of the whole. He then became, not a villain, but a hero––someone who was willing to be inconvenienced for protection of others.
In the midst, of the COVID-19 pandemic maybe we men can demonstrate that which is truly macho by wearing a mask.
Like the ancient Hebrew with a skin disease who cried “Unclean” to warn an approaching person that he might be in danger, men who wear masks today are the real heroes by caring more for their neighbors than inconveniencing themselves.
Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., president
General Commission on UM Men
By Bishop Gary Mueller
The opening words of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes offer profound wisdom, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
We find ourselves in two seasons at the same time. The first is the season of COVID-19. The second is the season in which the world has finally embraced the absolute necessity of dismantling racism and moving toward a new vision of living as a reconciled people. We are called to make a difference in these seasons as Jesus’ followers. Not by following conventional wisdom, but by living the Jesus’ way.
This means we go slow as we deal with COVID-19. The pandemic is not over. In fact, it’s entered a new and dangerous stage. Like you, I long to transcend Zoom and gather face-to-face with sisters and brothers in faith to pray, worship, study and serve. But Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbor means we go slowly––making sure we do it with our masks on.
On the other hand, living the Jesus’ way means we go fast in addressing racial injustice that has been on hold too long. We must go fast in coming to grips with how racism is part and parcel of our culture, government, the private sector and the church. We must go fast as we address our role in it, as hard as that may be to do. And we must go fast as we seek to live as a reconciled community in which ethnicity and race are not dividers, but wonderful gifts within the Body of Christ.
We have important seasonal work to do. There is a place for all of us to make a difference.
For God’s sake, let’s show the world how to go slow and how to go fast.
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
By Gil Hanke
Have you ever been stuck? In many ways we as churches and as a country are stuck. But I see some remarkable ways we are getting unstuck.
Yes, we need to follow the rules about masks and social distancing, yes, our most recent annual conference was, or will be “unique.” But, here are four actions which will help you get unstuck:
- Recently, we had three separate Class Meeting training sessions going on at the same time on Zoom. They are now completed; each of the participants is setting up a similar Class Meeting within his church, district or conference. These meetings make disciples of Jesus Christ, so if you have guys in your church or district who would like to start an 8-week training that will literally change lives, let me know.
- Hundreds of men (and some women) in the UMC recently attended at least one of the three online “Days of Prayer” sponsored by UM Men in U.S. jurisdictions. These have been remarkable and are unlike any previous jurisdictional events in the last 25 years. More are scheduled.
- People are finding new joy, simply by checking up on others in their churches. We used to do this for our shut-ins, but, who in your church is not, at some level, shut in? A personal email, or picking up the phone, or sending a personal text message, brings delight for both parties.
- Many of you are reading good books that bless you, challenge you, and entertain you in positive ways. Friends of yours are hungry for a great book and would appreciate your suggestions of what has helped or delighted you. My suggestions are: The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood; The Walk––Five Essential Practices of Christian Life by Adam Hamilton; and In God’s Image by Derek Maul.
For a host of reasons––Get unstuck.
Gil Hanke, chief executive officer
General Commission on UM Men
By Steven Scheid
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. (NIV)
1 Peter 4:10 10
There are times when we go about our business without realizing why we are here.
It happened to me this weekend. I could hardly sleep on Friday night as I was excited about a canoe fishing trip scheduled for the early Saturday morning. It was my time to pull in a state-record brown trout.
I arrived before the sun had fully come up. But, after getting my canoe on the water, I heard horns warning about a release of water from the dam. I thought I still had time before the release. Then the rush of water came from under the dam. It’s difficult to get a big fish to bite in the heavy current. It is also harder to control a boat.
I was not worried, but I did continue cautiously.
Down the river a bit, I learned why I was there. I was there, not for fish, but for people. A family of four had rolled their canoe. The mother called out for help. All four had their life jackets on, but the current was strong. I pulled in my lines quickly to help. A couple of us jumped into action. The family was ok. Multiple boats rolled that afternoon. I was there to help.
It wasn’t my plan but was an opportunity.
When we are willing, a floodgate of opportunity will open. We will be called to act, no matter why or how we got there.
Keep listening and be ready.
We cannot stop the challenges and changes of life, but we can be willing to reach out.
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
By Dr. Rick Vance
Like you, I hoped we would be further along in the recovery from COVID-19 by this time. This morning’s report from the Centers for Disease Control, tells me that we are not.
This public-health disaster has deeply affected people around the world. For more than five months we have been trying to live in a reality that is characterized by constant change and uncertainty.
Research shows that early in a disaster cycle, people tend to pull together. There is a spirit of community and unity that draws people together.
Do you remember earlier this year, how people supported one another? People were getting to know their neighbors.
Eventually though, stress built up, optimism wavered, and discouragement and cynicism set in.
With this in mind, I believe it is time for us to look at the coping skills we are using to navigate this new reality. In an article published by UC Davis Health, writers discuss this current reality where people are saying; “… they don’t care if they get COVID-19. They’d rather risk getting sick than stay home or be careful. Others have simply stopped listening to health leaders and science.”
They suggest that we have the ability to help ourselves if we develop coping skills that include:
- Exercise: Even a simple walk will help
- Talking: Talk it out with a trusted friend
- Constructive thinking: Be compassionate with yourself and others
- Mindfulness and gratitude: Live in the moment and be thankful for the blessings God has given you.
We are living in unprecedented times. We are all susceptible to the stress that accompanies this type of disaster. It is important to remember that we must care for ourselves and care for those whom God has placed in our pathways.
Utilizing Wesleyan accountability groups such as the Class Meeting and being open to Christian conversations, we can begin to navigate the obstacles of COVID-19 fatigue.
Through it all remember John Wesley’s words; “The best of it all is, God is with us.”
If you need resources during this time, please let us know.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
Growing our ministry during an unscheduled pause
By Herman Lightsey
Wow! As of the release of this newsletter most, if not all, jurisdictions have hosted a National Day of Prayer. I am particularly thankful the North East Jurisdiction took a leap of faith and hosted the first day of prayer, and I’m grateful for their willingness to help other jurisdictions establish similar events. This spirit is going to grow this ministry.
The virus has caused us to pause, but out of this pause we have seen tremendous growth in ministry to men and their families. We have seen innovations such as Zoom meetings, along with virtual training courses such as The Class Meeting, Lead Like Jesus, and New Leader training. On August 14-15, Rick Vance will hold the first virtual training for Men’s Ministry Specialists, and on September 24-26, the commission will host its first virtual board meeting.
When new leaders of UM Men stepped up in early March, the world was a much different place than it is today. We are still looking for the new normal. But, God never promised to take us around life’s trial and tribulations. He did promise to never leave us and to see us through every issue, good or bad.
I do not know about you, but, looking in the rear view of my life, I see God guiding me through the perils of life. He was there when I really did not want Him there and He was there when I needed him most. All the time He was inviting me to come home to Him.
I do not know why God loves us so much. We are hard to love most of the time, but He never gives up on us.
The virus has caused us to pause, but out of this pause we have seen tremendous growth in ministry to men and their families.
Continue to support this ministry to men and their families. Continue sharing ideas and working together, and we will not only get through this, but we will grow this ministry as men of God.
This ministry is not about where (or if) men and their families go to church, this ministry is about where they will spend eternity.
Remember, “We can do all things through Christ!” (Philippians 4:13).
Grace and peace.
Herman Lightsey, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
By Mark Lubbock
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”.”
–– 2 Timothy 3:16-17
When I was young my family had to do much with little. Our budget was tight, and when it came to repairs, duct tape, a screwdriver and a hammer were the only available tools.
Needless to say, the fixes and patch jobs suffered in quality.
I later obtained and maintained some of the proper tools––What a difference!
When we had to rebuild our home after a flood, the right tools made it possible to produce quality work.
We also need the right tools for our spiritual lives.
God’s Living Word, the Bible, provides information about the proper tools and instruction on how to use them for all of life’s challenges.
Using a new tool works much better after studying the instruction manual. It also helps to get advice from a seasoned expert to avoid pitfalls and master skills.
Then comes practice.
With regular practice we learn from mistakes and we get better results.
I like regular personal Bible study, but I also participate in small-group studies. We flesh out just what the Word says, and how to apply it to our lives.
Like a team that practices sports together, a small group can produce strong and effective members.
What is your favorite tool to learn and grow? Have you thought about your spiritual life in this way?
Consider training offered by the commission as a good way to add tools to your spiritual tool-box. If we don’t have the right tool, we’ll make it for you!
Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and deployed staff member
General Commission on UM Men
Foundation is cornerstone for UM Men ministries
By Steve Nailor
The cornerstone is the most important stone of any building.
This stone normally established the 90 degree angle between the front of the building and the side.
If the stone cutter has cut the cornerstone at the northwest corner of a 100-foot building by 89 degree angle instead of the 90 degree angle that one-degree error will make the east side of the building nearly two feet shorter than the west side (1.74 feet).
The same is true of the UM Men Foundation, this cornerstone of ministries to men and youth aligns the ministries of the General Commission on United Methodist Men and the National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men.
If donations to the foundation fall short by even $100, ministries to men and our youth will be adversely affected in unsuspected way.
In some cases cornerstones carry a time capsule so if the building is ever destroyed, people can learn something about the early formation of the building.
In 1981, the foundation was established when it appeared the UMC was about to drop financial support for scouting ministries. Since that time, the foundation has supported the Office of Scouting Ministries, the Office of Men’s Ministries, the Upper Room Prayer Line, and evangelism opportunities.
If the cornerstone is chipped away or damaged, the entire structure is endangered.
In recent months and years, inflation, coronavirus, escalating needs, and compassion fatigue have eroded the cornerstone.
The stone is reinforced by people who honor people by inducting them into the John Wesley Society or presenting them with Life Achievement Awards.
However, those who serve as Legacy Builders (those who contribute more than $10 per month) serve the most important role in the preservation of this cornerstone.
To protect that cornerstone, click here.
Steve Nailor, president
UM Men Foundation