Look beneath the glitter
By Bishop Gary Mueller
On the one hand, there is the glitter of Christmas, which often goes up early in November (sometimes even in October!) and starts coming down the day after Christmas because people are ready to move on. Sadly, however, no amount of glitter can change what’s beneath it: beautifully decorated houses filled with addictions, dysfunctional families, life-threatening illnesses, depression, meaningless jobs, hopelessness, and mean-spirited character.
On the other hand, there is the birth of a child to an unmarried woman almost unnoticed in a dirty stable far away from her family. The stable is filled with the mess and muck of animals, yet glows with divine love. The child’s birth does not try to cover up real life, but rather fundamentally transforms it. This event is not just another holiday party, but the incarnation of the Christ child who has come to save us with the gift of abundant and eternal life.
We are inextricably tied to both the Christmas of glitter and incarnation. Yet all too often, the Christmas glitter sparkles so brightly that it’s hard to see into the stable and all it means. The point is not to get rid of all the things that make Christmas wonderful, although I am annually tempted to do just that when we have to take down, pack up and store it all. Rather, it is to look beneath the glitter of Christmas and see the most beautiful sight in the world: God who is so passionately in love with us that he became one of us to give us what we have to have, but can never get on our own.
Yes, the contrast is striking. The Christmas glitter always fades, falls off and blows away. The Incarnation is eternal, beautiful and our ultimate hope.
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice-president
“We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us. We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.”
––Hebrews 10:23-25 (CEB)
After 18 months of isolation and hybrid meetings, many churches want to reboot their ministries. While this is a noble idea, the process is not as simple as saying it’s time to come back.
Ministry specifically to men has always been a challenge, so as you think about how to restart your ministry, consider the following steps:
- Pray: Seek God’s will for the ministry as you begin to re-develop and design your ministry.
- Plan: Include others in an evaluation of where your ministry is and has been. Having a clear sense of past successes and current realities will be a great asset as you plan to reboot your ministry. Things have changed.
- Prepare: Seek the input of the men who you hope to reach. Meet with the men who will help implement your reboot. Set specific goals, tasks, and outcomes for each team member.
- Proceed: Remember there may be opposition from guys who have attended on-line church services while chilling at home. There may be health safety concerns regarding face-to-face meetings. Respect their decisions and provide ways to involve men who are reluctant to participate in in-person gatherings.
Our mission is to coach all men to thrive through Christ. We are available to assist you with devotional resources, program resources, and support as you maneuver this time of new beginnings.
The Center for Men’s Ministry wishes you a merry Christ-filled Christmas and a blessed, safe, and healthy New Year.
Your brother on the journey
By Steven Scheid
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
–– Jeremiah 29:11
“Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
–– Warren Buffett
It might seem obvious that there is a correlation between the scripture and Buffett’s observation.
Have you thought about your response to prevenient grace? The Book of Discipline defines prevenient grace as “the divine love that surrounds all humanity and precedes any, and all, of our conscious impulses. This grace prompts our first wish to please God. . .”
You are the recipient of countless gifts, and God asks you to use those gifts to help establish a brighter future for successive generations.
We have many challenges facing our families, communities, congregations, and world: climate change; COVID-19; inflation; church split; BSA bankruptcy; and a decreased number of young people involved in church.
Never-the-less, God has plans to give you hope and a future.
As the body of Christ, we follow God's guidance to act today. We are the ones called to plant the seeds that will be the trees of tomorrow.
There is a cost for a better future. Someone must gather or buy the seed. Someone must plant it. Someone must water it. Someone must tend to the young plant.
Someone else will later climb in the branches. Someone else will enjoy the fruit. Someone else will sit in its shade.
Are you willing to be the one who brings the seed? Will you tend to the young plants?
You are a co-worker with God to help establish the prevenient grace to be received by the next generation.
“The work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers.”
– Juliette Gordon Low
Disciple making is not based on 50/50 give-and-take relationships
By Jim Boesch
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
––Matthew 4:18-20 (NIV)
If we’re going to be positive influencers of men, we need to engage in transformational relationships that are more about others than they are about ourselves.
A great example of an authentic (yet not a 50/50 give-and-take) relationships is Jesus’ transformational relationships with his 12 disciples.
Jesus, the disciple-maker, initially built these spiritual-development relationships through his instruction and coaching of them to understand then commit to his earthly and their future mission, vision, and values––certainly not a 50/50 give-and-take relationship.
In the three years this group engaged in life together, there were times where sympathy, empathy, encouragement, comradery, judgment, envy, and scorn were shared between them in uneven relationship ratios.
Jesus’ servant leadership style with the 12 disciples was initially directive as he coached them to become caring for others. The disciples could witness heart changes from selfish to selfless within their own community –– behavior authentically modeled by their rabbi.
These first disciple-maker-wannabes gradually stumbled their way from being selfishly dependent on their teacher to learners whose behaviors became more independent of their teacher and each other.
Jesus enabled the 12 disciples to grow beyond dependence to being selflessly driven to support needs of others before themselves.
There may be times in our relations with others when we do most of the speaking and acting, but there should also be times when we listen and learn. Long-term kingdom-building relationships flow from selfless hearts, yet they are rarely 50/50 give-and-take experiences.
As with Jesus, we are on this earth to serve, not be served. Living for others will never be 50/50!
Jim Boesch, deployed staff member
The General Commission on UM Men