A bi-monthly e-letter by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
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
General Commission on UM Men
Thank God for challenges
By Greg Arnold
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
––Psalm 100:4 (NIV)
It’s easy to proudly survey our possessions and thank God for them.
It’s equally easy to tell others how thankful we are that God delivered blessings to us.
However, some seasons are better than others. Winds can shift and circumstances can get ugly in a moment.
Feelings and emotions may get trampled by friends, family, or colleagues, and relationships may turn sour.
Take courage, God is in those moments too . . . and we should be thankful.
Yes, it is difficult to thank God for our burdens. But faith is fortified when we learn to be thankful in the face of seemingly insurmountable encounters.
The depth and strength of our faith may be gauged by the measure of our joyful dependence on God amid the hardest of times.
This holiday season, give God thanks today for one thing that seems impossible to overcome.
God, help me to see you in the middle of my darkness. Show me the path of thankfulness during my challenges. Thank you for the hardship in my life . . . it's in those places that I find you most strong. Amen.
Greg Arnold, general secretary
General Commission on UM Men
Four steps to restart your ministry
By Dr. Rick Vance
“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
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
Our response to prevenient grace
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
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministry
General Commission on UM Men
Jesus comes to us new each day
By Herman Lightsey
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly, and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
–– Zechariah 9:9, (also see Matthew 21:5, John 12:15)
The triumphal entry of Jesus riding into Jerusalem was predicted by Zechariah five hundred years before it was fulfilled.
But when Jesus arrived, there was a divided response. Some believed he was the savior; others would soon call for his crucifixion and call for the release of Barabbas who might lead a violent revolution against the occupying Roman legions.
During this pandemic it is easy to understand why people of faith question where God in all of this.
While this should be a time when we work together to reduce the impact of the virus, we pit ourselves against each other.
- Democrat vs. Republican
- Black vs. White
- Christian vs. Muslim
- Vaccinated vs. unvaccinated
We can no longer simply agree to disagree. You must see it my way or I must see it your way.
But Jesus wants us to love our brothers and sisters. He is ready to forgive our sins against God and our sins against each other
I challenge each of you to renew your commitment to men and their families.
Remember, this ministry is not about where or if men and their families attend church. This ministry is about where men and their families will spend eternity!
This Advent season is a time to remember why we celebrate and who we celebrate.
Jesus comes to us new each day.
Herman Lightsey, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
Use your RMD to support your foundation
By Steve Nailor
It goes without saying 2021 had some interesting twists and turns. We go along for a while and think things are getting better during the pandemic and then things change.
The UM Men Foundation is no different. It has its peaks and valleys also.
As we have gone through this year, we have had some exciting times. We have been able to start the Heritage Fund, which is a general fund for supporting a variety of outreach ministries. We received $22,044 though one man’s estate who wanted to make a difference in men’s ministry, and we received two $5,000 gifts which increased the fund to $32,044.
You can help this fund grow. Those of us who are above age 70½ are required to make Require Minimum Distributions (RMD) from our IRAs each year. You can avoid paying tax on this distribution if you ask your IRA to make the distribution directly to the foundation.
Take some time to read the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21). Many of us have been blessed, like the young man in the parable. It's easy to adopt the mindset that acquiring stuff can bring us happiness, meaning, and security. But, as Jesus says in the parable, life is more than our possessions. God doesn't intend our blessings to stop with us. He means for them to flow through us.
You can go here to make a gift from your computer or ask your financial adviser to send a gift from your RMD to the foundation.
Giving makes us feel happy, trusting and connected.
Steve Nailor, president
UM Men Foundation
By Mark Lubbock
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
–– Isaiah 43:19
Moving toward superior results should begin with a thoughtful review of the results of past activities.
Now is a perfect time to evaluate the outcomes your investments in 2021.
If there are only a few quality “fruits of the Spirit” at the end of the year, the way followed was not led by Jesus.
Set a new course.
The Bible encourages us to seek wisdom, and the best source of that wisdom is a combination of prayer, Bible study, and discernment.
Results frequently reveal that the ways of the world, business practices, and even common-sense strategies do not always line up with biblical instruction.
For example, you might want to connect with youth or younger men in your community, and common sense says you should create an activity and invite your desired audience to attend.
Yet, Scripture provides examples of a better way: Jesus met Matthew at a tax booth; he encountered Zacchaeus in a tree; and he visited a fishing port to meet Peter and Andrew.
Jesus went to the people. He met them in their own circumstances prior to issuing invitations.
That is the example we should follow.
The best way to plan for 2022 is to begin with prayer, study, and listening.
Ask yourself, “What is my desired outcome?” “What steps are necessary to achieve this outcome?” “What resources do I need?”
Ask questions related to when, who. what, and how?
Why not ask staff members of the commission to help you plan for next year? We offer expert assistance and SMART (specific, meaningful, achievable, relevant, and timely) goals.
Do not settle for less than the best. Become an agent of change for 2022 and set an example for all to follow.
Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member
General Commission on UM Men
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