· Scouting, Ministry to Men, Legacy Builders, UMMen Foundation


A bi-monthly e-letter by agency officers and staff

of the General Commission on UM Men


February 2021


The deceitful heart

By Bishop James Swanson

“The heart is deceitful above all things and it is extremely sick; who can understand it fully and know its secret motives?”

––Jeremiah 17:9

Jeremiah tells us to avoid relying strictly on our feelings to make decisions. Like other biblical writers, when he speaks of the heart he is talking about the seat of our emotions and the feelings that drive us to act in impulsive ways.

Jeremiah warns us to avoid knee-jerk reactions.

When disappointments, discouragement, disillusionment, hurt and a myriad of other pains invade our lives, we must guard our hearts so that we do not speak or act in ways that disregard God’s will for our lives.

David realized too late that his actions did not represent a man who was so blessed by God that he rose from being a shepherd boy to become king of Judah. Upon his belated realization, he cried out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

The events of January 6 reveal the folly of acting solely on feelings. Acting on our impulses is dangerous and downright ungodly.

We are all susceptible to this if we don’t listen to Jeremiah.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and it is extremely sick; who can understand it fully and know its secret motives?”

Lord, create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Help me practice living in a way that engenders good, wholesome and right relationships with others. When we disagree on matters, help me to place witnessing to your desire to build a world community that reflects you and not me. Hold me tightly and teach me your ways. Amen.

Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., president

General Commission on UM Men




By Bishop Gary Mueller

I will always remember Wednesday, March 11, 2020. That was the day it became clear COVID-19 was becoming so dangerous I immediately needed to cancel all in-person events for the Arkansas Annual Conference. It was the beginning of a pandemic that has turned lives upside down.

I have been amazed (but not surprised) by the response of United Methodists over the last 11 months. You have demonstrated courage, creativity, and compassion. You have been resilient and innovative, even learning how to use technology more than you ever imagined possible. You have responded with integrity in the face of pressure to act as if the pandemic is not real and deadly. It has been difficult.

You have been stellar.

All of this, however, has taken its toll. You are exhausted with a weariness that penetrates to the core of your soul. You are concerned about the future of your congregation and whether people will return once you begin a full offering of in-person activities. There are days you are not sure how you can pivot from the survival mode in which you find yourself to full speed ahead with our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ, who make disciples equipped and sent to transform lives, communities, and the world.

The way so many of you feel right now reminds me of something I became acquainted with several years ago: Seasonal Affective Disorder, with its acronym of SAD. It is the result of a drop in the serotonin level caused by reduced exposure to sunlight in the winter. SAD can trigger depression or, at least, a case of the blues. Thankfully, the cure for SAD is simple.

Spend time in the sun.

Recently, I realized the pandemic has spawned a new affective disorder: COVID Affective Disorder, with its acronym of CAD. While this disorder has not yet been officially recognized, it is real. The result of COVID’s prolonged disruption, deep pain, grief, forced isolation, and theft of your ability to do many of the things that bring you meaning and hope. CAD can lead to severe depression, loss of energy, cynicism, anger, and hopelessness. Thank God, however, it does have a cure.

Spend some time in the Light of the World, Jesus Christ.

The Good News is that you don’t need to find the Light of the World because Jesus is already waiting for you. In fact, he’s doing everything possible to make it easy to join him. The Light he offers is a powerful unconditional, invitational and transformational love that will never dim regardless of what happens because of COVID. When you double down on dwelling in his Light (even if you know your faith is far from being fully mature) you will discover that Jesus will restore the purpose, joy, compassion, passion for God’s justice and hope that COVID Affective Disorder has depleted. Don’t wait any longer.

Start spending some time in the Light of the World today!

Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president

General Commission on UM Men



We are static or dynamic

By Gil Hanke

In the years I have been associated with the commission, I have been fascinated by our collective attraction to the New Testament Book of James. I can read the whole book in fewer than 15 minutes, and I am a slow reader.

Not everyone is attracted to this book, Martin Luther referred to it as “a book of straw.” Some do not read it or preach from it. I think that is a mistake.

There is no grey in the Book of James, it is a do-this-don’t-do-this book. In none of the various renditions of James, do you ever stop and ponder, “I wonder what he is saying?” “What do you think this really means?”

For UM Men, our moto comes near the beginning of James––“Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only.” That theme repeats itself several different ways on each page. But the meaning is clear. The love of God is not something to receive and hold on to. That love isn’t given to you, it is loaned to you to give to all you meet who need God’s grace.

The reason I like James is because the message is crystal clear, God’s grace, God’s love, God’s gifts to us are to be placed into action. We are called to be “doers.”

If we are not doing, James states that we forget who we are. That is a tragic picture.

Put another way, we know who we are only when we are acting out or giving away God’s gifts to us. God’s gifts are dynamic, not static. We don’t welcome a guest into our home to show him our collection of God’s gifts, rather we journey into the world to distribute the gifts God has loaned us.

Most of you know that for the last several months, the commission staff and volunteers have been pushing an 8-week study based on The Class Meeting. During those meetings Wesley and his cohorts asked their group several questions about their previous week, and their plans to make the next week more active in their faith. Group members are asked, “Where have you encountered Christ or the Holy Spirit this week?” and “What steps will you take to improve your relationship with Christ next week?”

In my experience as a class leader, a common question is, “Are there other ways to ask these questions?” So far, I have come up with 35. My newest one is, “What new direction do you feel God is opening or directing you through and what is the one step you will take this week?”

Is your walk with Christ an on-growing-Book-of-James walk?

Gil Hanke, chief executive officer

General Commission on UM Men



God has a plan for you

By Dr. Rick Vance

 “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

 Jeremiah was writing to the Babylonian exiles when he spoke of God’s plans for them.

Imagine being in a place and/or a situation you do not want to be, and you receive a letter that proclaims God has a plan for your life.

Many people today may feel that the pandemic is their exile. You and your church and community have spent almost a full year in this now not-so-new reality. Many are getting frustrated and there are many who are living in fear.

I want to remind you that God has a plan for you and your ministry. As I sit at my keyboard this second week of January, I have been reflecting on how men’s ministry around the world has grown.

We formed many virtual small groups, held national and international virtual prayer services, and launched new outreach and mission events in annual conferences and local churches.

Regrettably, may people focus on what we have not been able to do, rather than on the amazing things that we have done.

God did great things in 2020 and will do great things in 2021. Last year, I wrote about the fatigue that comes from a constant state of anxiety, fear and loss. For most people, that sense of fatigue continues to grow. Time and again I have heard people say, “I just want to get back to where we were.”

I’m not sure if we will ever get back to the place we were prior to March of last year. I do know that God has a plan for 2021 and that it is not to go backwards.

Jeremiah told the exiles that God had plans to “prosper” and “not harm.” He also said God’s plans are to “give hope and a future.”

My friends, this proclamation should encourage us to move forward into 2021 looking to God for guidance as we seek to serve our communities.

The Center for Men’s Ministries will continue to develop new resources for 2021. We look forward to see how God will prosper our shared ministries, and we look forward to an amazing future.

Please let us know how we can resource your ministry

The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries

General Commission on UM Men



Kicking the tires

By Steven Scheid

The tire pressure light came on in the car. It was a particularly cold morning. I remember my dad telling me how significant tires are. They are the place where the contact happens. If your tires are not taken care of, they cannot take care of you. The faster you go, the more critical their condition. When the weather is poor, tire conditions are essential.

Many people do not realize under inflation is one of the leading causes of tire failure. With under-inflation, too much of the tire contacts the road increasing friction and building heat in the tire. Heat leads to wear of tread, separation, and blowouts.

When a Christian is not filled with God, they carry too much of the load. (Psalm 55:22) Their relationships, the place where we make contact, take on too much friction. The problem leads to a buildup of tension, excessive wear, and blow ups. We need to keep our lives filled and watch for the slow leaks as well as the road hazards. Do not wait for warning signs. (Luke 16:10)

If your tires are out of balance or alignment, they wear unevenly. They aren’t making the correct contact with the road. Steering can be impacted negatively. We also need it for emergencies. Proper contact is essential to stay on the path.

While we see our spiritual lives as different from driving, it is not. We need balance and alignment. Balance in our learning, doing, and being. We need alignment with the narrow road that leads to life. (Matthew 7:13-14).

We used to kick the tires to check them. Now we have monitors and all kinds of ways to measure our tire pressure, alignment and balance. What checks have you developed for your spiritual tires? Are you still just kicking them or really staying safe along the road?

Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministry

General Commission on UM Men




Failure and restoration

By Herman Lightsey

Read about Peter’s failure and restoration (Luke 22:31-34, 54-62)

Why did Peter fail?

If we can figure this out it may give us a clue as to why we fail Jesus.

1. Peter was afraid.

He feared what would happen to him. He was in the courtyard near the men who had taken Jesus and saw the looks on their faces. Does fear keep you from acting?

2. Peter did not know enough about who Jesus was.

He thought he did, but when the chips were down, he did not. Many of us fall into this group. Peter had confessed that Jesus was the “Messiah,” but he failed to know what that meant. How often do we misunderstand or lose faith in Jesus when he fails to act like we think he should?

3. Peter failed because he failed to see his importance as God saw him.

Peter thought, “I am just a big lunk, an uneducated fisherman.”

4. Peter failed because he was not emotionally or spiritually prepared.

He did not understand what was ahead… Jesus told him, but, he did not listen.

Are you like Peter?

Peter’s Restoration

None of the Gospel writers tell how Peter asked for forgiveness. But we know he did repent, and Jesus forgave him and declared that on this rock He would build His church.

So, failure does not consist of stumbling, falling, or making mistakes or lack of faith. Failure is quitting by saying “no” to God and “yes” to the devil.

In 2020, God did not act as we would have Him to.

· Why did he let this pandemic put the world on hold?

· Why did he let people suffer and die?


In basic training, the concept behind the military’s method of training soldiers is to break them down to get their attention, and then train them to be soldiers. Sometimes God must do this to get our attention so that He can train us. He diverts our attention away from other distractions and toward Him. Only then are we able or ready to listen!

If God has our attention, I assure you that he has great things planned for this world, Church, nation, and this ministry to men and their families in 2021 and beyond

Does He have your attention?

Herman Lightsey, president

National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men




Leave a legacy

By Steve Nailor

Our love for others is our grateful response to the love God first demonstrated to us.

1 John 4:19.What is a Legacy?

Most folks think of legacy as something you leave behind or a benefit that occurs for others after you have lived your life.

I do not want to wait until I am gone to create maximum impact. I want to leave a legacy while I am still here to show gratitude for the love God gives.

I am involved with a family who is leaving a legacy.

They continue to make yearly contributions in their father’s name. His work and his legacy live on through them. He was the 220th member of the Society of John Wesley and he started and operated men’s ministries in the various churches.

We all have folks we could honor in this way. It does not have to be a father. It could be a mother or a friend. Honoring those we love helps us remember how they influenced us.

Last month we activated the Heritage Society Endowment in the foundation. The society supports the foundations work through:

  • planned gifts
  • wills
  • life insurance policies
  • charitable gifts annuities
  • charitable endowments.

The creation of the society has already made a difference. We received $27,044 in December and  

If you are 70½ and are required to take Required Minimum Distribution from your retirement account, you can give it directly to the UMMF and it does not count as income.

You can start a legacy or endowment for as little as a $1,000. You can name the endowment or put it in someone else’s name or ministry. We protect the corpus and only use the funds generated through its growth.

Our mission is to provide financial support for the General Commission on UM Men and its ministries. Go here for a list of ministries supported by these funds.

The needs are great, and the pandemic makes this a greater challenge.

Steve Nailor, president

UM Men Foundation




Can anything good come from this? –– Yes

By Mark Lubbock

“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


The past 13 months have been a worldwide challenge.

We have been forced to abandon comfortable routines and thousands are in pain or dying.

Where is God?

He is here and waiting. Here is some of the evidence:

  • For the first time in my memory, UM Men gathered together in concerts of prayer that spanned the nation; they did so all year long.
  • UM Men helped break down the walls of racism by connecting with and praying with leaders of three African-American Methodist denominations.
  • UM Men published important devotions and study books.
  • UM Men reintroduced the practice of Wesley Class Meetings which led to major revivals and renewals across the decades.
  • UM Men launched the first regional, national and international New Year’s Watch Night services.
  • The list of important advances by UMM would take several more pages to enumerate.

The point is simply that God has answered our prayers.

The undisputable evidence is that God is moving powerfully in our lives and inviting us to trust Him. The Bible makes it clear that until Christ’s return the world will always have troubles. His Word also ensures us that He will be with us until the end of the age.

Take heart, look forward with anticipation, and participate in this great movement of God. Be a part of the life of the church in a new way. Let us help you discover your purpose and equip you through training and resources.

Contact me or the commission for details.

Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men




What the world needs

By Jim Boesch


Our world doesn’t just need disciples; it needs disciple-makers.

God isn’t calling us to just become disciples of Jesus Christ; He is calling us to glorify Him by maturing in our faith to become disciple-makers for Jesus Christ.

You have most likely heard the adages of “you can’t do what you don’t know” and “you can’t sell what you haven’t bought yourselves (thanks Gil!). Thus, it should stand to reason that in order be the disciple-maker God plans for you to become, you must first become a disciple.

Jesus called 12 men to become fishers of men.

He knew they would first have to know what a disciple looked like, acted like and died-to-self like. It was through a 3-year stumble-their way-to-faith process that they finally became disciples.

Jesus knew that his task of seeking and saving the lost would be fulfilled by His followers. He equipped each of them for his specific role as a disciple-maker.

As we deal with a changing landscape, our objective has not changed: “Coach men to thrive through Christ so others may know Him.”

Our ability to grow personally as disciples of Jesus Christ has not been affected by increased isolation, but our charge to disciple-makers has taken a hit.

As Jesus modeled, our role as disciple-makers is best achieved in community. That continues to be a challenge in 2021.

Commit yourself to transforming lives by whatever means possible. If you can safely gather physically, then gather. If safety concerns limit you to electronic gatherings then make that your means of disciple-making.

As Paul told members of the Church at Corinth, when we plant seeds of faith in God’s name and for His glory, He will produce kingdom fruit (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Jim Boesch, deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men








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