Reflections by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
Stuck in God’s unconditional love
By Bishop Gary Mueller
There’s something going on in United Methodism right now that concerns me. It’s the fact that there are signs we are stuck focusing only on God’s unconditional love instead of emphasizing the fullness of God’s love that is unconditional, but it is also invitational and transformational.
So why am I concerned? It’s because the consequences are staggering. First, we fool ourselves into thinking God’s love is all we will ever need. Then, we end up focusing far more on what makes us comfortable than we do on God. Most importantly, we miss out on the fullness of the love God offers us.
Of course, God loves us just the way we are. But, God loves us so much that God wants us to be more than the way we are right now. God longs for us to experience a deeper, richer, and more intimate relationship with God through Christ that begins right now and continues into eternity. God yearns for us to become new creations in Christ who have the heart and mind of Christ.
I need God’s unconditional love because I need to know I’m loved not just when I’m perfect, but right in the middle of my imperfection, mess-ups and mistakes. I also need all of God’s love to become the kind of person I long to be. Sure, it’s tempting to stay stuck in God’s unconditional love because it feels so good. But, it feels even better to have a new relationship with Jesus Christ and become a new creation in Christ.
I wonder if it might be time to stop proclaiming, “God loves you just the way you are––and that’s good enough” and instead begin boldly, gracefully and joyfully proclaiming, “God loves you just the way you are––but God’s not finished with you yet!”
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
Be still and know God has things well in hand
By Gil Hanke
A few years ago, one of my colleagues in ministry gave a coffee cup to several of us. The cup is inscribed with Psalms 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God.” The verse matched her presentation, and it matched a need for me––and maybe for you. I have never filled that cup; it sits on the windowsill in my office where I see it dozens of times every day.
I am rarely still. I rarely disconnect. I talk to God often, but I do not spend an equal amount of time listening. Although I know that God is, in fact, God, I worry about things that are out of my control, as if God does not have all things well in hand.
Here are steps that I am taking so that I can be more in sync with this instruction from God.
- I am restricting my reading or responding to work emails and messages after I leave the office.
- I begin four out of five days a week with zoom meetings. They hold me accountable. When possible, I spend some time in silence before each of those meetings.
- I do devotions before I leave the house, and when I finish, I try to remember what I just read and what it says about God, and about my walk. I also take advantage of “thin places” where I feel particularly close to God.
- As a good Methodist, I am creating a schedule designed to make me a better listener to God. I want to let God take care of those other things that God does so well.
- Becoming a better listener does not mean I stop planning nor do I limit the amount of time I engage in acts of service. In fact, taking time to listen helps in both these areas.
I am not yet where I want to be. How about you?
Gil Hanke, general secretary
General Commission on UM Men
Reflections on 21 years with the commission
By Larry Coppock
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.
As I reflect on 21 years as director of scouting ministry many thoughts come to mind. Foremost was the excellent direction and leadership under Dr. Joseph Harris, first general secretary. Those formative years were marked by organizational upheaval. Thank goodness those days were replaced by more spirit-filled, God-led ministry moments that propelled us to be productive disciples for Christ.
We started many new initiatives. One of the most important was the creation of the Scouting Ministry Committee (SMC). The SMC has been led by some very capable leaders including Bishop Joe Pennel, Phil Howard, Judge Carl Stewart, Dr. Sam Bala, Dr. John Bright Cage, and the Rev. Greg Godwin.
SMC crafted and updated strategic plans that guided the creation of new awards, groundbreaking training models, membership and youth programs, and several publications. Some of the most notable scouting ministry initiatives that have affected the denomination are:
- Implementation of the two-deep (rotating) leadership, Philmont, 1998
- Good Samaritan Award, 2000
- Republication of Strength for Service to God and Country, 2002
- Strength for Service to God and Country, Scout edition, 2005
- Scouting introduced to Cameroon, 2005
- Addition of Big Brothers Big Sisters, 2006
- Shepherd Church Charter Recognition, 2008
- Silver Torch Award, 2008
- Scouting Ministry Specialist (SMS) program, 2009.
- Addition of Florida Sea Base as a scouting ministry training site, 2010
- Facilitated BSA’S adoption of Nothing but Nets as first international Good Turn, 2010.
- Strength for Service to God and Community, Scout edition, 2013.
- Strength for Service, Inc. chartered in 2012; incorporated, 2014.
- Addition of The Summit as a scouting ministry training site, 2016.
It is primordial to be moving forward in ministry: be creative, be innovative and honor God’s guidance.
It is with great enthusiasm that I pass the scouting ministry baton to Steven Scheid on June 1. It is my fervent prayer that, with your help, Steven will brave new heights and blaze new trails for scouting ministry.
Thank you for allowing me to be your servant for these past 21 years.
Larry W. Coppock, director of scouting ministries and top staff executive of SFS Inc.
General Commission on UM Men
How Do I deal with a person with whom I disagree?
By the Rev. Rick Vance
This question has been asked through the years. Another way to ask the question is, “How do I do ministry with men in a setting where agreement does not seem possible?”
The first step is to determine your “why” for ministry.
The “why” of men’s ministry is to “help all men grow in Christ.”
Following that “why” and the words of John Wesley (“If thine heart is as my heart, if thou lovest God and all mankind, I ask no more: give me thine hand”), we need to focus on ministry that builds bridges. Ministry, no matter how hard, should never accept the loss of any man. Every man lost, removed or left behind is a soul who is important to God.
Our ministry to men should focus on the principle of “both/and.” Allowing room for the Holy Spirit to work, we should develop models of ministry that celebrate the best of all gifts that each man has. The table is large enough for all.
I am aware that this is not an easy proposal. New things will need to happen, and some old things may need to stay.
The first thing we need to change is the belief that there must be winners and losers.
If each person comes to the task of ministry open to being mentored and, at the same time, being a mentor, there will be space for the Spirit to move and ministry to flourish.
Men are looking for a place where they can have open/honest conversations without fear of “being thrown under the bus.”
Effective men’s ministry focuses on developing space where all are welcome, heard and respected
The General Commission on UM Men has resources to assist, but anyone who is entering this type of ministry with men must have a clear sense of his “why,” and not just look for a program to do.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of men’s ministries
General Commission on UM Men
Listen for God
By Steve Nailor
“My son, if you stop listening to what I teach you, you will wander away from the words of knowledge.”
Greetings on behalf of the National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men.
We had enthusiastic responses to our Feb. 22-15 Nashville meeting of conference presidents and conference prayer advocates.
As we have concluded the Lenten season and celebrated the resurrection, I am reflecting on the words with which my pastor introduces scripture readings on Sunday mornings:
“Listen for God.”
Do we listen for God, or are we just pretending?
We had a great opportunity during Lent to be reconciled to God though our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Lent called us to be in prayer, to modify our lives, to repent of our sins, to give alms, and to be engaged in self-denial.
We are now on the other side of Lent; it is time to build upon the experiences of that liturgical season.
I think of the words of “Amazing Grace” as sung by Chris Tomlin;
“My Chains are gone, I’ve been set free. My God, my Savior, has ransomed me.”
What a gift!
How have you been set free this Eastertide?
As you reflect on your Lenten journey and the Easter celebration, how have you listened for God?
Hear the words of
“Easter is where the expectation meets the incomprehensible”
––Abingdon Press What Make a Hero?
It is not about giving up something for Lent and adding it back after Easter.
It is about making changes in our lives.
His resurrection has the power to change everything.
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
By Mark Lubbock
“Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.”
Easter is a fantastic time in the Church.
We are reminded of Christ’s rising from the dead –– of spring –– of a fresh start. Why not let this be the start of a “New Year” in both your personal life and ministry?
A wise man once alerted me to the fact that I was spending so much time, effort and energy working “in the ministry” that I was not able to “work ON the ministry,”
The point is I was looking only at what was before me –– my daily tasks, work, and goals. I was unable to look at the whole of my ministry in order to evaluate and adjust.
He offered me some practical steps:
- Begin by taking a break. Stop what you are doing and get away. Free yourself from your routine and familiar surroundings to allow a fresh perspective.
- Make a list of areas you want to improve. Let the ideas flow.
- Pray about the one item on which you want to focus; it may be personal, it may be something related to your ministry.
- Write it down. Make it short and to the point.
- Make this your number one daily priority.
- Do something each day until you see results.
Eastertide is a perfect time to review and implement these steps. This may be your opportunity to make a course adjustment that will ensure you reach your personal and missional goals this year.
Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and a deployed staff member of the General Commission on UM Men
Tithe your time back to God
By Jim Boesch
All our churches have stewardship campaigns. The annual effort usually includes sermons on stewardship, a course on stewardship following the Wednesday evening dinner, and articles and notices in the church bulletin, the website, and e-mail.
We do stewardship campaigning well.
Generally, we do well at giving God a tithe of our money, but, how well are we doing in giving God a tithe of or time through acts of service that glorify God?
In a given day, we spend 12 hours sleeping, getting ready to sleep, waking up from sleep, and getting ready to face the world.
That leaves 12 hours a day to make conscious decisions and choices––a time when we might give 10 percent to God.
If we multiply 12 hours times seven days, we come up with a weekly total of 84 hours of time over which we have some degree of control in the long haul.
If we were to tithe that time, we would have a minimum of eight hours a week or 68 minutes a day to give back to God through prayer, biblical study, worship and building His kingdom through our engagement with our work places, our churches, and our communities.
If you accept my math, my reflection questions for you are:
- ”How are you doing toward giving time back to God?”
- “How much time are you spending each day in prayer, solitude, reading and applying scripture to your life?”
- “How much time each week are you spending in intentional discipling relationships with other followers of Jesus?”
I am also asking myself:
“Am I willing to give God back 68 minutes of my day for His glory and kingdom?”
Jim Boesch, a certified men’s ministry specialist and a deployed staff member of the
General Commission on UM Men