· Scouting, Ministry to Men, Leadership Development, Church Renewal, NACP

Reflections by agency officers and staff

of the General Commission on UM Men



December 2019


Meet at the manger

By Bishop Gary Mueller


While I can’t know with certainty, I have a feeling the first two Christians probably had a theological discussion over their respective interpretations of the faith. Not surprisingly, similar discussions have continued ever since, because faith is ultimately something very personal.


These differences, however, have taken an ugly turn recently. A huge gulf has opened between those who are more conservative and those who are more liberal, mimics the polarization gripping our nation.The result is the church now seems to be in full-blown battle mode.  


Why is this happening?


I think it is because we have ideologized the Christian faith. We no longer understand our faith primarily in terms of our relationship with Jesus, to other believers in the Body of Christ and to the world based on how Jesus teaches us to treat others. Instead, we have reduced Christianity to our own personal belief system defined by our theological understandings, political preferences, cultural perspectives and a good dose of arrogance with the result that it leaves little room for anyone who does not think like us.


The particularly insidious part of this ideologization of the faith is how easily we convince ourselves that those who disagree with us have bad beliefs and, therefore, are bad people. Because they are bad people, we feel justified in stereotyping them. The more we focus on our crude characterizations of them, they more they become the enemy. Since we are in a battle of right versus wrong, we have to protect ourselves and be victorious. Because they are the adversary, we can do anything to them we wish without a shred of remorse. And on and on and on, until we are trapped in a cycle of polarization, disdain and fracture. If you have any doubt whether this is an accurate picture of reality, just take a look at the current state of the United Methodist Church.


My heart hurts - indeed, it breaks - that it has come to this. What is more, there are days I have little hope that things will improve. And, yet, I cannot give up because God is calling us to break this sinful cycle, Jesus is molding all Christians into his body, and the Holy Spirit is working to bring together what we have rent asunder.  


So what can we do?


What if all progressives, traditionalists and those somewhere in-between were to meet at the manger this Christmas? To get back to the heart of our faith. To remember God loves us so much God sent the only begotten Son right into the mess of the world to save it. To look - truly look - at those gathering with us, and see them as the light of Christ child illumines their faces. To allow the Holy Spirit to bind us together through the Christ child. And to join hands to wonder, worship and jshare the Good News of a Great Joy in real ways with real people in real life.


I confess I’m not exactly sure what will happen if disciples who are estranged from each other actually decide this is an idea worth trying. But I know that it will make a much needed difference. And maybe, just maybe, we can experience how the power of the poignant words we sing each Christmas Eve can do what we seem incapable of doing on our own,


Silent night, holy night!

Son of God, love's pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

Jesus Lord, at Thy birth





Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president

General Commission on UM Men





My wish for anti-freeze

By Gil Hanke

I receive feedback from men and women working to bring men and youth into an on-growing relationship with Jesus.

Many say their church is “just waiting” or “frozen.”

They appear to need some sort of anti-freeze to thaw their frozen connections.

Like you, I am surrounded by Christmas stories that, at their core, tell us of an unlikely couple, with a difficult and complicated storyline, that resulted in God’s greatest gift to the world.

So, in this wonder-filled season, I invite you to join me in prayer for every local church. May the Advent Anti-Freeze reheat their faith and remind them of God’s warming gift.

Call those families who have been missing. Tell them you miss them and love them.

Encourage your church to do something different (maybe even a bit crazy) that will impact your community for the Kingdom.

Our small church took on a project that required the help of every member.

Our task was to insert material into several thousand envelopes for a mass mailing. That sounds like a dull and grinding labor, but the work increased collegiality and fellowship.

As we were cleaning up, a friend commented, “We need to do this every year. We did this together, just like the old days.”

You never know what activities might warm your frozen community. It might be providing warm meals and a place to stay for homeless guests, or it might be a cooking a spaghetti dinner. You might invite your church neighbors to a Christmas Eve service

Make sure every home in the neighborhood knows your church is praying for peace on earth, including peace within their home.

The stories of Christmas can provide the anti-freeze of welcome and invitation to action amid challenges.

I pray that you find something that unites and ignites your church and blesses your community with the warming light of Christ.

Gil Hanke, chief executive officer

General Commission on UM Men




Keep your eye on the prize

By Steven Scheid

I remember a game we played as sixth graders. It was a nonconventional form of baseball. Mr. Johnson would slow pitch a racket ball to each “batter”. A tennis racket was used as a bat; it was difficult to swing and miss. The ball generally sailed into the far-away outfield. It appeared anyone could make one of these heroic flights happen.

But it did not happen for everyone. I remember one youngster who struggled. Mr. Johnson patiently helped them place both hands firmly on the racket handle. He showed them how to turn the racket up just a bit to make the ball sail or turn it down to make a wicked ground ball. The next swing went nowhere. Mr. Johnson patiently reminded him to “Keep your eye on the ball.”

The whole game was simple enough. It was set for success but only if they kept their eye on the ball.

I wonder in my travels, conversations and worship with churches across the nation if we have forgotten the ball. Our goal is relationship with Christ. Salvation is simple enough if we stay in growing relationship with the Savior. Our Lord will convict, teach and comfort. Jesus paid the immeasurable price for sin. God will help us move onward to perfection through relationship.

Scouting volunteers hold diverse views. The one that stands in the center, no matter the angle from which we see, is Jesus Christ. Can’t we keep our eye on the prize? If we prize relationship with Christ above all else, we cannot miss the ball.

Swing for the fences with your eye fixed on Christ alone. Serve as though you are the only one serving. Share grace as large as the grace given you and know that Christ will judge the quick and the dead.

You don’t have to.

Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministries

General Commission on UM Men




A New Year with new hope

By Dr. Rick Vance

Now that we are nearing the end of the year, it is a good time to consider how you are progressing toward the goals you established for your ministry in 2019.

According to a 2017 article in Forbes only 8 percent of people follow through on their New Year’s resolutions. Knowing this statistic makes goal setting seem useless, but there are some things you can do to achieve the goals you will establish for 2020.

1. Make them meaningful. Establish goals that are important to you and to the ministry to which God has called you. If you are not passionate about the goals, you are unlikely to achieve them.

2. Be realistic. Most people overestimate what they can accomplish. Instead of setting a goal to read the entire Bible in a year, why not set a goal to read Scripture for 30 minutes each day?

3. Don’t focus on setbacks. Forbes indicates that 80 percent of people will experience a setback in the first 30 days. When this happens, most people just stop trying. Instead of throwing in the towel, extend grace to yourself and shift to Plan B.

4. Find a person or a group of people to whom you will be accountable. People are more likely to stay on point if they are accountable to someone else.

When I was 12, my pastor encouraged me to choose a life Scripture verse. I chose Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ . . .” My pastor advised me that the journey of living in accordance with that Scripture might not be easy.

He was correct.

Many times, I have not achieved my goals.

I continue to remind myself as I am reminding you; “You can do all things through Christ . . .”

I pray you will not be discouraged if you failed to achieve the goals you established for 2019.

I hope the goals you establish for 2020 will be challenging and achievable through the power of Christ who gives you strength.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Your brother on the journey,

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

General Commission on UM Men




Ringing the bell and asking questions

By Steve Nailor

During the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas members of our local church take turns ringing the bell for Salvation Army. In order to ensure a friendly face greets everyone who passes the kettle, six people sign up each day for 2-hour shifts.

We are a small-member church, so each of us is blessed to the ring bell often beginning in November and ending December 24th.

When I hear people tell how the Salvation Army helped them when they were in need, or when I see people dig in their pockets to give what they have, I think of the story of the Widow’s Mite (Luke 21: 1-4).

The Salvation Army exists to meet human need without discrimination. Donations benefit folks in every zip code across the U.S.

The outreach of the Salvation Army reminds me of why I believe in the mission of UM Men. We exist to meet human need, as Jesus asked us to do. We want to help men grow in Christ so others may know Christ, and we cannot do this without everyone’s help across our great church.

I am concerned that the support which has always driven men to support mission and ministry may be waning. When men are asked to be involved in ministry, “Let George do it,” is a too-common response.

We need to be reminded of our calling by God, and we need to ask some questions:

“Where are you in your ministry?

“Are you helping others and making a difference in their lives?

“Are you sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ?

“Are you helping men meet the human needs here on earth as Jesus wants you to do?

“Are you answering His call?”

While I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year, I also understand this may be a difficult time for some of you. If that is the case, I pray you will find comfort in knowledge that God loves you and shows that love in the birth of his son.

Blessings to you.

Steve Nailor, president

National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men




In the stands––or in the game?

By Mark Lubbock

“You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

––James 2:24

In Not A Fan, author Kyle Idleman describes the difference between a “fan” and a “follower”. Jesus does not want “admirers,” says the pastor. He wants “followers,” people who do what He does.

Kyle likens the church, where folks sit in the pews, to fans who sit on the sidelines at sporting events. Neither are in the game. To be sure, disciples should be in the pew during worship, but they need to do more than attend worship services.

By definition, a disciple is a “doer”. James 2:22 states: “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” This means that we should read and apply God’s Word to our daily lives, not just when we are in the pews on Sunday mornings.

Men should lead by example in the homes, workplaces and communities, making the Bible their standard for living.

The practical way to gather the spiritual tools to become “doers” is through small accountability groups with other men. Activities for couples are important, but there is no substitute for engaging Jesus with other men.

Jesus discipled 12 men, who in turn did the same for others. The outcome is a 1st century faith that continues to offer hope in the 21st century.

Don’t let this faith fail on your watch. You and I share a responsibility to set the standards for our homes and communities. We also have the great opportunity to contribute to ministries that provide healing for a suffering world.

Each of us is a work in progress. The big question I ask myself is, “Am I growing in Christ?” Perhaps you are asking the same question.

We all will face Jesus at the end of our days, and we want to have a good conversation. Why not redouble your personal commitment to invest in your own spiritual growth today?

Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men




Give thanks to God

By Jim Boesch

Thanksgiving, a day that has been celebrated since 1863, is on life support.

You may be been among the thousands of hurried-, bargain-hunting shoppers who were swept up into the increasingly earlier Black Friday sales barrage this year.

If you missed the thankfulness side of turkey day, the reading of God’s Word may remind you of why you should give thanks:

Psalm 100 –– A psalm of thanksgiving

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!

Worship the Lord with gladness.

Come before him, singing with joy.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God!

He made us, and we are his.

We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the Lord is good.

His unfailing love continues forever,

and his faithfulness continues to each generation.”


Philippians 4:6-7

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”


Colossians 2:6-7-

“ . . .be established in faith, and overflow with thanksgiving just as you were taught.

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, let your roots grow down to him. Then your faith will grow strong and your life will overflow with thankfulness.

A Thanksgiving prayer

Gracious God, in the busy-ness of our days, we sometimes forget to thank you for all that is good in our lives.

We are grateful for the gift of life––for the ability to love and be loved––for the opportunity to see the everyday wonders of your creation––for a mind that thinks––and for a heart that feels.

When our hearts feel stretched and empty, we rejoice that you are as near to us as our next breath and that amid turbulence, we can receive your forgiveness and grace.

We thank you for your unconditional and eternal love. Amen

Jim Boesch, a certified men’s ministry specialist and deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men


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