A bi-monthly e-letter by agency officers and staff
of the General Commission on UM Men
By Bishop Gary Mueller
The third chapter of Ecclesiastes begins, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens” (NIV).
Sometimes it’s a challenge to figure out which season you are in. Sometimes, it’s even harder to determine what you need to accomplish in that season. And sometimes, it’s hardest of all to figure out what God has in mind for you in a particular season.
This is a season unlike any other. The Covid-19 pandemic turned life upside down for the entire planet. But it’s not just global, it’s also very personal. You are part of a congregation that has changed how it carries out its mission. You know people who have gotten sick and died. You may be one of the millions who has lost a job. You are spending more time alone or with your family than you ever imagined. You are worried about a very uncertain future.
One of the worst things I can imagine is wasting the Covid-19 crisis in a rush to “get back to normal.” Jesus doesn’t want us to go backward, trying to recapture where we were. Jesus wants us to move boldly forward to his new normal.
This is why it’s so important to use this unusual season to ask some questions. Is it possible this could be a season in which, much like Jesus in the wilderness before the start of his ministry, you have the opportunity to draw closer to God? Could this be a season during which you can reflect on what matters most in life? And could this possibly be a season when you can focus more on being than doing?
Not only is it possible. If you listen carefully, it is exactly what you will hear God calling you to do.
Bishop Gary Mueller, vice president
General Commission on UM Men
By Gil Hanke
Several months ago a bishop, taught me well.
People were asking, “If xxx happens which may cause changes in yyy, then how will we complete zzz?” The group was having a hard time seeing the steps that will take us to the future. He suggested we “worry about things in order.” Basically, it is a waste of time, and energy to worry about “zzz” and “yyy” until we face “xxx”. That is a challenge for me, and, I imagine, for others, who typically plan months and years ahead.
Jesus instructs us in Matthew 6:34 (NRSV), “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Jesus also talks about planning, but I was worrying more than planning.
Today, we have even more unanswerable questions. You and I must make some choices. We need to address the needs that are right before us. If I want more men in this denomination to demonstrate an active and on-growing relationship with Jesus, then we need to give them the tools.
We have just completed three separate 8-week trainings on The Class Meeting. More than 25 participants have each committed to begin a Class Meeting in their context, which means about 200 men, as you read this, are in weekly groups acting out their call to discipleship. That is just one example of the multiple trainings taking place by your staff and leaders across the country, and beyond. I invite you to take part, so we will all have the tools we need to face the uncertain future.
In all aspects of men’s and scouting ministries, we have what you need.
Email me the area where you need to grow, and your staff will take from there.
Gil Hanke, chief executive officer
General Commission on UM Men
By Steven Scheid
The last two months have been an effective onslaught of on-line meetings and calls. We have shifted from in-person connection to connecting digitally. Digital reality refers to three main opportunities of technological “realities.” These can be varying degrees of imitation, enhancement or both. As we move into a different type of relating, we need to consider plain old reality.
Babies who are not held regularly have a significant increase in developmental delays and increased mortality. The same impacts can be seen in the elderly population. Touch and connection are inexplicably linked to the animal DNA; its impacts can be seen from worm larvae to human babies.
We were made for real connection.
Though the internet can be extremely useful for maintaining basic relationships, to be in a fully functional relationship, both direct and indirect connections are needed. Handwritten letters carry the unalienable marks of our personality and mood into the marks on the page. When you type a letter, your words are still present, but the font is not “you.” While you can support emotionally an online friend, emojis are not the same as a hug. We need face-to-face friends. We need the opportunity to see the body language, experience the subtle cues of communication, and feel the unaltered presence of others.
I believe this comes from the deeper connection of a spirit to spirit. In the presence of another the creative power of God expressed in the other can be felt. If we look it can be seen. I long for the days when we can be back together. In the meantime, let us follow the Wesley’s general rules.
- Do no harm: Share love but not a virus. Caring is knowing the limits to put on yourself to not harm others.
- Do good: Reach out with what you can now. Share what you can and live as the church in community.
- Stay in love with God: Know that the one who wove the DNA of each of us together also knows the DNA of every virus on the earth. God has plans for you that are good. Spend a bit of the extra time you have with God. It will open your relationship. Even in the mystery of God there is a hug waiting. It is not digital, but it is reality.
Steven Scheid, director of the Center for Scouting Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
By the Rev. Dr. Rick Vance
As many areas of the world are planning a restart after the Covid-19 social (physical) isolation, the church and its ministry is faced with a reality of changing how we have done ministry in the past. As we face this new reality, I challenge you to ask yourself: Am I acting out of an abundance of caution or fear?
Caution, (a careful attention of probable effects of an act) frees a person or ministry to act in an unfamiliar environment, where fear, (a strong, unpleasant emotion caused by actual or perceived danger tends to stop, cage, inhibit or paralyze a person or ministry.
As we have faced the potentially harmful environment, in which we now do ministry, I have seen people ministering both with caution and with fear. The difference in the ministry’s results seem to be the based on how they faced the challenges.
Rather than allow the current uncertainty to be a problem, we must respond to uncertainty with assurance that God is and has been in our midst.
Being fearless does not equate to a lack of caution. In a recent article, Seth J. Gillihan suggests that “fearlessness is perfectly compatible with caution. When we begin to release our fears and remember that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind,” (2 Tim. 1:7) we are freed to live in the vision of allowing ourselves and others to thrive through Christ.
In other words, using caution will free us to look for new ways to reach out and disciple others.
As we continue this journey, I will leave you with three statements Gillihan included in his article.
1. You don’t have ultimate control over what happens.
2. Caution doesn’t mean nonstop vigilance.
3. Life is about facing problems.
Thank you for all the great ministry that I have heard is happening in your annual conferences and local churches. We are here to be a resource during these amazing days of ministry.
The Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, director of the Center for Men’s Ministries
General Commission on UM Men
The difference between wisdom and knowledge
By Steve Nailor
“Give me wisdom and knowledge that may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”
––2 Chronicles 1:10
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
–– James 1:5
“It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy and He delivered us.”
1 Corinthians 1:30
I was asked to offer some thoughts about wisdom at a meeting of UM Men of the Annapolis District of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
My questions were: “What is wisdom?” and “What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?”
The words “wisdom” and “knowledge” are found throughout Scripture, but they are not synonymous.
Webster defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting.”
Knowledge is defined as “information gained through experience, reasoning, or acquaintance.”
Knowledge can exist without wisdom, but wisdom cannot exist without knowledge.
Knowledge is knowing what Covid19 could potentially do to our families; wisdom involves the application of appropriate safety measures to avoid spreading the virus.
Knowledge understands the light has turned red; wisdom applies the brakes. Knowledge sees the quicksand; wisdom walks around it.
In order to obey God, we have to have knowledge of God’s commands.
Knowledge memorizes the Ten Commandments; wisdom obeys them. Knowledge learns of God; wisdom loves Him.
We need wisdom to determine how this knowledge can be applied to our lives.
Stay safe and listen for wisdom. It is a gift from God.
Steve Nailor, president
National Association of Conference Presidents of UM Men
A new beginning
By Herman Lightsey
The world has changed since March when a new team of leaders was elected and agreed to serve.
We have had to learn “new techniques” and how to use technology to continue to communicate with our loved ones, fellow workers, and fellow Christians.
God told the world to pause, slow up and stop to figure out what is important. The world will never be the way it was. The “old normal” is gone.
I hope that you and your families are all well and are working your way into a new normal. I pray this new normal is a remembrance of what we have experienced in the past few months and that we will take the good things forward and leave those unnecessary and destructive things of the past––God’s new normal!
The good news is that we have discovered new ways to reach more people for Christ through modern technology. I am excited about the new opportunities to disciple men and their families. I am excited about the guys who said “yes” to the call to be leaders. I urge you as men of the church to also step up and support these leaders as they try to discern the will of God for our men and their families.
As a result of this pandemic we face a changing UMC in a changed world.
Your mission (if you choose to accept it) is to position this ministry to disciple men and their families no matter where they attend church or if they do not currently attend a church. This ministry is not about where men and their families go to church; this ministry is about where men and their families will spend eternity.
This ministry to men is built on a three-legged stool: the NACP, the UM Men Foundation and the General Commission on UM Men. If they are not working in sync, the ministry will fail.
Herman Lightsey, president elect
The National Association of Conference Presidents
By Mark Lubbock
““The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.”
–– Proverbs 16:9
Now is the time to pray, plan, and launch new men’s ministries.
This not the first pandemic of course, but this is the first time we have the tools to communicate with one another without the risk of exposure to the virus.
In an impossibly short period of time people worldwide have learned how to embrace digital face-to-face communication. Men everywhere are jumping onboard with video and phone conferencing. Surprisingly, people who previously showed no interest and perhaps rejected the use of new technology are now well-versed in its use.
Note that younger men often say they have no time for meetings. Sequestering is leaving them with more time, and on-line meetings make it easier to participate without taking time from the family.
We can see that video meetings open up new ways to engage and involve men but at the same time there are pitfalls to avoid.
Just shifting your same old meetings online will ultimately fail to capture new men. Instead offer online events that invite participation, address personal needs and offer mission and ministry opportunities.
For example, some men are (for the first time) experiencing loss, helplessness, and even hopelessness. An online event that acknowledges this circumstance and offers hope, would be appropriate.
Perhaps your organization is engaged in mission projects such as building handicap ramps, digging water wells, or providing home repairs for the elderly. An online event that promotes, explains, and offers a several points of entry can reach a broad audience.
Each project provides an opportunity to tell a compelling story and invite participation and raise funds.
Pray, listen and launch what God places on your heart.
Feel free to contact me if you have questions on how to begin or implement a new online ministry.
Mark Lubbock, a certified men’s ministry specialist and Louisiana-based staff member
General Commission on UM Men
We are still members of Jesus’ faith community
By Jim Boesch
Many people long to return to their churches now because they feel that is where they have been fulfilling God’s call on their lives. They want to see and be seen in those familiar, comfortable surroundings where they have been doing church for generations.
For centuries this family trip to church on Sunday has provided the people a snapshot of whose they are and who they are in Christ Jesus. Attending church services seemed like part of God’s master plan to be reconciled with Him.
Many are struggling today with the fact that they have been abruptly separated from their comfortable church campus. They fear their church will never get back to being even a facsimile of the great place they routinely experienced pre-Covid-19.
But could we now have the opportunity to provide everyone with ways to continue to be part of Jesus’ faith community?
Could this be a God-sized opportunity for Followers of the Way to be made whole and empowered again even when doing church in a vastly different way than they did in early March when the world seemed good and stable?
The fact is most Christians have not physically attended a corporate worship service for more than two months, yet many faith communities are reporting increased attendance at worship services provided by Zoom, Facebook and other streaming formats.
Many Sunday school classes and weekday small group meetings are now being held electronically, and with increased numbers.
Being a part of Jesus’ faith community is to glorify our creator God through corporate and personal worship. It’s also about becoming a transformed disciple, and being obedient to the daily direction of the Holy Spirit.
In spite of Covid-19, we can continue to be members of Jesus’ faith community.
Jim Boesch, a certified men’s ministry specialist and Florida-based staff member
General Commission on UM Men