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From your partners in men’s ministry

A bi-monthly e-mail letter from agency officers and staff

to leaders of United Methodist Men


June, 2016


The desire to please God

By Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.

As I reflect on General Conference 2016, I offer you a prayer from the heart, soul and mind of Thomas Merton. Some would say that Merton was one of the best Catholic voices and authors of the 20th century. He was born in France and became a Trappist monk. This particular prayer comes from one of his many books entitled Thoughts in Solitude.

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

This beautiful aspirational prayer lays on my office desk and on my prayer rail in that same office. I can’t sit at my desk without this prayer engaging me in conversation or began to kneel and pray in my office without it doing the same.

The prayer reminds me of the word Bishop Gregory Palmer used so often in the Episcopal Address: “humility.” I believe this prayer cultivates a spirit of humility in me.  In this era of adversarial relationships it calls me to examine not only what I say, but the attitude I take when I express my opinion or address another. Maybe that is why I was driven to deviate from my manuscript at General Conference to utter those words, “It’s all right for you to disagree with me but it’s not all right for you to hate me.” God expects us to be better than that.

In his prayer, Merton says, “And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire (to please God).”

The end does not justify the means. In our relationships with each other our desire to “win” must never be greater than the desire to please Jesus. As a child in my home church we would often sing a song that taught us humility and how to be introspective.

It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord standing in the need of prayer.

It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord standing in the need of prayer.

Not my brother, not my sister, but it’s me, Oh Lord standing in the need of prayer

It’s me, It’s me, It’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer,

It’s me, It’s me, It’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

Not preacher, not deacon, but it’s me Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.

It’s me, It’s me, It’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer,

It’s me, It’s me, It’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.


You get the gist

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president

General Commission on United Methodist Men




United at the table

By Gil Hanke

As I was sitting in General Conference, I was reminded of a classic response to a children’s sermon by the Rev. John Ed Mathison.

During his message, he picked up a bank, shaped like a church. One of the children, concerned with the manner in which he was handling the bank, blurted out, “Pastor, be careful, you have the church in your hands.”

By now you have heard that General Conference in Portland was better than the one in Tampa. But there was a particular moment when the conference could have unraveled right in front of us, as some delegates prepared to walk off the floor. Thankfully, the leadership gathered, and the meeting moved ahead, and everyone stayed in their places.

We knew what could have happened. It was like catching the church in John Ed’s children’s message before it crashed to the floor.

This General Conference gave us time and space to celebrate the fulfillment of God-sized dreams:

  • Reports from the young people’s gathering;
  • Reports on continued church growth in Africa;
  • A sermon by a Hannah Faust, a 14-year-old girl who raised funds for several water wells in Burkina Faso;
  • The achievements of “Imagine No Malaria” to cut the number of deaths from malaria in half and the launch of a new initiative called “Abundant Health.”
  • The consecration of 29 international missionaries;
  • The setting of the stage for a provisional conference in Southeast Asia due to rapidly growing faith communities in Vietnam and Laos.

We were are able to achieve these results in Jesus’ name because of the size and diversity of the UMC.

Yes, we disagree on issues related to human sexuality.

Yes, we have some accountability and trust issues.

And, yes because our settings are different, we are not a uniform denomination; but we are united.

During worship on the first day, God reminded me we are united at God’s table.

As we stood to receive Holy Communion, Two people stood by to serve our section. One was a person I admired, and one was a person I believe has harmed this denomination. I thought about going to another station; but then I remembered, this is not my table, this is not either one of the server’s table, this is God’s table.

No one comes to God’s table because he or she can claim perfection.

Like the John Ed sermon, we felt as if we held the church in our hands for a moment, but the church is not ours, it belongs to Christ who gave his life for us.

May we be ever grateful and filled with the knowledge that our church where worship and the denomination that connects all our churches together belong only to Christ.

I am staying at His table.

Gil Hanke, general secretary

General Commission on United Methodist Men




Planning for the future

By Steve Nailor

I had the honor of attending an April meeting of Louisiana Conference UMM in Alexandria, La.

I flew to Houston where NACP President Dan Ramsey and I had a great time sharing thoughts about how to strengthen men’s ministry during our 245-mile care ride to Alexandria.

At their request, I shared the four-year plan of Northern Illinois Conference UMM with the Louisiana men. They said they would use the plan as a template going forward.

Now that General Conference is over, it may be time to help other conference organizations develop similar plans.

Some conferences already have 4-year plans they modify annually; some will find it easy to develop one, but others may find it is difficult.

It’s important to have a functional structure for your UMM organization; it’s more important to identify goals and plans to achieve them. Every group also needs to establish measures of accountability in areas they determine to be important to their conference and the NACP.

The establishment of a 4-year plan is not meant to make life hard, it is a way to achieve success in prioritized areas of ministry.

You will soon be hearing about “Connect and Equip,” a training program for local church, district, conference, jurisdictional and national leaders of UM Men.

For now, though, be thinking about ways to make a difference in your area of service.

I am always available to assist. If I cannot help, I will find someone who can.

Please keep the national leadership team in your prayers as we begin this journey together “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Remember the only way we fail is if we let it happen.

Praise be to God!

Steve Nailor, president elect

National Association of Conference Presidents




Daily inspiration

By Larry Coppock

Each day, I draw strength and inspiration from the Bible, and devotional messages from either or both Strength for Service books.

Another little book I relish for its simplicity and truth is Thoughts and Lessons for a Successful Life by T. Morris Hackney, an advisory committee member for Strength for Service Inc. I also receive daily emails from a few secular leadership gurus like John Maxwell and Tom Black.

Black, a sales consultant in Nashville, wrote the best seller, The Boxcar Millionaire. The April 13 entry from his “Successful Quotes for Daily Living” is titled:

“The six best doctors in the world”:






5.Self Confidence



While I think he is right on I would add a No. 7 that lays the foundation for all the rest: Prayer (plus, I like things that come in sevens).

How many times can we point to prayer as one of the best doctors in the world? It is incalculable! God is good . . . all the time.

May the peace and joy of the Lord Jesus Christ bless you today!

Larry W. Coppock

National director of scouting ministries and acting executive director of Strength for Service Incorporated.




Just like me?

By Mark Lubbock

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

––1 Corinthians 15:33

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.

––Proverbs 13:20


When we speak of best friends, I’ve encountered some confusing and inconsistent images.

For example, a Christian man told me that his “best friend” was a woman––not his wife––but a long-time friend from before he was married.

Really? “Oh,” he says, “my wife is perfectly OK with this––she knows it is only friendship.” The implication, of course, is that since his wife does not complain, she is OK with the relationship. I don’t know his wife and cannot comment on how she feels, but I do know that most women deep down would not enjoy having their husband spend time with another woman in this manner.

Let’s look in on another man’s friends.

I was invited to join an acquaintance for an afternoon with his friends. It was a casual gathering with snacks and beverages while a game was playing on the TV. What immediately caught my attention was the manner in which these men spoke. They jokingly demeaned women, frequently cursed, told filthy jokes, and laughed at how one man got a “good deal” which in fact involved lying and cheating a seller.

To say the very least, I was stunned by the nature of the conversations. When there was a short pause in the repartee, I asked in a friendly way if each man had a church home. Knowing I was a pastor, the men were quick to reply. All but one shared the name of the church they attended, the latter said he left the church because of all of the hypocrites.

I asked a follow-up question, “When did you become a Christian?” The men responded easily; each one gave the age at which he formally became a Christian. Every man––even the fellow who left church––reported a time when he made a decision for Christ.

All of the men claimed to be long-time Christians, but not one of them behaved like Jesus. They criticized others without mercy, showed little compassion for or consideration of certain groups of folks. To my eye, they looked like unchurched persons.

How could they behave in such a worldly manner after they had confessed they were sinners who accepted the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and promised to be followers of Christ?

The answer was right in front of me. It is the fellowship they keep. Rather than spending time with men who are sold-out for Jesus, who actively seek to learn the Word and live it out in their daily lives, they spend time with men who do the opposite.

According to an article in Psychology Today, “The conventional wisdom is that we choose friends because of who they are. But it turns out that we actually love them because of the way they support who we are.”

In other words, we choose friends who help us stay right where we are in our spiritual life, blocking further progress!

Scripture offers a better way.

Proverbs 13:20 states: “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

This passage warns us about spending time with fools, but, more importantly, it promises personal growth when we choose to associate with the wise!

I regularly challenge myself with the question: “Do I look more like Christ today?”

To aid my quest, I intentionally surround myself with men who are traveling toward Jesus. They are not perfect, but they have desire to grow in Christ.

Men who travel in another direction, or who are content to stay stuck where they are, are not members of my circle of close friends. I’m friendly towards all, but I do not spend my time with all. Of course, I mentor men who are rough around the edges, but they are men who want to grow in Christ.

How about you?

Would you be honored to have Jesus listen to the conversations you have with your friends?

Do your friend’s values reflect the world, or do they reflect the Word?

Do you have a best friend who knows the real you and likes you anyway?

Do you have a friend with whom you can be open and honest and one who is open and honest with you?

A sad note is, according to studies, many pastors do NOT have even one true Godly friend.

Having Godly friends takes work, prayer and investment, but it is worth it!

Why not stop now, investigate honestly where you are, and make a commitment to move forward TODAY?

I’m available to talk with you about how to do this if you find yourself stuck, or are trying but not getting the results you seek!


Mark Lubbock, deployed staff

General Commission on UM Men




Discover your life mission

By Jim Boesch

We cannot effectively determine what role God wants us to play in serving and building His kingdom unless we know who He birthed us to be.

I offer a four-step process for your “Who-Am-I-and what-is-my-mission?” discernment.

My Personal Mission Statement


1. List some personal characteristics you feel good about.  (These will be nouns.)

Some example terms are listed below, but you can choose others:



  • computer
  • expertise
  • physical strength
  • sense of humor
  • mechanical genius
  • people skills
  • energy
  • enthusiasm
  • wit
  • sales
  • ability
  • happiness
  • charm
  • good looks
  • artistic abilities
  • creativity
  • patience

I have:… __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


  1. List ways you interact with people.  (These will be verbs.)


Some example terms are listed below, but you can choose others:

  • teach
  • produce
  • educate
  • encourage
  • stimulate
  • study
  • lead
  • love
  • help
  • inspire
  • manage
  • motivate

I love to:… _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

3. Visualize what your perfect world looks like!  What are the people doing and saying?   (Write a description of this perfect world.)


“My perfect world is a place where people know their destinations and are enjoying their life journeys”

My perfect world: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


4. Lastly, combine two of your nouns, two of your verbs, and your definition of your perfect world to complete your statement.


“My life purpose is to use my energy and my people skills to teach and motivate people to know their destinations and enjoy their life journeys.”


My Personal Mission Statement: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


I hope you take the time to complete this discovery activity to keep you focused on sustaining your faith journey to become a disciple of Jesus and not just a follower.

Feel free to share this discipling activity with others.

Jim Boesch, deployed staff member

General Commission on UM Men




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