Who you be?
By Bishop James Swanson, Sr.
I want you to think with me for a few minutes about how satisfied you are with your life and how many male friends you have.
If you asked your friends the same question, how would they answer?
I don’t ask you this question to send you on a guilt trip or to make you feel uncomfortable. But, if you have a difficult time answering this question, I want you to consider if it might be because you believe you have not done well enough.
Our response to this question is rooted in what we do or don’t do, rather than rooted in who we are becoming. This is of particular importance as we attempt to enter into ministry with men. As men, we are highly infected with a need to justify our existence based upon what we do.
We find it difficult to accept the teaching about being a disciple of Jesus based––not on what we do––but, based upon grace––a grace that is forgiving and patient and yet pushes and pulls us forward into a deeper relationship with God who will not let us go despite our behavior.
I believe what propelled the Wesleyan movement forward and made it so attractive to men was its clear understanding of the process of sanctification––a sanctification that was lived out and practiced with the help of the Wesley classes and bands.
It was in these classes and bands that men found full acceptance. If they failed, they were encouraged to faithfully confess their failings, shortcomings, stumbling, mistakes, growing edges, and, yes, their sins. In the company of others they found support and not condemnation. They were encouraged––not shown. They learned instead of being taken advantage of.
In these classes and bands, they developed life-long friendships rather than fleeting relationships.
It buoys my spirit when I witness men admitting their hunger and thirst for groups that will help them go deep in God.
Many men are tired of the shallow church experiences where very little is demanded of them and little or no accountability is offered.
We have a golden opportunity to change the customary question from “What do you do?” to “Who you be?”
With so much coming at us today, we need something to help us become strong in Jesus and to feel confident in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit.
While there are many resources, I offer one to get you started: The Class Meeting: Reclaiming A Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience by Dr. Kevin Watson.
Following Christ has always been about becoming and not doing. It is out of our being that we do. If it is only doing, it is, at best charity. It is in our being that transformation takes place.
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., president
General Commission on United Methodist Men