UM Bishop Urges Men to Cross Borders

10/7/2013


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NASHVILLE, Tenn.––Mississippi Area Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. is urging United Methodist Men to cross borders.

“Dr. Gregory Jones, former dean of Duke Divinity School, introduced the concept of ‘border crossings,’” said Swanson. “Border crossings occur when people get outside of their normal routine, their educational disciplines, their ethnic group, and their comfort zone where they live on auto pilot.

“Living in the familiar is comfortable, but it also prevents us from experiencing new adventures, discovering new worlds, and seeing new possibilities,” said Swanson. “It hinders us from exciting and meaningful conversations.”

Swanson, who serves as president of the General Commission on United Methodist Men, said, “When we cross borders, our imagination is stimulated and our creative juices begin flowing. Border crossings cause us to listen closer and listening to the unfamiliar enhances our imagination.”

The bishop notes that Jesus was great at border crossings. “Most of his illustrations were about people in occupations other than his, such as farmers, builders, shepherds, and government officials.”

“Imagine what might happen if we decided to just get out and walk through the community that surrounds the building where we gather to worship,” said Swanson. 
“Would our eyes see that which was never noticed before? What would we smell? What sounds would we hear? And maybe the most haunting question of all, ‘Would we see the Risen Christ beckoning us to join Him in a ministry opportunity we never noticed, smelled or heard a sound from previously?’”

The bishop also suggests that groups of United Methodist men begin “to talk about how their secular work abilities and skills could be employed to bless others and even more how they might pool those abilities together to bless even more people.

“Maybe the conversation would move from the default mindset of ‘Ain’t it awful here at our church’ to ‘My God, I didn't realize the enormous assets we have available!’"

The bishop offered this counsel in a bi-monthly e-letter to United Methodist Men. That e-letter also includes information and suggestions from commission staff and officers.

To receive copies of the e-letter, sign up at the GCUMM.org website.
A full copy of the bishop’s advice follows


Border Crossings

By Bishop James E Swanson, Sr.

Dr. Gregory Jones, former dean of Duke Divinity School, introduced the concept of “border crossings.”

In a lecture to a learning group, Greg told us that border crossings occur when people get outside of their normal routine, their educational disciplines, their ethnic group, and their comfort zone where they live on auto pilot.

Living in the familiar is comfortable, but it also prevents us from experiencing new adventures, discovering new worlds, and seeing new possibilities. It hinders us from exciting and meaningful conversations.

When we cross borders, our imagination is stimulated and our creative juices begin flowing. Border crossings cause us to listen closer and listening to the unfamiliar enhances our imagination.

Jesus was great at this. Most of his illustrations were about people in occupations other than his, such as farmers, builders, shepherds, and government officials.

I introduce this concept to suggest that those of us involved in ministry with men might need to experience some border crossings if we want our imagination to be stimulated and if we want the Holy Spirit to initiate and sustain growth and transformation in men.

Imagine what might happen if we decided to just get out and walk through the community that surrounds the building where we gather to worship.

Would our eyes see that which was never noticed before? What would we smell? What sounds would we hear? And maybe the most haunting question of all, “Would we see the Risen Christ beckoning us to join Him in a ministry opportunity we never noticed, smelled or heard a sound from previously?”

Imagine what might happen if men began to talk about how their secular work abilities and skills could be employed to bless others and even more how they might pool those abilities together to bless even more people.

Imagine what might happen as men learn how their gifts might be enhanced by working with others whose gifts differ from theirs but because we follow the Risen Christ we freely release our gifts to be employed by God to bless God's world.

Maybe the conversation would move from the default mindset of “Ain’t it awful here at our church” to “My God, I didn't realize the enormous assets we have available!"

If renewal is to break out for men who feel depressed and powerless in our churches and if new men are to embrace the Risen Christ we need to experience border crossings. 
Border crossings may help us move away from the routine to new practices that move us and others closer to God.

God is creating new possibilities. We need to become more intentional about discovering God’s purposes and allow them to bloom and even explode within us as we cross borders.

Blessings,

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.
President of the General Commission on UM Men
bishop@mississippi-umc.org