"Get out of the boat!" Swanson urges men at Dandridge event

"Get out of the boat!" Swanson urges men at Dandridge event

Bishop James Swanson shouted at the 141 men and boys gathered at Shady Grove United Methodist Church on March 21.

They didn't seem to mind. They applauded and raised their hands in the sanctuary of the Morristown District church.

"You've got to get out of the boat," Swanson said in his passionate sermon. "You've got to get out of the boat if you want to be safe, if you want that kind of relationship with Jesus Christ."

The men were gathered for Holston's annual "United Methodist Men's Day with the Bishop" in Dandridge, Tenn. This year's attendance surpassed the 2008 attendance, which was 85.

Mike Smith, president of the conference UMM, attributed the high participation to enthusiasm generated by the inaugural event "Calling All Men" in August 2008.

"Men are getting excited about coming to Christ," said Smith, a member of Concord UMC, Oak Ridge District. "They're realizing they can walk across the room, talk to others, and say, 'Come on with me to my church.'"

Bishop Swanson concluded the Saturday gathering with worship and Holy Communion. His message was based on Matthew 14:22-33. When the disciples saw Jesus walking on water, they were terrified. But Peter said, "Lord, if it's you, bid me to come to you."

According to Swanson, Jesus said, "Come on. Let me see what you're made of ."

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk across water until he became afraid and started to sink. Yet, said Swanson, "He walked one second longer than the others ... His desire to to be with Jesus was stronger than his desire to stay in the boat.

"Maybe Peter realized that the real safety was not in the boat. The real safety was in a relationship with Jesus Christ," Swanson said.

Referring to the nation's financial distress, the bishop said men should "step up" to lead the church when people need it most.

"We are called in this economic crisis not to panic and to lose our confidence," he said. "Our hope and confidence is in God, who is so extravagant, that while we are down here worrying about what we don't have, God is using gold to pave the streets of heaven for us."

Prior to worship, participants gathered for a business meeting, fellowship, and personal testimonies. Sixteen Boy Scouts representing two troops accepted the UMM invitation to join them for the day-long event. Keith Smith, conference scouting coordinator, led the boys in skills contests and a viewing of the movie, "October Sky."

"Many United Methodist Men don't think about inviting their Boy Scouts to join them," Smith said. "But it should be part of the 'open doors' policy of the church."

More than 75 percent of Boy Scouts are not members of United Methodist churches, Smith said. "Quite bluntly, a lot of them don't have a church they call home. So what a wonderful opportunity to minister to these boys."

Smith is a member of Red Bank UMC, Chattanooga District. The participating Boy Scouts came from Red Bank and First Dandrige UMC, Morristown District.

According to Mike Smith, 47 churches were represented at UMM Day, as well as 12 districts. Twenty-three pastors attended. Also participating were District Superintendents Archer Coppedge of Big Stone Gap and Mickey Rainwater of Morristown.

Smith said that plans are well underway for the second "Calling All Men" event, scheduled Aug. 7-8 in Sevierville, Tenn. Last year's attendance was 555.

"Our goal is 1,000 this year," he said. "Even if we get just one man from each church, we'll have 900."

For related reading, see "Reading List" and the national web site for United Methodist Men.