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7 Thoughts for those Discouraged in Ministry

sunset creagh

Are you discouraged in your service to the Lord? It happens to all of us. As much as we would like life to move “up and the right,” we will all endure seasons of feeling inadequate, dejected and downright pessimistic. Sometimes we just want to become 10 years old again and “take our ball and go home.” Such seasons can be times of growth but we must not allow these seasons to become our new norm.

Here are some words to the discouraged:

1) Double down on the mission

Discouraged people are often people off-mission. Refocus your energy toward your church mission statement and get back to doing the stuff you were doing when things were going well. Getting back to the basics of effectiveness is always a good mantra in difficult times.

2) Stop feeling sorry for yourself

Everyone in the Bible had tough times and everyone God has ever used throughout history had tough times. Jesus had tough times for heaven’s sake! Realize you are in good company and cancel the pity party due to lack of interest.

3) Be faithful

Being faithful is easy when things are going great but can be quite burdensome when they are not. “What is the use?” is a lie the devil uses early and often in such seasons. The Bible commends faithfulness above all things. So keep battling in such a way as we hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

4) Remember tough times don’t last forever

They seem like they do but they don’t. God wins. Something has to turn around at some point if you are on God’s side.

5) Learn any lessons you need to learn

Some rough seasons are self-inflicted, others are inevitable but all offer an opportunity for learning, leaning on Jesus and growth. It is often the skills we learn in the valley that enable us to once again soar on the mountain top!

6) Attack the distract

In times of discouragement, sources of distraction are deadly. Silence the negative and divisive voices by choosing not to listen to them and firmly rebuking them. You need voices of hope in tough times, not selfish people with an uncanny and disheartening grasp of the obvious. Misery missionaries go home.

7) Live in victory

Just start living in victory. Just do it. Speak victory, celebrate the victory promised in the Bible and claim the victory God is about to give you!

There is nothing wrong with seasons of discouragement. They are a natural and normal part of serving God in a fallen world. But discouragement must never become your permanent address. That address is “life and life abundant.”

Hang in there. Don’t waiver. Keep planting good seed.  Be faithful. Good things are coming!

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church has been the Sr. Pastor at Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

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Ravings of a United Methodist Pastor (Who really needs to get back to work)

 

At a St. Louis Cardinal Baseball game a few years back, a fellow United Methodist clergy member and I were discussing the need for our denomination to attract more gifted people into ordained ministry.  It seemed to us that many of our brightest and best young people don’t even consider whether God may be calling them to ministry when they head to college.

 

Then it hit me!  Like a bat squaring on a 99 mile per hour fastball, it hit me.  Crack!  What we need are clergy trading cards!  Baseball cards are what got me interested in baseball.  Football cards are what got me interested in football.  Hockey cards failed to get me interested in hockey (but this is clearly the exception that proves the rule).  Surely clergy trading cards would get young people interested in becoming pastors.  There is something big brewing here!  I assume you are feeling the excitement as well.

 

Here is the deal: The cards would capture clergy in exciting poses and put our church statistics on the back.  I am not talking boring head shots like a church directory; we are talking exhilarating, exciting, action shots!  Preaching shots, performing baptism shots, eating at an unlimited buffet shots, work trip shots, dressed up like John Wesley while riding a horse shots, playing slow pitch softball shots, walking out of the Garden Tomb shots, prophetically teaching a Disciple class shots!  You know, good stuff!

 

The children of America would soon dream about owning a John Ed Mathison or a Maxie Dunam rookie card and those who owned one would have to fight pride (again helping them become great pastors one day).  Young collectors could open packs hoping to get an Adam Weber card, arrange their clergy cards into the correct annual conferences and the proper jurisdictions, stack them from largest to smallest churches and imagine they were Bishops by trading pastors from one church to the other.  We could start on-line fantasy leagues where members hold a clergy draft and receive points each Monday for the church growth, professions of faith and baptisms performed by their pastor that week.  If their pastor was slumping or injured, they could dump them and get someone else (real churches do this all the time).

 

And think of the fun the kids will have trading!  There they will learn negotiation skills (another great arrow to have in the pastoral quiver) as kids will have to decide as to whether five or six Shane Bishop’s for one Jessica Moffatt is the best trade.   With that will come price guides, subsets of seminarians sure to be stars and United Methodist Clergy Trading Card Conventions will be held in hotel ballrooms and rural interstate truck stops all over America.  We could also have subsets for people appointed “beyond the local church” which would include seminary professors and counselors.  Who wouldn’t want a Dr. David Watson card?  Soon the cards will be so popular that non-denom preacher’s kids will ask their father disapprovingly, “Why is there not a card of you?”  The father will have to reply in a downcast manner, “Because I am not a United Methodist.”  And won’t that feel good?  As you can see, the upside is unlimited, the downside is non-existent and there are wins everywhere.

 

Since I am not really into product development, manufacture, marketing, transportation or distribution; so my part in the next, new, big thing to hit America ends here.  And for the new batch of young pastors that returns United Methodism to the most powerful spiritual movement in the nation simply because of the Clergy Trading Cards, I will humbly accept my proper place in history.

 

Consider this article my intellectual patent.  Or more accurately, the “tongue wedged firmly in cheek” ravings of a United Methodist pastor who really needs to get back to work.

Shane Baseball Card

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

What I See Coming for the American Church

What I see coming…

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

We all know that our world not only has changed and is changing but we are beginning to realize that our world is change. You see, change is no longer the obstacle around which the fish swims, it is the water itself. Many years ago, a wise mentor named Dr. Roderick McLean taught me to read futurists, analyze the world around me, anticipate trends and have a church prepared to be effective once the future arrives. It is the difference between a young soccer player chasing the ball around and a more experienced player learning to anticipate where the ball is going to be. I began to read authors from both business and theology like Faith Popcorn and Leonard Sweet and in time, I began to apply my own sensibilities to anticipate what is about to happen and to follow what is happening to a logical extreme. The skill set…

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12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)

Published in the late spring, this one is nearing 2.9 million views.

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

I have been thinking a lot about happiness of late, partially because so many people seem unhappy.  I think that was my first epiphany upon entering the world of Social Media; people are unhappy and there are a lot of them.  Now don’t get me wrong, we all know some people who wouldn’t be happy, were they not unhappy but I am not talking about them.  We will just let them be.  I am also not thinking theologically here (i.e. juxtaposing happiness and joy), today I am going to err on the practical and pragmatic side of things.  With that being said, let’s get going.

I think most people want to be happy; they are just not quite sure how to get there from their present location.  Many people honestly believe that happiness is a lucky bounce; a sunny disposition or favorable circumstances but I disagree.  Happiness is a choice…

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Why I Really, Really, Really Like Millennials

We do an effective job at reaching Millennials at Christ Church.  We don’t do as effective a job as the churches designed to do nothing but reach Millennials but we do pretty well.  We are committed to being a multi-generational and racially diverse congregation and we are finding that many Millennials like that just fine.  In fact, much of our growth over the past handful of years has consisted of young adults.

Here are five trends I see in the Millennials who attend Christ Church:

  1. They generally like to worship at times other than Sunday morning If your church only offers worship on Sunday mornings, you are missing their preferred worship times.
  2. They are very comfortable in diverse worship settings They really don’t care much about being entertained, they wish to be encountered and style doesn’t really matter.
  3. They hang out with each other both in an out of church They model Christian community and are wonderfully adept at including others into their group.
  4. They respond best “peer to peer” We have Millennials lead small groups for Millennials. They would rather have a peer than an expert in this context.
  5. They accept and excel in leadership positions Our fastest growing service last year is a Wednesday night service that is completely led by Millennials. These young leaders are responsible, committed and gifted.  What do we have for the older people?  Me, of course.
  6. They are eager to be “mentored” Young people value the wisdom and experience of older people who have successfully navigated their lives.

I like our Millennials so much that I am “betting” our future on them.  Here are some things I see that truly impress and inspire me:

Impressive Millennial Tendencies

  1. They know there is more to life than just money This does not mean they don’t want to make some money, they do and many are. It just means they know there is more to life than the relentless pursuit of the dollar.
  2. They value family Many young adults like going to the same church as their parents and grandparents. And even if they live away from home, they like parent and grandparent figures.  Since many are from broken families, they see the church more as a family, than a collection of families.
  3. They are generous (and planning to be generous) We have older Millennials emerging as some of our very solid givers. Many are tithers and they will give more as they make more.  They truly believe a part of being blessed is being a blessing to others.
  4. They need compelling reasons for “buy-in” Having to explain why a church is doing what it is going is actually a good thing.
  5. They are worshippers Many of our Millennials flat out love Jesus. They don’t want to just sing and especially don’t want to be sung to; they want to worship!
  6. They are talented I often know what we need to do to move the mission forward but I sometimes don’t know how to do it. Millennials do.
  7. They are team oriented Top-down leaders will be frustrated with the young people of today but if you want to build a team, you are really going to like them!
  8. They “get” the culture Reverse mentoring is essential for leaders over forty.
  9. They are tech savvy Technology is the air Millennials breathe. They are unaware it even exists.
  10. They seek Biblical truth This is the best part of all! They are looking for substance and not fluff.  Teach the word.  Preach the word.  Make clear what the Biblical author is saying and let them talk about how it plays out in their lives.

Did I mention I really, really, really like Millennials?

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997

Shane 2017 Glasses

15 Things Growing Churches Understand (that dying churches do not)

I like Social Media. I really do. It is a huge wave.  We do well to learn to surf.  Over the course of a day I can keep up with huge numbers of people in the time it would take to complete a single phone call.  I also like the fact that people read my stuff and listen to my sermons while I am doing other things. Facebook Live has been an exponential game changer.  We can reach roughly ten to fifteen times any live audience simply by broadcasting.  I had a blog this year go well over 2.8 million reads.  This is all crazy cool.

There is a lot of stuff about church on Social Media.  A whole lot.  Some of it is really good.  A lot of it is terrible.  So, rather than respond individually to a hundred articles that I think are off base (some not even in the ballpark and others not even in a state containing a ballpark), I am going to toss them all into a blender, add some ice and pour out an ecclesiastical frappe.

Here are 15 Things Growing Churches Understand:

  1. Churches don’t turn around on their own 
  2. Sr. Pastors must also be strategic leaders 
  3. People no longer have name brand loyalty
  4. Denominational dysfunctions affect congregations 
  5. Guilt, duty and obligation are not effective motivation tools 
  6. Believing the “right” stuff does not make a church grow 
  7. Music style has everything to do with reaching new people 
  8. Bulletin driven worship, well dressed parishioners and organ music are not making a major comeback 
  9. It is your own fault if your church is dying 
  10. Doing good deeds does not grow churches
  11. People want solid Biblical teaching and preaching 
  12. Church must be high energy 
  13. People are looking for community 
  14. People are seeking a sense of purpose 
  15. There has never been a more exciting time to be the church 

The Christ Church has  grown from just over 200 to well over 2,200 in the past twenty years.  Growth involves risk.  We are launching eight new faith communities this fall. Their success is far from certain.  I believe the greatest risk any church can take in 2017 is hoping that 1958 is going to suddenly return. Norman Rockwell’s America is gone. You may have liked that America better but it simply doesn’t matter. We have to reach this world for Jesus today.

Getting our head’s around some solid understanding is a great place to start.

Shane 2017

Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

The Friendly 15: Advice for Facebook

1) You don’t have to accept every friend request or do everything people tell you to do.  You just don’t have to.

2) If you are going through difficult times and don’t want people “in your business,” don’t post about it. When you post your difficulty or air your rant or rave, you have invited the world into your business.

3) You don’t have to comment on stuff that offends you. Not commenting lets things float down Social Media River and dump into forgotten depths of Cyberspace Ocean; commenting keeps it in your feed and keeps you in the drama.

4) Don’t post “sure to be controversial” or hateful stuff and then get offended by the controversial or hateful responses that WILL follow. Don’t dish out what you don’t want to eat.

5. If you struggle with low self esteem, don’t post things asking others to do things that are sure to hurt your feelings or disappoint you.

6. Don’t get upset when people unfriend you. That happens in real life too.

7. Unfriending or unsubscribing to someone is perfectly acceptable. You don’t need reasons.  You don’t owe people explanations.

8. Most people don’t want you to send them game requests or be included in groups or have you try to sell them stuff. Or be made to feel guilty if they don’t re-post stuff. Or get the social media version of chain letters… The list goes on and on and on.

9. Don’t assume Facebook is a good way to contact people directly. People think I know stuff I don’t know all the time. I get only a fraction of the posts made by my friends.

10. Keeping up with the lives of friends and family is the best thing about Facebook. People love it when good things happen to good people!

11. Faith is a wonderful thing to share but pushing too hard and too often is normally counterproductive evangelism. Share but don’t shove things down people’s modem.

12. Asking for prayer on Facebook is a wonderful thing. But please keep people up on the request. Lots of people actually pray and care deeply! If you ask us to pray, let us celebrate answered prayer with you.

13. Let us laugh with you! We all need more laughter.

14. Don’t worry about privacy on Facebook.  That ship sailed the moment you activated an account.  You are public.

15. If Facebook adds value to your life, engage it! If it doesn’t, deactivate your account (so someone can take it over in your name and try to sell your friends sunglasses).

Don’t:

Rant. Pontificate. Hate.

Do:

Love. Laugh. Celebrate.

What might you add?

 

FACEBOOK II

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL