Thoughts on Eighteen Years at Fairview Heights Christ
On July 1 I was appointed by Bishop Jonathan Keaton to year eighteen at what the conference calls “Fairview Heights Christ.” We went by Christ United Methodist Church in the early years and go by Christ Church of late but to the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference we have always been Fairview Heights Christ. On paper, the story of Christ Church’s growth from 200 to 2,000 seems like a modern miracle but my thoughts are on the people who make up the numbers today. They are on the people who have been on this journey with me. People who have served, prayed, invited and generously given. People who are now deceased or shut-in, people who have moved away and people who God had here only for a while. People who have been in staff and lay leadership positions. People we have sent out into ministry in other places. Each of these people have contributed in their own ways to the whole and been part of something really special the Lord has done.
Leading an exponentially growing church has been often difficult but I cannot imagine how difficult following has been. People come to a church because they like the size and feel and nine minutes later we are twice as big, changing something, setting up a new campus or creating new spaces. People have endured shifts in music style, loss of education space, three major building projects and three capital campaigns. We are often called a United Methodist success story and I suppose we are. But my sense of success does not come from numbers moving up and to the right, it comes from a sense of being collectively faithful to our mission of connecting people with Jesus Christ. Faithful in season and out of season. Faithful when being faithful was easy and when it was hard. This mission has defined us, nurtured us and guided us and every major decision has been made in light of it. I have never had a master plan other than to relentlessly pursue the mission and see where it takes us. It has taken us quite a ways.
Here is to year eighteen…the best is yet to come!
Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.