THE NEXT FIFTEEN YEARS
I have been amazed of late at how many people have asked me, “What are your plans for the next fifteen years?” Perhaps they see the new building completed, the campuses in place and the Student and Children’s Ministries booming and wonder, “What is the next big thing for Christ Church?” Or perhaps they do the math and see that I have about fifteen years before mandatory retirement and are curious about what is in my head concerning it. So I have been thinking much about my plans for the next fifteen years.
Here are my plans:
1. Keep connecting people to Jesus
I plan to keep Christ Church focused upon our mission. “Keeping the main thing the main thing” and avoiding institutional distraction is my most important job as a senior pastor.
2. Stay relentless in my life’s work
I plan to keep working hard every single day. The age-old formula: “Success = Excellence over Time” is absolutely true. I discovered long ago that the only two things I can control are effort and attitude. I plan to be unrelenting concerning both!
3. Improve my preaching
I LOVE to preach and teach (though I am increasingly unsure of the difference). I don’t want to be a pulpit preacher in the next fifteen years who coasts off of what he has accomplished in the previous twenty-five. I want to get better, push the boundaries, trust the Holy Spirit for new insights and serve up every message I present homemade, tasty, hot and fresh!
4. Keep Christ Church healthy, growing, functional and vital
I love Christ Church. In many ways, this congregation has been my life’s work. I plan to effectively lead us so the church will continue to thrive in her mission and effectiveness long beyond when I have retired and people have forgotten my name.
5. Become a mentor to young pastors
Shifting from a player to a player-coach has been significantly easier than I anticipated. Pouring into promising young Christian leaders and watching them impact the world for Jesus is something I hope to continue well beyond my formal ministry years. Mentoring and coaching will be my professional legacy.
6. Be a good Christian
The past handful of years have brought unexpected challenges into my life that have necessitated personal growth in Christ. Had I written the script for my life, I would have edited out all the pain. But that pain has produced a more reflective, compassionate, humane and empathetic man as Christ has walked with me through it. I plan to know Jesus even better in the next fifteen years!
7. Give Melissa her best years
People outside of pastoral ministry can little imagine the stresses, sacrifices and challenges that are common to those who have obeyed God’s call. Melissa has been as much a part of the history here as I have been and I am grateful. Leading a congregation through change is hard and at times, Melissa has been placed on the back burner. I have some making up to do. I plan to be a better husband to her in the next fifteen than I have been in the previous thirty-three.
8. Be a great father and grandfather
I used to try to juggle my busy schedule. I stopped that a few years back. Now I attempt to be 100% present wherever I am. If I am at work, I am 100% engaged at work. If I am at home, I am 100% engaged there. I have four young grandchildren. I plan to be a major shaping force in their lives. 100%.
9. Enjoy every day of my life
Happiness is not something others give you, it is something you must choose for yourself. I choose to be happy these days in ways I didn’t know how when I was younger. I plan to enjoy sunsets, climb mountain trails, take pilgrimages to Israel, read great books, spend time with my family and schedule in plenty of adventures along the way!
10. Finish well
This is actually my number one plan. How tragic it would be to run the race well only to stumble at the finish line! I plan to make the next fifteen years the most successful years of my personal, professional and spiritual life!
The first four of these items would have been on my Top Ten list had I made it in 2001 but the next six represent a “transformation” of sorts. Now settled into my fifties, I am as passionate about my call as I have ever been. I have lost no drive from the early years, I am a whole lot smarter and have lost surprisingly little energy. But I am frankly more concerned about relationship, gratitude, life and legacy than I used to be. How do you truly thank a wife who has stuck with you through thick and thin? How do you make quality time for the people you love most and best? How do you ensure that you will forever be the “Great and Mighty Papa” to your grandchildren? How do you truly leave a leadership legacy beyond the point the Methodists tell you that you are too old to be a full-time pastor? How do you truly live each day to the fullest?
As I get older (and hopefully wiser), I am reminded that our legacies will not be defined by what we have accomplished (or even failed to accomplish), but by the investment we have made in the Kingdom of God and in the lives of others.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL since 1997.