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

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.  I believe the best route to happiness is found by following the footsteps of those who have already arrived.

Here are my observations on the topic that have been formed by watching happy people for decades.

  1. Focus on what you have and not on what you don’t Unhappy people are unthankful people. The practice of counting your blessings is a great start.  Get out a legal pad and write down all the good things in your life.  Often unhappiness sneaks in when we lose sight of all the good things in our life and become focused on one or two difficult things.
  2. Question the sources of your expectations Most unhappy people want things they don’t have…and they want them bad. Are these expectations realistic?  Who is selling them to you?  I hope not the media.  Having a miserable existence because you are not living into a pipe dream, is really tragic.
  3. Be Generous Study after study has come to the same conclusion. Selfish people are miserable.  Happy people give of their time and resources to a cause greater than themselves.
  4. Remember happiness is not a destination The happiest people I know are those least conscious of their own happiness. Happiness is learning to enjoy the ride, not reaching your destination.
  5. If you don’t like your life, change it Take control of your own life. Do want to learn to play the piano?  Take lessons!  Do you regret not getting a college degree?  Get one.  Do you want to improve your spiritual life?  Start going to church.  There is really no one holding you back but you.
  6. Slow down You just can’t smell the roses at a full sprint! If you, like me, are a workaholic type, build time into your Outlook to do nothing.  Get a hobby.  Enjoy your friends and family.  Happy people have learned how to occasionally chill.
  7. Realize there are no shortcuts If you were honestly disappointed you didn’t win the billion dollar Power Ball, you are not getting it. Getting your education, working hard, putting in the hours, pursuing your dreams, saving and giving are always in style.
  8. Stop feeling entitled No one owes you anything. Just assume you are not going to get any help, that you will receive no inheritance and that no one is going to give you a break.  Now go make your life happen!  If anything else comes (and it probably will), it is all bonus!
  9. Think significance Significance is achieved by leaving the world better than you found it. People who feel their lives really matter are the happiest people of all!
  10. Forgive Forgiving those who have hurt you, breaks their power over you.  Forgiving yourself for your failures, frees you for future success.  Ask God to forgive you.  Ask those you have hurt to forgive you.  Make restitution where you can.  Move on.
  11. A great attitude is a choice, not a disposition We can control our feelings or we can be controlled by them.  Happy people CHOOSE to have great attitudes.
  12. Speak life When you speak, choose words that uplift, encourage and bring positive energy into every situation.  My mom was right, “If you don’t have something nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.”  People who speak life are like human air fresheners.

As you begin a new week, you have an opportunity to invest in your own happiness or to make yourself miserable.  If you choose the former, you will make others happy as well.  If you choose the latter…well, you know.

Shane Memphis

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

 

IF CHURCH WERE MORE LIKE BASEBALL

IF CHURCH WERE MORE LIKE BASEBALL:
1. Pastors battling preaching pride would flip their water bottles after sticking a closing line and walk off stage…
2. Pastors would be doused with Gatorade after particularly good Easter sermons…
3. The pastor’s favorite hymn would play as he/she walks up to the pulpit…
4. Congregations would do the wave when the sermon got a bit slow…
5. ATTENDANCE ABOVE REPLACEMENT would be a major metric when determining pastor’s salaries…
6. Pastors and staffs would communicate during church services with their bibles covering their mouths…
7. Relief preachers would come in to finish sermons when the starting preacher begins to fade…
8. People would dream of sitting in the front row…
Shane Baseball Card
Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

Faith, Shadow and Faith Again (Emerging from Despair)

Tonight I am thinking about my faith journey over these past few years since my daughter’s divorce and the subsequent upheaval that engulfed my family like flames. Many knew nothing of it. I knew it all too well.

In response, I narrowed my world to what I could handle; specifically the one mile between Christ Church and our home. I almost completely stopped all outside speaking, consulting and writing. I honestly didn’t feel like I had much of anything to say. I went to work every morning and came home every evening to feel sorry for myself. Sometimes I left work early to get a jump on it. I just hurt. Every day.

Some weeks I wondered how I could even preach. The foundational monument of my “perfect” family in which I had so prided myself was violently shaken and its level foundation was rocked to the core. Everything was not perfect. Who was I?

I must say that for a while “it was not well with my soul.” The pain of dashed dreams and inward fears was overwhelming as changes I never requested or imagined ravaged my soul. “Dear God…anything but my family.”

And yet every Sunday, I declared the goodness of God and preached this wonderful Gospel of a Christ who heals broken hearts; silently praying God would heal Melissa and me and the hearts of our children and grandchildren.

As I look back from the safe distance of a “new normal” on this side of the tsunami, I find, to my surprise, that there are sunny days again. And even days like today when the world is a snow globe and the shaking of it produces unexpectedly beautiful and wondrous things. I dare smile again…and hope…and dream…and breathe. Breathe!  I even say “yes” these days when I am asked to write, to lead or to speak.

By my own estimation, I emerged from this difficult season somehow more humane, forgiving, empathetic, decent, approachable, humble and well…Christian. I am not damaged. Only things like unforgiveness, bitterness, anger and hate can damage us. I have chosen love and have chosen well even as I am reminded again (for the first time) that my rightness with God is based on the work of Christ, not my work for Christ. And my ministry is based upon the permanence of God’s call, not some temporary, illusionary and unsustainable perfection once represented by a family photo.

If you are traveling a rough stretch of highway, fear not. The journey may be jolting but the pain need not be wasted. Through the hurt, devastation and disappointment you may find that God’s work is being done in you and that someday, somehow; quite inexplicably you will be better for it.

Peace be unto you dear friends whether you are walking through the valley of the shadow of disease, divorce, hopelessness, rejection, bankruptcy, vocational uncertainty, addiction, loneliness, estrangement or death itself. None of these things can separate us from the love of God. None of these things!

This relentless, forgiving, loving God who has brought you safely this far, will walk with you the rest of the way.  The sun will break through.  That is the promise. That is enough.

I have now walked the shadowy path. My footprints join those of so many of you. God is for us and not against us. Of this I am now certain.

Light from Sky

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

20 Core Values for a Long and Effective Pastoral Tenure

I wrap up my twentieth year as the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church (Fairview Heights, Illinois) on the final day of June.  We have grown every single year from just over 200 to over 2,200 in worship.  It has been a good run.
 
Here are twenty core values that have propelled me to two effective decades in one location:
1. Remember your call. When things get tough, remember why you got into this.
2. Keep your marriage strong. If that is bad, everything is bad.
3. Stay in the Word. Reading the Bible from cover to cover every other year or so is a great discipline.
4. Keep learning. Read. Attend conferences. Get a coach. Keep getting better.
5. Never forget you are in the people business. You can’t just sit in your office and be brilliant all the time. You have to add value to the lives of others.
6. Don’t take things personally. Choosing not to get your feelings hurt is essential.
7. Hold it steady. Remember that God has you, your ministry and your family.
8. Realize you can’t cheat the hours necessary for excellent work. Work smart.  Work hard.
9. If God does bless your ministry, don’t get all full of yourself. The second you get thinking you are all that and a bag of communion wafers, you are finished.
10. Keep it real. Just be an authentic human being who loves Jesus that God called to lead. People can not only handle that, they will embrace it.
11. Don’t ignore problems. Address them quickly.
12. Tithe. And give offerings on top of that.
13. Remember that if God called you, you can’t quit. He can release you but you can’t quit.
14. Admit your mistakes. You will make them.  Offer forgiveness. Accept forgiveness.
15. Remember your detractors are not your enemies; they are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
16. Decide what a “win” looks like and accumulate as many as possible.
17. Take responsibility for everything. If it is your fault, you can fix it.
18. Take your vacations and your days off. Every single one of them.
19. Remember who signs your paycheck and give them your best time, effort and energy.  That would be your local church.
20. Have fun. If you are not having a good time, no one else will be either.
I start year twenty-one on July 1.  I can’t help thinking the best is yet to come!
 Shane Memphis

Does Your Church “Get” It? (10 things churches must “get” to have a future)

 

We all know that most churches are in decline.  We also know that some churches are growing and some are growing exponentially.  There are clearly some things growing churches “get” that declining churches do not.

Here are ten things churches need to “get” to have a future.  

  1. Get strategic A decreasing number of people in the pews and fewer dollars in the plates will force declining congregations to get strategic around their mission or capitulate to a slow and painful death. Having a clear and stated mission statement and a clear strategy concerning it has moved from a “growing church hack” to an absolute necessity.  Resources are simply not available to give churches the luxury of being sloppy around their mission.  Focus on your mission.  Laser focus.
  2. Get grounded  Churches are not charities among charities, clubs among clubs or good causes among good causes. All churches do “good” but most are doing “good” to death.  We are a Holy Ghost empowered community of faith entrusted to bring the salvation of Christ to the world.  Let’s face it; the world is a fractured and dangerous mess.  The task of reaching this world for Jesus is daunting.  A watered down, off-mission or agenda laden gospel will lack the firepower needed for true transformation of lives or congregations.   We must preach Christ and Christ alone!
  3. Get a financial strategy Volunteering and tithing Baby Boomers are beginning to die and will leave their wealth to family, hospitals and universities. Their children and grandchildren will attend church more seldom, give more sparingly and volunteer more reluctantly.  There are lot of people in your church right now willing to give a “final tithe” to keep the mission of the church moving forward after they are gone but few will actually do so if churches don’t cast a vision for the future, express a need and make an ask.  Legacy giving must be a part of the financial strategy of any church planning on outliving its current members.
  4. Get young adults  The great thing about reaching young people is that they don’t want to be entertained. Are you hearing me?  You don’t have to be a mega-church to reach young adults!  Stripped down worship, the invitation to authentic community, an offer to help change the world and deep Biblical preaching with both scholarship and real life application WILL reach young people.  And if they don’t come to you, you will just have to go to them.
  5. Get sensitive to the Holy Spirit People today don’t just worship with their minds, they worship with their emotions…they want to feel something. They also are not going to attend church at all if they don’t feel some “value added” effect of the worship experience.  Shift your thinking from “worship service” to “worship experience” and you are getting warmer.  Churches must allow room for spontaneity and “non-scripted” moments in worship.  It is time to kick our bulletin addiction and get some Holy Ghost bouncing around!  And no, you may not get out on time.
  6. Get smaller (to get larger) Churches must offer more times to worship, more days to worship, more ways to worship and more locations to worship. Sunday morning is no longer sacred space to the larger culture and if that is the only time you are offering worship services, you will miss an ever increasing number of people.  We offer eight worship experiences in five locations each week.  If the old 1,000 in worship was 500 in two identical Sunday morning services, the new 1,000 may be 100 in 10 or 50 in 20 services.  Inefficient?   You bet!
  7. Get evangelistic Putting up a sign with worship time and your preacher’s name hasn’t cut it for years (even if the sign is electronic). Churches must engage with social media, equip their congregations to invite people to worship, share faith boldly and create an evangelistic culture.  People are not going to attend worship out of duty, guilt or obligation, much less invite their friends and family.  They will only invite if they are excited about what God is doing in their lives and what God is doing at your church.  Get people  excited and they will get evangelistic.
  8. Get prayerful Hurting people come to church every week and leave hurting. We must do better than that.  Offer opportunities for response and prayer creatively and often in response to the Word.  Praying for people in the context of worship is powerful and prayers that are not offered are never answered.  Start praying for the needs of your people and you will see miracles!  Nothing significant happens in a church apart from prayer.
  9. Get positive People want to identify with things that are effective, successful, dynamic and meaningful. Get your building and grounds shining like a new dime!  Make sure your sound system and projection is of high quality.  Celebrate every single thing God is doing in your congregation.  Every conversion.  Every new member.  Every baptism.
  10. Get a vision  Do you truly believe your congregation has a “future and a hope?” If so, share it!  What most excites you about your church?  What exciting things are coming for your congregation?  What daring dreams are on the table?  People and resources follow vision, not the other way around.

No church will be forced to have a future.  In fact, for many, it will be far easier to die than to live.  But if your congregation truly wants to live (and I suggest you take a formal vote); there are some things you have to “get!”

 

 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. Christ Church has grown from 200 to over 2,300 per weekend. 

 

7 Lights to Live By (we don’t need more heat)

Let’s face it, there is a lot of heat these days.  Surrounding everything.  Times are divisive.  The world is frenzied.  Everyone feels the need to give their opinion.  On everything.  And without a sense of civility.  And many opinions contain much more heat than light.
Here are seven rays of light:
1) Realize you may not be right (at least not on everything) Isn’t there at least a fraction of a percentage point of possibility that you are not completely right on absolutely everything?
2) Listen as much as you speak and read as much as you write (or more) Reading and reading more widely makes us better informed people.  No down side here.
3) Treat everyone well (especially people who disagree with you) Remember that you are responding to actual people; not abstract ideas.
4) Control your impulses (don’t get drawn into nasty debate threads or return hate with hate) You don’t have to comment on everything.  Sometimes you just let it float on down the river.
5) Try not to take everything so personally (this is a huge skill set if you can master it) 
6) Pray for people (who offend your sensibilities) rather than respond to people (who offend your sensibilities) I consider prayer to be the most underutilized of all self management skills.  Try it.  Get a PBYP (Pray Before You Post) bracelet.
7) Remember that the people whose positions most stress you, are equally stressed by your positions (a lesson in self-awareness)  
We all have positions. We all think we are right. Creating a climate of respect amidst disagreement provides an opportunity to display true humanity on one hand and grow and learn on the other.
No down side.
Turn on some light.
 seven
Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

Record Easter Crowd? What Now?

Social Media is a great tool to keep up with what God is doing in churches far and near.  I love that!  I noticed many churches had record attendances for Easter 2017 and I rejoice with them!  Clearly God was moving.

However, failure to effectively follow up major “victories” in a church (like a record Easter) is a common mistake many churches make year after year.  Simply put, they fail to leverage significant events and squander their momentum.  Rather than attendance “spike and build” they go “spike and back” to where they were before.

Like some of you, Christ Church set a new attendance record on Easter.  It was our first time over 4,000 and it was great!  Our people were excited and enthused.  They invited and people came and those who attended experienced a great worship service!

What now?  We follow up! 

Why Do Churches NOT Follow Up?

History is filled with military victories that could have been great victories if the victor had pressed the retreating army.  There are many reasons why this happens:

  1. The victorious army is exhausted and in need of rest
  2. There is an underestimation of remaining strength of the victors
  3. There is an overestimation of remaining strength of the retreating army
  4. Victorious armies desire to celebrate
  5. Generals are unwilling to suffer additional casualties
  6. Generals are happy to leave the field with “a win in their pocket.”
  7. Mission becomes the comfort of the soldiers rather than the objectives of the army

Most churches have few real victories.  Of the churches that achieve significant victories, most fail to follow them up for the same reasons armies fail to follow up.  Churches that consistently grow must not only create victories but follow up victories in systematic and intentional ways.  A great Easter does not insure a great year but it can be something to leverage toward it!  So you have had a week to rest, I get that.  But now it is time to follow up!

Following Up Easter

  1. If you set a record or had strong attendance, celebrate it!  Get it out!  Let the people in your church, community and region that you have “something going on!”
  2. Hotwash your 2017 schedule this week while things are fresh on your minds.  What went well?  What went poorly?  What needs adjusted?  What can be added?  What needs replaced?
  3. Ask yourself what can be done to draw another 10% in attendance next year.  Might you add or reinterpret a Thursday or Friday service?  We added a full Saturday night service this year and it drew really well!  We are shifting our Thursday service to a Night of Worship with communion.  Expectations are high.
  4. Plan your 2018 Easter Week schedule immediately.  Get the dates on your calendar.  Keep other things off the calendar that week to free up your resources toward Easter.
  5. Thank your key players for their sacrifice.  Posting photos of leaders on your Facebook page and hand written thank you notes are always a good start.  Did a volunteer go “above and beyond” the call of duty, take them to lunch or buy them a gift certificate.  People love being appreciated!
  6. Follow up on all leads or first time visitors.  Take them something they will actually like (we take really good pies from a famous local bakery) and invite them back.
  7. Plan some sort of community service project or outreach in early May and invite your new folks to help your church “make the world a better place.”
  8. Work to get your “average” worship service and welcoming ministries up to your Easter level.  You have established a new bar of excellence, let that become the “new normal!”
  9. Finally, lock in a compelling post Easter sermon series.  Perhaps a “What Next?” series with a great graphic package where you explore the Great Commission.  Advertise it and make sure it has appeal to your “C&E” crowd.  Let’s face it, your regulars are going to attend anyway.

BIG IDEA: Don’t settle for a great Easter!  Follow it up and have a great 2017!

 

-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.  Christ church has averaged almost 10% annual growth over the past decade.