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Supporting Leaders and Leading Supporters

Can’t sleep tonight.  It happens.  Not very much but it happens.
Praying for Christian leaders. My heart is heavy.
Leadership circa 2017 is SO difficult. Throw the devil (yes, I believe in such stuff) into the mix and the task can seem overwhelming. I know some great leaders (and even better people) traversing tough stretches of highway right now.

How to Support Leaders

1) Pray for your leaders and let them know you are praying for them.
2) Send a note of encouragement to a leader who has impacted your life in a positive way. These often come at just the right time!

3) Realize leaders often make decisions using information you do not have. Defend them and at the very least offer them the benefit of the doubt.

4) Remember leaders get roughly 20 complaints for every single word of thanks or encouragement. Be the 1 and not the 20.

5) Speak highly of leaders every chance you get.

6) Ask leaders how you can be of help to them.

7) Be quick to volunteer or step up when a leader asks. There is no greater joy to a leaders heart than when people rally to the Jesus Call!

God calls leaders to difficult work. (If things aren’t difficult, you don’t need leaders). Let’s all make sure our leaders are loved, supported, held up in prayer and appreciated.

You will get better leaders and you you will get better churches. No down side.

How to Lead Supporters

1) Remember that God called you and you can’t quit. You can be released but you can’t quit.
2) Trust God to protect you and your reputation from ungodly attack. “An undeserved curse has no effect.”

3) Never return evil with evil or slander with slander. Take the high road.

4) Keep your time, effort and energies focused forward on the mission.

5) Use Matthew 18 early and often. You are a leader and not a doormat. Conflict can be an excellent teaching moment.

6) Form a prayer support team and rally them often. No details ever needed; just find people who will actually pray you through.

7) Find a mentor to help guide you through difficulty. Don’t try to “invent the leadership wheel.”

8) And finally, pour your heart out to God. God can always be trusted and will always be there. Don’t expect from people what God alone can provide!
Thank you leaders and leader supporters! The Church of Jesus Christ so desperately needs you both!
Prayer: Almighty God, protect those you have called. Raise up supporters, defenders and prayer warriors. Encourage your leaders, empower them and fill them with fresh wind and fresh fire. In the strong name of Jesus! Amen!

IMG_2217Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois

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7 Things to Think About Before Responding to Criticism 

 If you are a leader you are going to be criticized.  And if you are a significant leader you are going to be significantly criticized.  It honestly doesn’t matter if you are a good leader or not.  That is just how it is.  People criticize leaders.  Always have.  Always will.  It is a cost of leadership.  Get used to it.
That leaders are criticized is probably not surprising but did I mention you will also be criticized if you are not a leader?  Well, now I did.  You are going to get criticized not matter what you do (even if it is nothing).  Sorry you had to hear it here first.  Contemplate the unfairness of it…it sucks I know.  Now let’s move on.
I am sometimes asked how I deal with criticism and my response is simple.  I don’t.  I don’t defend myself.  I don’t vilify people who criticize me.  I control my impulses.  I don’t lash out.  I don’t respond.  Sure criticism can sting (and some it is unfair and even fabricated) but the reality is that I don’t really think much about criticism at all.  Frankly, my critics are not who I am trying to please.
If you sometimes feel a bit “thin skinned” at times, here is some advice from a guy who has been in the trenches of leadership for a few decades:
1. Realize criticism is inevitable No matter what you do, how successful you are or how good your past decisions or track record may have been, you are going to be criticized. Don’t be naive.  Don’t get blindsided.
2. Remember critics sometimes have a point Our default can’t be to immediately dismiss ALL criticism. Our default must be to ask, “Do they have a point?”  Sometimes they do.  I have learned much from my critics.  If so, you have been given a painful gift but a gift nonetheless.  Often they don’t have a point but you still have to ask the hard question.
3. Take heart that criticism gets to you less as time goes on This seems too good to be true but it is true! Blisters turn to calluses and skin really does toughen up over time.  The longer you have been at it, the less it gets to you.  Honest.
4. Don’t do Dumb Crap Don’t give critics extra ammunition.  Failure to self manage will destroy you.  It will also damage the people who love you.  Unfair or undue criticism will not.
5. Realize you won’t always get it right We don’t always say the things we should say, do the things we should do or react the way we should react. Some decisions circa 2017 are “no win” from the outset, regardless of what you decide.  Develop a learning curve, grow from your mistakes and don’t expect perfection (from others or yourself).
6. Don’t obsess on your press (good or bad) You are seldom as good as your fans think or as bad as your enemies think. Some of the best decisions I have made as a leader were the most hotly criticized.  Some bad ones were initially applauded.  Public opinion ebbs and flows.  Good decisions hold firm and stand the test of time.
7. Square up Before you go to bed each night, look into the mirror. Make sure you are “good” with God and with the human being you see; how you treated people and how you went about business.  If God and mirror are squared up, let the rest of the world work around you.
Criticism is inevitable.
Anticipate it.
Hold steady in the midst of it.
Learn from it.
And sleep like a baby!
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-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.  His blog “12 Things I See Happy People Do (that unhappy people do not)” has over 2.6 million reads.

Should a Christian Pray for God’s Vengeance? (you may be surprised)

This came up in a discussion of Psalm 28 last night. Seemed a good time to re-blog.

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

Should a Christian Pray for God’s Vengeance?

One of the first challenges to the modern reader when foraying into the Psalms are the prayers for God’s vengeance upon the writers enemies.  I am talking about the “knock out their teeth, drive them into the dust and strike them dead” kinds of prayers.  Surely Psalm 58 represents such material well.

These wicked people are born sinners; even from birth they have lied and gone their own way.  They spit poison like deadly snakes; they are like cobras that refuse to listen, ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers, no matter how skillfully they play.  Break off their fangs, O God! Smash the jaws of these lions, O LORD!  May they disappear like water into thirsty ground. Make their weapons useless in their hands.  May they be like snails that dissolve into slime, like a stillborn child who…

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Dealing with Disappointment

 I have been much disappointed of late. I hate it when that happens.
I’ll bet you have been disappointed as well.
Disappointment seems the one item the buffet line in this fallen world always offers in ample supply.
Here is how I deal with disappointment:
1) Realize we live in a fallen and sin filled world (We ARE going to be disappointed and there is no way to avoid it)
2) Recognize that God is in control (My will is not always His will)
3) Remember good (and even better) often comes on the other side of disappointment
4) Refresh attitudes and emotions (get better and not bitter)
5) Retool expectations (realistic expectations can really help)
6) Reorient thinking from past disappointment into future opportunities
Disappointment is inevitable. It is an emotional thing and like all emotional things, it flies about with great regularity.
Growing from disappointment is not inevitable…growth must be chosen as a matter of discipline.
Give your disappointment to God.
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-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.

Musings on the Idea that is America

 

America is a place but it is just as importantly an idea. A really noble idea.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,

that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

-Thomas Jefferson

When I was a kid, we said the pledge to the flag before school every day. I still remember it:

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Liked it!

Still like it!

As a child in the early 70’s, America meant but one thing; freedom. We were free. Communist countries were not free. Communists wanted to take our freedom. We were not going to let them.  Things were really simple in the early 70’s.

Freedom was not an abstraction for me. In fact, I wore it on my wrist. Until it snapped in two in 1977 or so, I wore an aluminum arm band with the name of a man named “Georgi Vins” on it. Had no idea who Georgi Vinns was other than he was in a Russian concentration camp because of his faith. Come to find out, Vins was a Baptist Pastor who organized underground churches and protested government control of churches in Russia in the 60’s and 70’s. Arrested and convicted for the second time in 1974, an international group formed to protest his arrest and call attention to the plight of persecuted Christians (i.e. my wrist band).

Vins was eventually exchanged under the Carter Administration in 1979 with a small group of other Russian Christian leaders for two convicted Soviet Spies. He moved to the US, wrote some books, went on the speaking tour and advocated for Christians in Russia until he died in 1988 in Elkhart, Indiana. But when I put that aluminum bracelet on my wrist in my Jr. High days, it was certainly more about an idea I knew well than a man I didn’t know at all!

Freedom!

That America has not perfectly put the noble idea of freedom into practice is not even debatable but that does not tarnish the idea itself, nor its grandness.  It is perhaps the very grandness that frustrates so many today when we fall short of it.

I think the American challenge circa 2017 is to turn the “idea” of freedom (which can be abstract and without context) into an “ideal” of freedom (contextualized in time and space).  An “idea” is something that can just sit and spin (think fidget spinners) but an “ideal” requires something of us all and reminds us that none of us are free until all of us are free.

And it is with this “grown up” understanding I wish this great nation a very happy birthday!

 

-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.

 

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The Changing Face of Church Metrics

I have been thinking about church metrics of late. We are starting some new faith communities (both virtual and in real time) and trying to figure out how to quantify them. As we all know, unless you only offer only one Sunday morning worship service each week, all churches count differently and all churches have “double-count.” We also all know the current metrics are designed to measure churches in 1977 and not 2017.

So what should we count? I have been in discussion with some of the most effective and innovative pastors in the country to see what they count and what they don’t count for worship attendance.

Here are my summations:

1) The gold standard for counting attendance is “aggregate attendance of all weekly services plus nursery and children (whose activities run concurrently).”

2) Many churches additionally count their Student Worship Service in the weekly attendance total.

3) Almost no churches count services held at nursing homes or other institutions in their attendance total.

4) Most churches count “Easter Week” services and Christmas Eve services in the worship total.

5) Almost no churches count people who watch posted sermons (only) on line in the total.

6) Some churches include “live worship” internet or Facebook Live attendees in the worship total. However, there seems to be no set formula.  A formula we like is 7% of Unique Viewers.

7) All churches with campuses count campus attendance in the weekly worship total.

8) All churches count mid-week services in the total.

9) The largest and fastest growing churches are the most liberal with their counts.

10) By creating more faith communities on more days and in more places and utilizing the power of the internet, churches are counting more and more things in the worship total column.

And they probably should.

At the end of the day, churches will count what they value and fund what they count. Developing some standardized metrics would serve us all well. If this blog gets some discussion started…well that should count for something.

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

6 Ways to “Turn Down” Your Virtual Drama Level (in real life)

The volume on the “drama” player has never been turned up higher. In fact, the sound can be deafening. When it comes to turning down the sound, many of us feel powerless. But I don’t think that is the case. We are not powerless. I think we each have a lot to say about the volume of the drama we invite into our lives.

I fully realize in a troubled world populated with humans, many of whom have both television and internet access, there is going to be SOME drama. I get that. What hurts my ears is perpetual drama, recreational drama; drama as entertainment and drama evangelists. Especially those who broadcast drama at excruciatingly high levels simply because there is good money in it or personal attention to be gained by it.

Here are six suggestions on how to decrease the volume of some of the very real drama blaring in your virtual life.

1) UNPLUG If you truly were happier before social media took over the world, disconnect from it. Deactivate your account and be done with it. I assure you the cyber world will not miss you (or me) but you may be healthier without it.

2) UNSUBSCRIBE Don’t be afraid to use the “unfriend,” “unfollow” or “unsubscribe” options. Cyber “friendships” end quite painlessly and “unfriending” a person who blows your eardrums with every post will actually be much better for your real life relationship (if you actually have one). There are LOTS of people I liked better before I knew their every thought. And if they notice you “unfriended” them and ask why, tell them the truth with all kindness. Many people don’t have strong “self-awareness” and this honest conversation could be the best thing that ever happened to them.

3) TAKE CARE Be careful with what you post. Some people post stuff that is sure to cause a firestorm and honestly can’t figure out what caused the explosion. If you aren’t sure you should post something, don’t. If you can’t take it, don’t give it and if you don’t want it, don’t ask for it. Also if you don’t want people in your business, don’t hang your dirty laundry in front of their house.

4) ADOPT A MISSION STATEMENT Develop a mission statement for your social media use. “To keep up with friends and family” or to “Help spread light and love” would be two examples. And then stay on mission. Don’t get drawn into religious arguments, political scrums, relational drama or debates you don’t want to enter. My mission is “to celebrate the joy of authentic Christian living.” Faith, music, art, sports, history and culture all support this mission; criticism, party line politics, rancorous debate, personal pontifications and dogmatic diatribes do not.

5) STAY POSITIVE Post the kind of stuff you wish others would post. It becomes a “Social Media Golden Rule.” I want to keep it positive and have a good time while I am at it.

6) ASSOCIATE FRUSTRATION WITH SILENCE Exactly. You don’t always have to comment. Especially when you are mad. If you are upset by something, you probably shouldn’t respond…not right then anyway. Reacting out of anger only turns up the noise…

Social media offers some real opportunities to enhance or detract from the quality of your life. Facing it honestly, intentionally and with a mission will make sure what you hoped would be a blessing doesn’t turn into a curse.

Shane Memphis

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois USA for 20 years.