I am a bit over half-way through year twenty-three as the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church.
On paper, the story of Christ Church’s growth from 200 to over 2,400 seems like a modern miracle but my mind today is on the people who represent those numbers. Especially those who have been on this journey with me for all these years. People who have adjusted to change and stayed faith to Christ Church and to God. Good people who have attended, served, prayed, invited and generously given. My mind is on them.
Leading an exponentially growing church has never been easy but I can only imagine how difficult it has been to follow. The divide in our country and the implosion of our denomination in the past few years have exacerbated these challenges exponentially. Continuing to be effective in our mission of connecting people with Jesus Christ requires a culture of constant change. Our mission has defined us, nurtured us and guided us and every major decision has been made in light of it but that does not mean it has been easy. Not by a long shot.
What have I learned in my twenty-two and a half years?
Quite a bit actually.
Twenty-Two and a Half Things I Have Learned
- Remember your call If God called you, you can’t quit. You call is all that will get you through the rough stretches of highway.
2. Keep your marriage strong If your marriage is bad, everything is bad.
3. Stay in the Word Preaching for me is an extension of my devotional life. I share with others what God shared with me.
4. Keep learning
5. Never forget you are in the people business
6. Don’t take things personally Never mistake questions for questioning or disagreements for a conflict.
7. Hold steady during turbulence
8. You can’t cheat excellence or time
9. Stay Humble Don’t get thinking you are “all that and a bag of communion wafers.”
10. Keep it authentic People relate to real people, not people who try to appear perfect.
11. Don’t ignore problems Like weeds in a garden, most problems are easily corrected if you catch them early.
12. Lead by Example Never ask people to do what you are not doing.
13. Refuse entitlement Rule Number One: Nobody owes you anything. There is no Rule Number Two.
14. Admit your mistakes Developing a learning curve is essential.
15. Be open and honest Tell people the truth, not what you think they want to hear.
16.Travel Boring preachers are boring people. Get out. Be curious. Explore.
- Have fun If you are not having a good time, no one else will be either.
- . Know what a win looks like I want to see attendance grow, celebrate lots of Professions of Faith and Baptisms and see empirical evidence of discipleship in the lives of my people. We have 1,200 people reading the New Testament this year. That is a win.
- . Give maximum effort and attitude These are two things always within our control.
- Always be well prepared Never put in a fraction of the time, effort or energy that it takes to be successful and wonder why God let you down.
- . If you are going to give God the credit, let God carry the stress
- Play for the long game Make tough decisions in the present so you don’t have to make tougher decisions in the future. The path of least resistance is the path of decline.
22 ½.You can’t make everyone happy Most of them weren’t happy before they met you anyway. So you just do what you think is right.
I am often asked to tell the Christ Church story at conferences and I always include this quote: “I did not grow this church, only God can grow a church, but I have had the privilege of growing with this church.” That will never change.
Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor at Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.