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A Walk Down Duval Street… (Are WE the new counterculture?)

Melissa and I were recently in Key West. I officiated a wedding for our best friend’s oldest son on the beach at Ft. Zachary Taylor. Well the beach-ish anyway. If you have been to Key West you know what I mean. No one goes to Key West for the beaches. Those who do, only visit once.

We stayed in a condo well out of the thick of Duval Street but popped in from time to time to drive through, take a walk or get a meal. If you have never visited, Duval Street is sort of like Bourbon or Beale Streets….with additional humidity.

As we walked about the crowded street, we experienced the expected sights and sounds of a place far from the American mainstream. Or did we? You see it was not the expected revelry that surprised me, it was just how similar it is to the streets in so many other American cities circa 2018. Yes, Key West seemed shockingly mainstream…and that is what troubled me.

Deeply.

As I thought about my childhood, I always knew there were exotic and decadent places “out there” but such places never, ever, ever seemed “normal.”

Have I been desensitized? Have we all?

As we walked Duval St. it occurred to me that this was precisely the kind of place my dad would have carried a fifteen foot wooden cross in the hey day of No Greater Love Ministries. He would have waited until the most crowded and decadent moment, and pushed a group of a hundred Christian guys through the middle of it singing Amazing Grace. We would have carried big signs through, handed out tracts and perhaps prayed with a few people.

Perhaps I would have felt better had I done that myself but I didn’t. There were no crosses or big signs for rent. Only golf carts and scooters. There seemed to be no one or nothing offering a counter message to the “hedonistic” novel they have been writing on this street since Hemingway was spending his mornings writing and afternoons and evenings drinking.

This blog is not a moral play. In fact, it is anything but a judgmental piece trying to put the “fun” back into fundamentalism. The experience was just disorienting somehow. And perhaps that is it, I had no sense of place.

I very much wanted to suggest that there is another way to live. Perhaps the population of aging homeless people living on dirty streets with the chickens would have offered an “amen.” And perhaps that is why I write; because I was there and I made no difference at all. My dad would have at least tried. Where is a big wooden cross when you need one?

But these days my keyboard IS my way to attempt to deliver a message. And not unlike my dad carrying a cross, if I can just make people stop…if even for a second and think about where they are going and what they are doing, I will of at least some value.

As I fly home with my wife of thirty-five years tucked beside me, fond memories of a more innocent world seem overwhelming. My grandchildren will never know that world. My stories of it will seem to them like those of my great-Aunt Flossie telling me about life before electricity.

And then it hit me! BAM!

Perhaps it is WE who are now out of the mainstream!

WE are the new counterculture!

We love God, love people, live by our understanding of the Bible, offer our lives in service, try to treat everyone with respect and have chosen to walk a path fewer people seem to choose these days.

And on this street we walk, I have no regrets. There is another way to live. We are living it with no apologies.

Our walk down Duval Street was my most recent reminder.

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and the author of “Love God. Love People. Don’t Do Dumb Crap.”

Musings on the Idea that is America

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

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…

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10 Steps toward Civility (a place we all need to go)

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

I don’t think it is a problem that people disagree on things.  In fact, I think that is a good thing.  If everyone in my life agreed with me on everything, I would live unchallenged.  And as good as that initially sounds, it is antithetical to growth as a human being.  I am not always right.  I need people around me who love me enough to tell me so.  The problem is that human beings circa 2017 disagree disagreeably.  Most disagreeably.

The reality is many people don’t know how to have civil discourse concerning the things upon which they disagree.  It is not always their fault.

Lots of folks are simply not equipped to have difficult discussions so they keep silent and rob the conversation of their voice.  These very “nice” and often silent people may well be the majority but we have no metrics to measure them.

Others seem inclined…

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What Grandkids Teach us about God

Crazy About Them

(Fairview Heights, Illinois circa 2013)

 

Fridays are normally a day with the grandchildren.  Melissa watches all four of them each weekday and since I take Fridays off, we are all in the house together all day.  I used to sleep in every Friday, take the dog on a late walk, take a shower, eat some lunch out and then piddle for the rest of the day but that was before we had grandchildren…things are different now.

Last Friday, I had planned to take my oldest grandson Maddox to Chic-Fil-A.  This one-on-one time always goes well and it gives Melissa a three-to-one ratio for a couple of hours.  However, I discovered that my granddaughter Mabry was coming along as well and suddenly it didn’t seem right to leave Elijah at home.  In a moment of extreme courage, I determined to take all three of them (ages four, three and two) to Chic-Fil-A alone.  I loaded up Melissa’s Jeep Commander, installed car seats (two of which are the size of living room recliners) and secured the tribe.  I left one-year-old Isaac with Melissa and was feeling pretty good about myself.  I was clearly demonstrating servant leadership (this being my day off and all) by taking three children off of Melissa’s hands for a couple of hours and opening the door for great memories with Papa and some bonding time.  In a moment of temporary sanity, I called my dad to see if he wanted to come along but when he heard I had all three kids, he made up a lame excuse as to why he was not coming.  I was on my own.

When I arrived, I set them each free and we all held hands crossing the parking lot.  Things were going so well until I opened the door.  I don’t know what possessed Elijah but he immediately ran to the condiment section and began throwing packets of mayonnaise across the serving area.  I quickly reprimanded him and placed our orders.  Once seated just across from the glass enclosed play area, I fixed their drinks and prepared their meals.  Then Mabry saw Elijah’s chocolate milk and suddenly forgot that she had told me two minutes earlier that she wanted lemonade.  The second I got her calmed down, I noted Elijah was crushing his round hash browns in his hand and had already thrown several under the table at Maddox.  I had forgotten napkins so I scooted to the front (leaving the kids) and grabbed a handful to clean up the tater tots when I noticed all three children were standing on their seats looking over the divider at me yelling “poop.”  You have to understand, poop is the worst word they know and they always get in trouble for saying poop but now all three were yelling “poop” and laughing uncontrollably.

Once we had survived lunch (and the “poop-a-geddon”); it was time for the easy part, turning them loose in the glass-enclosed, soundproof and perfectly safe play land.  I ushered them inside and reached into my pocket for my phone to check messages and have some “Shane” time.  “Poop, I left my phone in the car.”  Running for napkins seemed acceptable but actually leaving the building seemed irresponsible.  I thought about asking one of the exceptionally polite workers to run and get my phone and assumed they would have responded, “My pleasure” but that too seemed a stretch.  I was going to have to go without a phone.  Then I heard something from the soundproof room; they were screaming, not hurt or mad, just screaming to see how loud they could scream.  At this point I imagined they were someone else’s grandchildren (this technique had worked great with my kids) but when I looked up, Maddox and Elijah had climbed on top of the interior door handle and were jumping off and Mabry had somehow managed to abscond with Elijah’s chocolate milk, take it into the play area and spill it all over the floor.  It was at this point that I considered locking the play area, calling both sets of parents, informing them their children were locked inside and leaving.  Instead, I went back for more napkins and cleaned up the mess.

Now at my wit’s end, I told them we were leaving because they could not obey; they all three ran into the tubular slide where I could hear them laughing and saying “poop.”  Finally, I coaxed them out, put on their shoes and got them headed towards the door where we exited, held hands across the parking lot and reloaded.  I started the car and swore we were never going to do this again and then I looked in the rear view mirror.  They were…beautiful.

Those little disobedient, “poop” slinging snot wads were absolutely beautiful.  They are my descendants, my legacy, my people and my tribe.  I am absolutely crazy about them!  Not because they are always good (they were not good), but because they are always mine.

I think God sees us the same way.  We are His creation, His reflection, His people and His tribe.  He is crazy about us!  Not because we are good but because we are His!

-Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and is the author of “Love God. Love People. Don’t Do Dumb Crap.”

Staying Effective as an Aging Leader

What if you don’t HAVE to get less effective as you get older?

What if you just have to CHANGE?

 I don’t know about you but I am not getting any younger.  After playing softball for decades, I now find it painful to bend over to pick up a bat, much less swing it.  I have less range, a slower hand eye response, don’t make formerly routine plays and need a calendar to time me running the bases.  I split open my little finger on my right hand playing on Monday because I couldn’t handle a ground ball hit to me at first base (I was a shortstop for years).  That never used to happen.  Terrible.  Fortunately, I don’t make a living as an athlete, my shelf life is longer.  Much longer.  If athletics were my life, I am washed up but athletics are not my life.  I have a far bigger game to play!

Getting older isn’t optional, in fact it beats the alternative but I am convinced that becoming anachronistic and irrelevant is optional.  I believe myself to be effective, relevant and vital in my mid-fifties in ways I could never have hoped a decade or two ago.  I am smarter, more experienced, better connected, less ego driven and more interested in investing in others.  Legacy has become as important to me as success.  I have been the Sr. Pastor at Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.  We have grown every single year and 2018 will almost surely be our best year ever.  Leading a single congregation this long is a constant process of holding fast to a mission on one hand and constant reinvention on the other.  At fifty-six, I can no longer lead by being the “best player on the team” but I am clearly not ready to hang up my cleats.  I have to offer value in different ways.  It is a paradigm shift for sure but not as difficult as you may think.

How to “Lead Young”  

  1. You are no longer your intended audience On Easter this year, I walked into the sanctuary a bit after we had started our first service and heard a song being played that sounded just like every song I hate. I felt like we were “clubbing for Jesus” and I was wishing someone would hit me with a club.  Then I had an epiphany!  I was not the intended audience.  When I looked across the worship space, I noted dozens of Millennials completely into the music who were no doubt thinking, “This is best song we have EVER done at church!”
  2. Doubt your instincts As a leader, you build your organization by going with your gut; even if all the facts point a different direction. My gut is still golden if I am wanting to reach people roughly my age but I honestly don’t “get” the sensibilities of people in their twenties and students are a complete mystery.  These days I still pay attention to my instincts but I have to equally trust the instrument panel as well.
  3. The 15 year both ways rule I figure a leader can have strong appeal about fifteen years both directions. That means I can effectively relate to people 40-75 without trying too hard and frankly that is a wide swatch!  But if I hope to reach people on either side of that spectrum, I am going to have to be intentional.  A couple years back I was asked what our church had to offer older people.  I smiled and responded, “Me!”
  4. Hire two to three decades younger When we try to get organizationally younger, we are often tempted to hire people a decade younger than us but the reality is that you can relate to those folks yourself. Where I need help is connecting with people under forty and the best way to connect is by hiring people in that age range.
  5. Stay current (but don’t embarrass the people around you) There is a fine line between looking archaic and looking like you are trying too hard. I want to dress like a person my age who is paying some attention to fashion and style but I don’t want to embarrass my family.  Leaders my age who are rocking the jet black dyed hair and skinny jeans look really young…from a distance.  A very long distance.
  6. Get input from young people I often ask our young people what they think of their church. Their responses can hurt your feelings because they are often blunt and they seem so certain.  When you get these responses, remember three things: 1) They are attending so they must like something 2) You can’t be defensive and 3) You need their insights.  After all, you did ask…
  7. Pay attention to what draws young people We have a Wednesday evening service featuring stripped down music (led by Millennials) and forty-five minutes of preaching (led by me).  Nothing we do draws a higher percentage of young people.  This tells me that there is a market for peer led worship music and straight up Bible teaching from an old dude.  And since that perfectly aligns with our mission, it is worth noting as we look to the future.
  8. Shift roles Though I am still the face of our organization, I am letting others assume more of that role to focus on the things I uniquely can do. No one knows more people, has a better 30,000 foot view, thinks as strategically and can better raise resources than me.  Lots of people look better on stage.
  9. Know the culture/don’t judge it I am at the age where I am convinced that everything from music to sports was better when I was a kid. I am not sure I could name two New York Knicks today but I can still name the complete roster from my childhood.  I must resist my temptations to place value judgements on the current culture and I must make myself engage at least a part of it.  The bottom line is that God called me to reach people in 2018 and I won’t be effective if I spend my days waxing for 1969.
  10. Start the next wave before the current one crests This is tricky but it is the key to sustained organizational growth.  You have to start the new thing before the old thing has run its course.  New worship styles, programming and ministries must be introduced before the existing ones have completely lost their steam.  Once attendance, participation or giving actually drop off, you are already WAY behind the curve.
  11. Reach the grandchildren (and you will keep the grandparents) I love taking my four grandkids to lunch. I treasure the time but they ALWAYS pick the restaurant and I ALWAYS have to buy.  Spending quality time with them requires some sacrifice from me but I am happy to make it.  Reach the grandchildren and you will keep the grandparents!  Believe me on this one, grandparents get it!

If my vocational life were a softball game, I am now in the middle of the fifth inning (softball games go seven innings).  Do I plan to score a few more runs?  You better believe it!

SHANE Valley of the Doves PRINT

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois and a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church.

 

United Methodist Mania (And what we can do about it)

My phone is blowing up with calls from pastors wondering how to lead in the midst of what is happening in the UMC. Time for a re-blog!

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

Were I to assign one word to American culture circa 2018, it would be manic.  Manic derives from a Greek word meaning “inclined to madness.”  The adjective refers to “characterizing, denoting or afflicted by mania.”  The noun is a person afflicted with mania and synonyms include “anxious, hysterical, worried, demonic, unhinged, unbalanced and feverish.”  I think we all feel the manic tide in this age of vitriol, division, deep distrust and “winner take all politics;” kept at a frenzied pitch by a 24 hour media who has discovered there is good money in mania.   My concern is that the mania that fuels the media is inflicting continued and perhaps unrepairable damage on the United Methodist church.  I honestly don’t think we can take much more.  We are not united, it is not well with our souls and we are dying.  We have digressed into a microcosm of the hostile culture…

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What is too Important to Forget About Memorial Day

I was pondering this afternoon what Memorial Day means to me. For a lot of folks, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are essentially indiscernible…even redundant.  But Memorial Day is not just about service, it is about ultimate sacrifice; remembering those who sacrificed their lives in service to our country.

On this weekend, we celebrate the reality that every good thing we enjoy about America came at a high price.  A high price for soldiers and for the families of soldiers. A price paid, not by you or me but by those who did not come back from conflicts and those who did not come back the same.

Taking a day to remember their sacrifice on Monday is the kind of discipline that makes us grateful rather than entitled and humble rather than proud.  Such remembering matures us, deepens us and invites us into something larger than ourselves.

I hope you will join me in taking a moment this weekend to take off your hat, pause, offer a prayer, remember and say thank you to God for the men and women who gave all.

Tell your children and your grandchildren about bravery, sacrifice and loyalty.  Let them know this is far bigger than a cookout, a baseball game and a family swim.

What we remember on Memorial Day is simply too important to forget.

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997