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A Dozen Pre-Christmas Hacks (2019 Edition)

A Dozen Pre-Christmas Hacks

We all know Christmas events and family gatherings can be stressful.  I get it.  Drama wrapped in beautiful paper and adorned with a bow is still drama.  But I want to suggest that they don’t have to be terrible.  In fact, they can be pretty good…even wonderful!   Like anything else in life, things will go better for you (and everyone else) if you apply some common sense hacks to your situation and work them!

Want some specific hacks to get you to and through Christmas? 

Here you go! 

1) The right time to have that difficult conversation with a family member is NEVER on a holiday.  If it has waited until now, it will wait a few more days.

2) If someone is offending you by saying all kinds of dumb crap, just leave the room.  Strategically avoid them if you must.  There is no point starting WWIII right before the ham is served.

3) Focus your attention on the older people. Encourage their stories and ask them questions.  Learn about your family tree or the business or about their lives.  They have much to offer and there are no guarantees for next year.

4) Turn off your phone. Whatever it is, it will wait.

5) Slow it down. Make people stick around and actually talk to each other.

6) Hand out as many compliments as possible.  I have just given you the key to personal popularity.

7) Liberally apply grace, good manners and appreciation.  Gravitate toward isolated people and introduce people who may not know one another.

8) Help clean up.  Don’t ask if you can help.  Just help.

9) Create wins for children.  If you are at a gathering and have small kids don’t put them in position to fail by staying too long or leaving them unsupervised. And if you can tell things are deteriorating; leave while you are “still ahead.”

10) Exercise your right to remain silent.  If you get a bit aggravated and wonder whether you  should say something or not…you shouldn’t.  I have never regretted a single potentially volatile or hurtful thing I didn’t say.

11) Be in a good mood.  Smile. Shower people with positive energy!  Bonus points for faking it.

12) Remember the reason for the season.  The essence of Christmas is about big things, not small ones.  Things like joy, hope, peace and love.  Shower people with the big things and the small things will take care of themselves.

Merry Christmas everyone!

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

My Constant Temptation (is to just check out)

My constant temptation is to simply check out. Cash it in, retire, unplug, disconnect, disappear into the Smoky Mountains with Melissa and a Bible and have no idea who becomes President in the next election. The troubled state of the world, our unsettled country and divisions within my denomination make me sad. Not mad, just sad. The kind of sad you feel when you take your ball and go home. The unavoidable vitriol and violence encapsulating us 24/7/365 erodes my soul and spirit. I am tired.

And then I remember that I was called by God…drafted if you will. Perhaps I will one day be released but I can’t quit. Not now. Not today. Or tomorrow. Or the next day. Perhaps what God has invested in me is in some small way needed now…in these troubling times. Perhaps everything God has done in my life has been “for such a time as this.” Perhaps doing ministry right now is the reason for which I was created. Perhaps.

So here I stand. Planted firmly. Refusing to let this world rob me of joy, laughter or the simple pleasures of nature, friends and family. Truly desiring to do no harm, to do all the good I can and stay in love with God. And I will stand tomorrow and the next day. And the day after that. I will boldly stand on the accomplishment of Christ and the hope He brings. He is the only hope we have. He is the only hope we need.

I am so ready for the holidays this year. Thanksgiving is next week but I am especially excited about Christmas. I need Christmas this year. Peace on Earth. Goodwill to Men. Christmas Eve services. Angels. Shepherds. Mary. Joseph. Baby Jesus. Hark the herald! Joy to the World! That kind of stuff! That is exactly what I need!

As we enter the “most wonderful time of the year” don’t forget to say a prayer for healing and peace…and for God to raise up healers and peacemakers. And don’t be so glued to this earth that you neglect to look up. Look up and see the Christmas star blazing in the night sky and angels announcing to our troubled world that Christ is born…born in you and in me!

Peace dear friends and don’t give in to hopelessness, fear and despair. God has this. God has you. You are of value, you matter and you are loved. And most of all, remember that here is hope in Christ. Always has been. Always will be. Hope is the one thing Christmas refuses to allow us to forget…

Come Lord Jesus come.

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

Facing Those Who Disappoint (during the holidays)

The holiday season is almost upon us!  Again.

Some of you are rejoicing!  Some are not.

It is 100% certain that you will be dealing with people who have disappointed you during this holiday season.  When we are around people who have disappointed us in one way or the other, a myriad of emotions can be unleashed inside of us.  Particularly if these are people we also love.  We see that person who hurt us and the emotional dam breaks loose and suddenly we are flooded by a cacophony thoughts and feelings.

We have no control over these impulses.

What we can control is how we will prepare for these encounters and how we will deal our feelings.

For me, there are but three options for dealing with unavoidable people who have disappointed you (or continue to disappoint you) this holiday season:

1) We can avoid them.  This is clearly an option and in some cases (like abuse), it may be the right option.  You simply don’t have to be around people who perpetually cause you harm or you are not ready to see.  You just don’t.

2) We can be polite but choose not to engage beyond that point.  This is not a bad strategy if you are really hurting but it is a non-sustainable one.  This strategy is best used in the immediate aftermath of disappointment; when we have not yet sorted out our own feelings, must less determined how we will engage or not engage the person who has hurt us.  Think of it as a low-drama temporary emotional “landing place.”

3) We can forgive and renegotiate the relationship.  Forgiveness does not let the person who hurt you off the hook; it lets you off the hook and gets them out of your head.   A conversation to renegotiate the relationship on the other side of disappointment is necessary but don’t have it until you are ready.  The right conversation held before you are emotionally ready to have it, is always the wrong conversation.  The only question up for discussion is, “Where do we go from here?”

Forgiveness is not an easy option, but it is a Christian one.  And if you are wondering how you can forgive those who have sinned against you, keep in mind that God has forgiven you.

You probably won’t get things all figured out this holiday season on the relational side of things, but a determination to be emotionally ready for facing people who have disappointed you is a firm step in the right direction.

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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.”

 

Pastors HAVE to Tithe (they just do)

Here is the deal.

Pastors have to tithe…they just do.  I know many pastors don’t tithe but you simply have to tithe if you are going to lead a church.  And you need to tithe to your current church.  The one whose name is on your pay check.  Give your offerings anywhere you want but tithe to your church.

Melissa and I celebrated our 36th Wedding Anniversary this summer and it brought to mind a story from our first week as a married couple.  I was finishing up college and Melissa was babysitting making an astounding $60 per week.  That was our income, $240 per month.  When it was time to write the bills, we discussed how much to give.  Melissa said, “Let’s give 10%; let’s tithe and believe God will one day entrust us with much more to give.”  We wrote a check for six bucks.

It was wonderful advice.

Here are ten reasons pastors HAVE to tithe:

  1. Tithing to your current church is a powerful expression of your “buy-in” to your current context.  Church leaders need to know their pastor is “in this thing.”  Few things are more powerful than putting your money where your mouth is.
  2. Saying yes to God’s call to Ordained Ministry is not a discipleship exemption.  People in all careers had to sacrifice to get where they are, start off making a pittance and have student loans just like pastors do.  They need to tithe as well.
  3. A non-tithing pastor can never preach the fullness of Christian discipleship (with any authority anyway).  Consultants agree that a church can’t properly address God’s resources without a pastor leading from the pulpit.  I truly think many pastors don’t preach it because they don’t live it.  Failing to proclaim the whole Gospel because you aren’t willing to tithe is NOT a virtue.  Discipleship IS a virtue.  Let’s not fool ourselves here.
  4. Your church will NEVER reach its potential without a critical mass of tithers.  The primary leader HAS to be one of them.  I just don’t know of any exceptions to this…
  5. Even if no one knows you don’t tithe, you do and God does.
  6. Your church leaders (and their spouses and their friends and possibly their Facebook friends) know whether or not their pastor tithes.  They count the money.  They know.  They talk.  Don’t fool yourself on this one.
  7. The Old Testament teaches the tithe and the New Testament only adds that we be in a good mood about it on one hand and don’t employ the practice to excuse ourselves from Christian character and compassion on the other.  The tithe is still in play.
  8. A tithing pastor has the moral authority to lead in the area of discipleship in powerful ways.
  9. How can we expect God to bless our churches and ministries if we choose not to be generous givers?  Give God something to bless.  I know of very few pastors who have been blessed with growing and significant ministries who do not tithe (actually I don’t know of any but I was trying to be nice).  And they started tithing long before they became “successful.”
  10. God promises to bless the gift and the giver.  As we have been faithful to give, God has always given us more to give and as we have given, God has always brought in givers to Christ Church to stand beside us.  I am not seeing a down side here.

 

I still write tithe checks to Christ Church each payday.  I suppose I could give on line, through a kiosk or automatically but I really like the feeling I have just writing that old fashioned check.  It reminds me of how much God has blessed us since we wrote that first six dollar check thirty-six years ago.

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Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist in the United Methodist Church, is the Senior Pastor at Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.

Pushing Back (on Pushback)

I have been the Senior Pastor at Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since July 1, 1997.  In this time we have grown by an average of one hundred each year in worship.  We are constantly engaged in the economy of change and have found that change brings with it both excitement and discontinuity.  The secret to a long tenure (in anything) is not the avoidance of problems (that is impossible in a fallen world); it is to deal with difficult challenges in healthy ways.  Tragically, since most churches have accepted the template of “rotating pastors” every four or five years, many congregations have built a culture where church leaders and pastors have lost the relational skills to “stay at the table” when times get tough.  It is not serving us well.  Perhaps it is time to push back on pushback!

 

Here are eight ways to push back on pushback:

 

  1. Get to the Bottom of It People will push back in various ways during change. An axiom in our church culture is, “What folks are complaining about usually isn’t what people are complaining about.” When a grumbler comes our way significantly concerned about something insignificant, we ask, “What is this conversation really about?”  Such conversations are almost always about personal preference, loss of power or fear of the future.  These are very real concerns; it’s just that people often lack the sophistication to talk about important things directly so they bring up trivial things instead.

 

  1. Handle it Biblically Operate by Matthew 18: 15-17. You must be consistent and relentless here. Jesus’ teaching on dealing with conflict is counter-intuitive (imagine that).  Talk to the person with whom you have an issue (not about them), get a couple of referees if you can’t work it out and finally give it to the church for a final decision if things get intractable.  Deal with this kind of stuff swiftly and decisively.

 

  1. Refuse triangulation People will often get frustrated when you refuse to triangulate but they will be forced to deal with discontinuity in healthy ways. Don’t talk to anyone about their concern until they have talked directly to the person about whom they are concerned. They may not leave your office happy but remember that many of them were not happy before they met you (so don’t take full responsibility).

 

  1. Be Visible and Approachable We all want to hide when the hurricane is blowing but effective leaders can’t. A good working rule is that the less you want to be around people, the more you need to be around people.

 

  1. Tell the truth Being nice is often a higher core value than being truthful in the church. It is not unchristian to be honest with people but it is unchristian to make them think you are going to do something you have no intention of doing. Taking the time to answer questions honestly and offer your position in a non-defensive way can turn a critic into a staunch ally!

 

  1. Be a Christian Always be pastoral toward the people who are in disagreement with you. You can’t let Christians behaving in an unchristian manner take away your Christianity! You can’t give them that much power over you.

 

  1. Be a Professional Never take it personal. Never raise your voice. Keep the discussion scriptural and missional.  Even if a disgruntled individual leaves the church, you will earn their respect by being professional.  If they do leave, do everything in your power to enable them to leave on good terms!

 

  1. Stick Around I simply don’t consider “divorce an option” in my marriage (35 years) or my church (21 years). When you decide you are going to stay at the table and work through discontinuity, your ministry has moved to a new level.

 

As we learn to view inevitable discontinuity as an opportunity to teach Christian behavior and sharpen our leadership skills; we find that pushback is something on which we can…push back.

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

Let Jesus Take Your Trash Out

Text: Psalm 123

Some years back I was reading a business journal that was exploring lucrative fields for the future.  Most of it was tech and medically related but not all of it.  One particular line stuck with me, “There will be profitable future markets for people who can make other people’s trash go away.”

The whole issue of trash removal is the kind of thing you take for granted until you can’t take for granted anymore.  I was in Houston not so long ago after the major flooding in the city.  The actual flood occurred a few weeks prior but as I drove past neighborhoods on the way to the airport, trash was stacked on the curbs everywhere as far as I could see.  Water damaged dry-wall, carpets, furniture, mattresses and sofas were stacked six or seven feet high in front of most of the houses.  There was just too much trash all at once and there wasn’t anyone to pick it up so it just piled up.  I was thinking, “That has to be smelling awful by now and that can’t be healthy.”  Does your life ever feel that way?  You experience peace in quiet moments or when you are at church but overall the trash just keeps piling up?

At our house, dealing with trash is easy.  We take everything we don’t want, put into green containers with wheels and roll it out to the street on Wednesday mornings.  This is where it gets brilliant!  We have this deal worked out where people we don’t even know make everything we don’t want go away.  They put it in this noisy truck and they take it to parts unknown and we don’t have to look at it, deal with it or smell it ever again.  That is really a good deal, especially in the summer where if we missed even a couple of weeks, things would begin to get really bad.  Don’t you wish life worked that way?  Every week could just sit our emotional, relational, spiritual and vocational garbage out front and someone would roll up and take it away?

Well the Christian faith works exactly like that and that is why the early proponents called it the Good News.  The Bible says that we are all sinners.  Every one of us.  So we all have trash in our lives and it starts piling up after a while.  Some of it smells pretty badly because it is rotting, some is about to start rotting and some rotted long ago.  That trash consists of our bad attitudes, internal issues, hurts and disappointments, bad theology, moral and ethical failures and those parts of our pasts that haunt us.  Now some people just sit it all out front on social media and others try to hid it but the reality is that it is there.  If we don’t figure out how to get rid of our garbage, the pile gets bigger, smells worse, creates an increasingly unhealthy environment and does more damage to us and those around us by the day.

I am about to say something shocking.  Jesus came to earth lived, died and rose again to take your trash away and he paid for the whole thing!

  • And not only that, but he will clean things up and replace our anxiety, drama and fear with peace.
  • And not only that, but he will empower us to produce less garbage in the future.
  • And not only that, but because we have been forgiven, Jesus enables us to forgive those who have hurt and harmed us.
  • And not only that, but when we forgive, we are thrust in the process of complete and total healing.

Sound too good to be true?  That is why they call it Good News!

Psalms 120-134 were sung as people traveled to Jerusalem to worship God.  In week one, we explored Psalm 120 which established God as the giver of peace.  In week two we discovered in Psalm 121 that God is also the keeper of our peace.  Last week we explored the peace God gives us collectively in Psalm 122 (stones at SYNC) and today we look at Psalm 123.

V. 1 I lift up my eyes to you, O God enthroned in heaven Psalm 121 opened with, “I look to the mountains- does my help come from there?” The answer was, “No.” Psalm 123 opens, “I lift my eyes to you, O God enthroned in heaven.”  Now we are getting somewhere!  For the Psalmist, God was in heaven; to see him you looked first to Mt. Zion and then kept looking even higher. I wonder how many times we miss our true source of help because we are looking too low.  The next time you get discouraged, feeling sorry for yourself or feel the garbage piling up too high; lift your eyes to the Lord!

 V. 2 We look to the Lord our God for his mercy, as a servant looks to his master Mercy as it is used Biblically, has two parts. There must be a true need on the part of the receiver of mercy and the power to meet that need on the part of the giver of mercy.  What prompts the meeting of the need is compassion.  Mercy happens when someone is in a bad place and someone with the capacity to do something about it; does something about it!  In our Wednesday Romans study, we have learned that we are all sinners, sin leads to death, God had mercy on us and give us a chance of redemption through Christ.  What we have there are the conditions for mercy.  We had a problem, an almighty God had compassion on us and provided a solution in Jesus.

 V. 3 Have mercy on us for we have had our fill of contempt The pilgrim has been ridiculed for his faith. We heard his lament toward the godless culture surrounding him in Psalm 120. The Hebrew means to be so full, you can’t take another bite.  May I paraphrase?  “Help me Jesus because I can’t take any more!”  (MY FILL OF SOCIAL MEDIA)

A Cycle of Historical Christianity

  1. It begins as a counter-cultural movement
  2. It wins over the culture
  3. It becomes an ineffective and accommodating institution
  4. It loses influence
  5. It reemerges as a counter-cultural movement

It doesn’t feel good as Christians today to be held in contempt by parts of the culture but God’s work in the world is not conditional on how we feel.  Not everything that feels good is good and not everything that feels bad is bad. Christianity is at its very best as a persecuted movement and at its worst when it is an entitled institution. 

Now that our pilgrim is actually inside Jerusalem’s gates, in the Temple and marinating in the presence of God; his attention shifts from complaining about his neighbors to bringing the pain they have caused him before the Lord.  We must let God move us from complaining about our troubles, toward pouring out our hearts before him.  “Lord, I have lousy neighbors and this culture is a disaster” is not a prayer God can do much with but “Lord, I have been hurt and I need your healing” has us on the path to salvation.  We need to move from sending the home association complaints about the garbage in front of our neighbor’s house to getting the garbage cleared from our house.

V. 4 We have had our fill of the scoffing of the proud and the contempt of the arrogant The Psalmist had been made to feel inadequate, small, rejected and despised by those around him simply because he places his trust in God and God’s word. His neighbors probably called him hateful because he believed there is such a thing as sin, closed minded because he only believed in one God and chided him for not getting with the sensibilities of his culture. They probably told him that he is not only wrong; but probably the worst person in the history of the world as compared with their enlightened and more cosmopolitan views.  Stones have been hurled at him and he is bruised and hurting.

This is not the kind of surface hurt we experience when a known gossip speaks ill of us, someone goes off on Facebook, a bully shoves on us or a loudmouth offends us.  In these cases you consider the source.  This is also not the careless slip of the tongue from a loved one or the angry snip of a friend.  The Psalmist is talking about cold, calculated actions taken by evil people to bring contempt upon him.  As he worships, he cries, “God I have had all I can stand down here; can you help me get up there?  My eyes are looking too low; can you raise my line of sight?”

Some of you are facing overwhelming circumstances for which you can see no solution and piles of ever accumulating garbage are all you can see.  Aren’t you sick of looking at it?   Aren’t you tired of dragging all that pain around?  I want to offer a radical option.  Leave your garbage here.  Don’t take it back out with you.  Let Jesus haul it off.

You ever watch the show “Hoarders?”  It is a really sad show about really disturbed people with psychological hoarding disorders.  These people live in utter squalor.  Many of these homes are so filled with trash that the owners can’t even move from room to room.  They are burying themselves alive in a garbage dump of their own making.  Concerned families called the show to get intervention for their loved ones and it began by cleaning things up.  Simple right?  Wrong.  The problem is that their garbage has become precious to these people and they can’t imagine life without it.

  • The question is never, “Is the place a dump?” It is.
  • The question is never, “Can this garbage be removed?” It can.
  • The question is never, “Who will remove the garbage?” The team is on site.
  • The question is never, “Can they afford the removal?” Someone already footed the bill.
  • The question is, “Is this person too attached to their garbage to let someone remove it?”

On the surface, getting rid of your inner garbage seems like an easy decision but on Hoarders it never is.  When I was in high school we lived just down the road from the Blue Bell meat packing company in DuQuoin.  They killed cows and pigs and turned them into things people used to eat like slick meats and canned hams.  There were days it smelled really bad.  People would visit us and comment on the smell but I really didn’t even notice it; it sort of smelled like home.  Some of you no longer see your garbage; some you are actually attached to it and still others have become convinced that is just the way it is.  You know you have a terrible attitude, unhealthy relationships, deep wounds and bad habits but they are the only things you have so you hang because you can’t imagine having nothing at all.  And not only that but they feel a bit like home.  If you like living in perpetual drama and anxiety, I don’t have much to offer but perhaps, there are some who are ready to let God haul away your trash, heal your pain and lift up your heads.  Are you ready to be healed, forgiven, freed, delivered and saved?  Are you ready to receive the help that is being freely offered?

Getting Rid of the Garbage

  1. Look to God (V.1)
  2. Worship God (V.2)
  3. Share your pain with God (V.3)
  4. Receive God’s mercy (V.4)

 

PRAYER:

Almighty God,

I lift up my eyes to you.  

I am so helpless in my own strength.  Without your mercy, I don’t have a chance.

I can’t bear to live another day being held in contempt by arrogant people.

I can’t bear to live another day in the garbage that surrounds me.

Take away my sins. Wash me clean. Save me.

In Jesus’ strong name, Amen!

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

 

Know What You are Going to Do! (2020 Edition) #UMCrapstorm

 

I have played competitive softball since I was fourteen years old at every imaginable level.  Up to a handful of years ago, I played over a hundred games each season and now in my late fifties, I still play twenty or thirty.  For much of that time I was a shortstop.  The shortstop is the captain of the infield and a part of my role was to make sure the other players were practicing situational awareness.  My constant exhortation to my teammates before the ball was pitched? “Know what you are going to do!”  My exhortation to United Methodist pastors and churches as we enter General Conference 2020 (GC2020) is very much the same, “Know what you are going to do!”

 

A handful of churches have already decided what they are going to do and won’t hang on until GC2020.  They are the outliers and the wildcards.  For them, the aftermath of General Conference 2019 was just too horrible to experience all over again.  Most still haven’t stabilized.  They do not find the new Protocol prospects particularly encouraging. They don’t care what is decided at GC2020; release them from the Trust Clause and they will be gone.  Leaving the denomination under the present rules involves a jagged and potentially contentious process but at least such churches can provide their own narrative.  Leaving a contentious denomination feels very different than leaving over disagreements over human sexuality.  The former is institutional; the latter personal.  For these churches, attempting to get out will be their only move and they should be treated graciously.  They did not ask for our current denominational dysfunction.  To make them stay is a bad play for everyone.

 

The vast majority of UMC churches will stick it out until after General Conference 2020.  They will see what unfolds and they will respond…or not.  These churches and pastors need to be asking some important questions right now.  Primary among them are, “What will our congregation do in response to GC2020 decisions?” and “What will our pastor do in response to GC2020 decisions?”  Unless a pastor started the church, has been in place over a decade or is enjoying a near perfect fit; these will be two considerations with two very different sets of implications, not one.

 

In softball, you never know where the ball will be hit so you have to anticipate all possibilities.  Anything could happen.  Clearly the UMC is at a tipping point; there is no end in sight concerning the conflict and the status quo is unsustainable.  The early hopes of stopping the fighting brought by the Protocol proposal seem more tenuous by the day. Regardless, I believe it to be the best play for anyone wanting to stay in the process.

Whether you sit on the left, right or center (is there still a center?) it is a good time to practice situational awareness.

 

What could happen at GC2020?

 

  1. The denomination formally divides
  2. The denomination moves further right
  3. The denomination shifts left
  4. Things stay about where they are
  5. An exit ramp is offered
  6. An exit ramp in not offered
  7. Things are passed that are later ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council

 

What will happen at GC2020?

 

  1. The delegates will be flooded with multiple plans, political maneuvering and mutually exclusive agendas
  2. Those plans will be subjected to the political processes of the floor
  3. The human sexuality debate will overshadow all other business
  4. The UMC brand will be further diminished
  5. Many churches will be further destabilized
  6. Whatever is decided will be rejected by about half the church
  7. Whatever is decided will require more deciding in 2024 and beyond

 

In the meantime, I would encourage churches and pastors to ask themselves some very specific questions:

 

The Big Questions

 

  1. Can we survive until GC2020? If not, what would be the process of negotiating an exit?  If we leave, where will we go?  What is involved in legally reorganizing the church once we leave?  Who owns the assets?  How will ordination work for pastors who leave?
  2. If the UMC formally splits, where will we land? How many ways might the UMC split?  How long will the process for formal separation take? The Protocol leaves a lot of questions on the table.
  3. If the UMC moves further right, can we stay?
  4. If the UMC shifts left, can we stay?
  5. Can our congregation survive a congregational vote on human sexuality? Should this be avoided at all costs? What would it take to get them ready?
  6. If a clear exit ramp offered, will we take it? Can we afford the terms?  If we take an exit; do we go independent, independent but affiliated, form a new denomination or join an existing one?
  7. If there is no resolution to the UMC conflict in 2020, will we stay?

 

These are difficult questions that anticipate a number of outcomes and grapple with a number of responses.  Churches and pastors, even of the same theological ilk, will posit in different places.  I encourage everyone to be as proactive as possible on one hand and to carefully “think things through” on the other.  A failure to plan for what could happen now will almost certainly be a leadership mistake later.  Having informed, prayerful and non-anxious conversations with your church leadership right now will prevent pandemic fear in the present and knee-jerk responses in the near future.

 

Ready or not, GC2020 will be here in a minute and a half.  The press will have a field day. More things will be written and said to further widen the divide. Everything now bad may very well get worse. The non-participants will NOT be rewarded. The path of least resistance will be catastrophic in the long run for both clergy and congregations. The future will not be easy for anyone and only the prepared will be in position to navigate it.

The field is lined, the opposing teams are warming up, the umpires are discussing the rules, coaches are going over the game plan and players are already trash talking.  The first pitch will soon be thrown.  Like softball, you never know where the ball will be hit; you just have to know what you are going to do.

-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.