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Ten Thanksgiving Hacks

Thanksgiving week is almost here! Here are ten hacks:

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

1) Make everyone stay at the table for a full hour. No one leaves. No one.  And not a bit of dessert or a sip of coffee for forty-five minutes.
2) No phones at the table. None. If you look at your phone, it goes in the turkey carcass with the stuffing until supper.  No exceptions.

3) Say grace. Old fashioned. Heads bowed, eyes closed, holding hands. One person can keep their eyes open to monitor.

4) Remember those by name who are not in their chairs this year. Speak out their names before saying grace. Remember their lives and sacrifice.

5) Tell your favorite family Thanksgiving stories. The year of the huge Thanksgiving blizzard. The year when it was like summer outside and everyone went on a walk. The big family football game of 1992. The sweet potato casserole debacle of 2001. Get out the old photos. The kind…

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Fighting Discouragement is a Full-Time Job These Days

Pastors and Christian leaders today are discouraged to a degree I have never before witnessed.  The culture is manic, denominations and churches are blowing apart, politics are polarizing, money is tight, churches are declining, people are anxious, social media is a war zone and old “in house” problems of “entitlement, power and preference” haven’t gone anywhere.  Add to that high stress, frozen salaries, shrinking budgets and lack of appreciation and you have a recipe for discouragement.

If you are discouraged in your service to the Lord, I get it.  You have no idea how well I get it.  For many, 2018 is a season of feeling inadequate, dejected, frustrated and downright pessimistic.  2019 doesn’t look any better.  Sometimes we just want to become 10 years old again and “take our ball and go home.”  Some are doing just that and getting back into the secular job market.  Many church leaders who can retire are retiring early.  But for the rest of us…

Here are some words to the discouraged:

1) Double down on the mission

Discouraged people are often people off-mission. Refocus your energy toward your church mission statement and get back to doing the stuff you were doing when things were going well. Getting back to the basics of effectiveness is always a good mantra in difficult times.

2) Stop feeling sorry for yourself

Everyone in the Bible had tough times and everyone God has ever used throughout history had tough times. Jesus had tough times for heaven’s sake! Realize you are in good company and cancel the pity party due to lack of interest.

3) Be faithful

Being faithful is easy when things are going great but can be quite burdensome when they are not. “What is the use?” is a lie the devil uses early and often in such seasons. The Bible commends faithfulness above all things. So keep battling in such a way as we hear God say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

4) Remember tough times don’t last forever

They seem like they do but they don’t. God wins. Something has to turn around at some point if you are on God’s side.

5) Learn any lessons you need to learn

Some rough seasons are self-inflicted, others are inevitable but all offer an opportunity for learning, leaning on Jesus and growth. It is often the skills we learn in the valley that enable us to once again soar on the mountain top!

6) Attack the distract

In times of discouragement, sources of distraction are deadly. Silence the negative and divisive voices by choosing not to listen to them and firmly rebuking them. You need voices of hope in tough times, not selfish people with an uncanny and disheartening grasp of the obvious. Misery missionaries go home.

7) Live in victory

Just start living in victory. Just do it. Speak victory, celebrate the victory promised in the Bible and claim the victory God is about to give you!  Surround yourself with positive people.  Fake victory until you are living it!

8) Lean into your call

Rediscover why you got into ministry in the first place.  Rekindle that initial moment when God called you by name!  And remember if God called you, you can be released but you can’t quit.

Seasons of discouragement are the incubators of courage and character.  Discouragement is a normal part of serving God in a fallen world but discouragement must never become our permanent address. That address is at the corner of “a future and a hope.”

Hang in there.  Keep sowing good seed.  Hold steady.  Your harvest is coming!

SHANE Valley of the Doves

-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.

The Jesus Boat

Rev. Shane L. Bishop


When we first receive Christ, we are offered an invitation to ride on the Jesus Boat.  We don’t have to do a thing; just enjoy the summer breezes blowing through our hair, the warm sunshine on our faces and the cool spray of the misty water over our bodies.  Jesus provides the boat, mans the sails, steers, navigates and even provides Diet Cokes and sunscreen…it is fun to ride on the Jesus Boat.  We think we could just ride on the Jesus Boat forever.

Then one day Jesus says, “Why don’t I teach you to sail this boat?”  We don’t much like the sound of that offer because we like riding on the boat (remember the free sunscreen and Diet Cokes?) but he has done so much for us that we accept.  Together we look at charts, listen to weather reports, calculate wind direction and man the sails.  This…

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Social Media Drama (you don’t have to just take it)

I do not like drama. It actually makes me irritable which, of course, only adds to the drama. I fully realize in a world populated with humans with internet access, there is going to be SOME drama. I get that. What I can’t tolerate is perpetual drama, recreational drama; drama as entertainment, drama to sell and drama evangelists. The kind of drama you get on Social Media 24/7/365.

Here are seven quick suggestions on how to decrease some of the very real drama in your virtual life.

1) 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) Don’t be afraid to use the “unfriend” or “unsubscribe” options.

Cyber “friendships” end quite painlessly and “unsubscribing” from a person who stirs up drama 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) Be careful with what you post.

Some people post stuff that is sure to cause a firestorm and honestly can’t figure out that they lit the match. 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 your cyber house.

4) Develop a mission statement for your social media use.

“To keep up with friends and family,” “To Share my faith” or “To Celebrate life” would be 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, denominational arguments, rancorous debate and dogmatic diatribes do not. I want to keep it positive and have a good time while I am at it.

5) Pray the internet.

Turn the drama into prayer. Praying through your news feed item by item and sharing those prayers on the pages of others can be a rewarding spiritual exercise. And don’t type “praying” if you are not actually going to pray.

6) Learn to associate frustration with silence.

7) Take control.

Social media lets you have significant input into what you encounter if you take control of your feed. Think of it like one of those companies who sends you clothes and you send back what you don’t want. They are going to try to get it right because they want to sell you stuff and so will social media…for the same reasons. When stuff is thrown at you that you don’t want, send it back by using the controls available to you. In time, the things you see should suit you much better.

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

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

Standing on Firm Ground (Does God Still Heal?)

Does God still heal?

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

When I was in high school, doing impressions of highly animated faith healers was wonderful sport.   Perhaps my favorite sport.  I remember watching television as people threw away their crutches, ripped out their hearing aids, sprung from their wheel chairs and testified of miracle cures.  When a few of the more visible but unprincipled conduits of healing power got sliced, diced, simmered and fried by the media, it was just all the more funny.  Faith healers were cartoons in a cartoon graveyard for me.  I believed in God but I did not believe in them.  They stood on shaky ground.

Conversely, I observed that “in church” prayers for healing were conducted by far more believable servants of God.  They would pray for folks but always ended with the phrase, “Your will be done.”  That bugged me.  It seemed like a bit of a cop out because if God didn’t heal…

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You Don’t Hear Fathers Talk About This Much

You don’t hear father’s talk about this much. This is an excerpt from my latest book:

Re-Conversion (The “God is Good” Story) (Sumner, Illinois, circa 1996)

Sometime in late 1992, I attended a seminar on how to do ministry with Senior Adults held in Peoria, Illinois. There was this feeble, little man who inched up to the platform (like Tim Conway used to do on the “Carol Burnet Show”) and opened the thing up by proclaiming weakly, “God is Good.” The people replied, “All the time” He quietly responded, “All the time” and they politely finished, “God is Good.” I remember thinking to myself, “This is almost cool! I wonder what would happen if living people tried it?” The potential of this greeting captivated me and all I could think about was putting a V10 engine and glass packs on this thing and flooring it the very next week at Sumner. Our first four or five tries the next Sunday morning were a little lame but after that “God is good” became an institution. Every worship service I conducted at the Sumner United Methodist Church began with a rousing, “God is good!” It was a bold and upbeat way to begin our worship services…until that exceptionally cold winter.

It was Advent 1996. Advent in the United Methodist world is a traditional time of preparing our hearts for the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas. On Wednesday, Melissa had been informed that our third child, a son we were to call Liam, had died in her womb. Nothing could be done until the next week and Sunday loomed in between. We were devastated. It was as if the best Christmas present in the world had been placed under the tree only to be snatched away in a cruel cosmic joke. Never had I felt so crushed, staggered and utterly…de-converted. All I could think about was the expectation that I would start the worship service with “God is Good!” I had no idea how I would do that. Never had I less perceived God to be good and the prospect of proclaiming it was more than my weary heart could bear.

These were the days before hospital privacy laws and everyone in our “One Casey’s Town” (though we were yet to actually get a Casey’s) knew what was happening. Rural folks know well how to dance with pain and death so they gave us space to hurt and when we walked into the church folks steered clear. On the bulletin were printed the name of Melissa Bishop followed by Shane Bishop. Melissa was scheduled to open by singing a song called “Harmony” with her best friend Sheri Baker about God’s gift of a baby boy to creation. It seemed…ironic. I was to follow with a rousing, “God is good!” I could not possibly imagine how any of that was going to happen.

To my amazement, when the prelude concluded, Melissa (with our dead baby in her stomach) quietly arose from her seat and in beautiful harmony sang of a baby’s arrival long ago. My stolid congregation listened with quivering lips, fighting back uncharacteristic tears as they marveled at the Spirit-energy of this incredible woman temporarily caught between a rock and a holy place. As I sat in awe of Melissa’s inner strength and the sheer power of her spirit, something occurred to me. If God is not good at this very minute; I mean “right now” then He wasn’t good last week and wouldn’t be good a month from now. It was as if God spoke to me, “I am either good or I am not good and you have about thirty seconds to decide.”

When the song ended, I walked behind that wooden pulpit and shouted for my soul, “God is Good!” to which the people nearly raised the roof as they replied, “All the Time!”

I was re-converted.

For the past two decades, I have opened each of our worship services with “God is Good” but never assume it is an easy thing. Sometimes you have to fight for it.

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

My Social Media Pledge for 2018

A lot of folks are closing their social media accounts. I get that. Why invite more mania into our lives. For me, social media is still better than it is terrible. From time to time, I visit my Social Media Pledge I make every year. Now seemed like a good time.

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

My Social Media Pledge for 2018

  1. I will always keep things upbeat and positive
  2. If I don’t have anything nice to say, I won’t say anything at all
  3. I will choose to not be offended (unless that is impossible)
  4. I will not squirt “weak sauce” in the eye of humanity with my whining
  5. I will temper my innate sarcasm (except when I deem it too hilarious not to share)
  6. I will not pass along “chain letter” kind of stuff on Messenger
  7. I will never add someone to a group unless they ask to be added
  8. I will celebrate the gift of life anytime and anywhere
  9. I will celebrate the beauty of God’s creation
  10. I will try to have some thoughtful and helpful things to say
  11. I will celebrate the faith that fuels and empowers me
  12. I will celebrate my family and joyfully share in your family celebrations as well
  13. I…

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