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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! (my advice to #UMC pastors and churches)

 

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 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.  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 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?
  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 there is 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 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.

 

 

“We Want Out!” (the loudest voice the #UMC isn’t hearing)

 

There is an increasingly resonant voice in the United Methodist conflict emerging from both congregations and pastors.

 

It is a voice not being heard.

 

It does not receive invitations to the negotiating table.

 

It is a voice becoming too loud to ignore.

 

“We want out!”

 

As the United Methodist Church continues bent on being a one issue denomination (and that issue is not Jesus Christ); many churches across the theological spectrum have simply had enough.  Exacerbated by the rancorous St. Louis General Conference, fearful of a repeat in 2020 and fueled by decades of decline in the American church, many have lost confidence in a process that can’t seem to right itself and positional leaders who can’t seem to lead.  “Just wait until the next __________ and we will get this all fixed” simply doesn’t ring true anymore. It never gets fixed. In fact, it keeps getting worse.

 

Thousands of individuals have already left the UMC; our collective decline in the American church over a thirty year span is staggering.  In my own conference, weekly worship attendance has declined by 41%; Professions of Faith by 67% and baptisms by 66% since 1992. Confirmation Classes? Down by 71%. Granted, many have died but plenty have walked.  Our most consistent statistical feature in the American portion of the church is that it costs more and more to accomplish less and less each year.  Costs, clergy entitlements and apportionments go up; worship attendance, professions of faith and baptisms go down.  This is unsustainable by any measure and failing the Great Commission by every measure.

 

Many anticipate eventually leaving the UMC but are not going to simply trickle away as others have previously done.  They intend to leave with their pastor, their congregation and their property.  They don’t care about the equitable division of denominational assets and they don’t care about the Boards and Agencies.  They have stopped writing, posting, tweeting and blogging.  They are not mad but they are done.  They have worked through the grieving cycle.

 

Seven Reasons Churches Want Out

 

  1. They are tired of the fight
  2. They see no end in sight
  3. Local congregations are suffering 
  4. Churches no longer wish to fund what negatively impacts their mission
  5. Churches want autonomy over their decreasing resources
  6. They can’t “un-see” the dysfunction manifested in St. Louis
  7. They have seen what has happened to the other Mainline denominations

 

In the aftermath of the debacle that was General Conference 2019, some have been surprised by how few churches have asked to withdraw from the UMC.  I do not find this surprising in the least.  There is really no clear way out.  Many feel trapped. The vast majority will give the 2020 General Conference a chance to play out.

 

Six Reasons Why Churches Have Not Left

 

  1. Church property is held in trust The Trust Clause basically has you forever making automobile payments and the bank still owning your ever aging and unreliable car. For a non-debt strapped church to leave at present probably means to abandon their building.  Most churches are not going to do it. They shouldn’t have to.
  2. There is no clear and standardized exit ramp The now defunct Taylor Plan was not gracious financially and only applied to churches who disagreed with the current denominational stance on human sexuality. Many churches who want out agree with the denominational stance.  The issue for them is not just human sexuality, it is perpetual dysfunction.
  3. Some are hoping for a gracious, clear and standardized exit ramp to come out of GC 2020 I think this is a pipe dream. Farmers don’t just let their milk cows walk out of the barn; denominations don’t either.  I suppose it could happen but I am not counting on it.
  4. Lack of negotiating tools We have learned from other Mainline meltdowns that congregations who have money in the bank, sit on substantial assets, are not in 100% agreement around theology and who do not have long-term pastoral leadership have a much harder time getting out than those who are fiscal liabilities. If there is not an exit ramp; many congregations will make one.  If they make one, litigation may be their only option.
  5. Litigation is a terrible option Mainline denominations have spent millions suing their own churches who want to be shed of them. It is abysmal stewardship.  It is a fool’s play by any measure. Secular courts should not decide the future of the church.
  6. Lack of clarity concerning the “pull” While many feel the “push;” the “pull” seems more ambiguous. Many wish to exit the dysfunction but where would they go? Independent alliances?  Loose associations? Autonomous congregations?  A new denomination?  Some negotiated split of the UMC? And even if they knew where they wanted to go, how would they get there?

 

I do not know anyone who believes the United Methodist Church has a viable future in its present embodiment.  I used to know a lot of folks who believed we could figure this out; then I knew a few and now I don’t know any.  An increasing number of “non-institutional” United Methodists don’t believe the mission of the church is to prop up a flailing denomination.

 

The question entering GC 2019 was, “Can we stay together?”

 

The question entering GC 2020 is, “Can we amicably separate?”

 

But the question for many is, “Who wants to stay in a dysfunctional denomination?”

 

As churches consider their options in 2020, leaving all together will certainly be among them.

 

These voices deserve to be heard.

 

Tie Black and White

-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.

The Lost Art of Renegotiation

 

The Lost Art of Renegotiation

life_cycle_of_relationships

A long-term relationship with a church is little different than a long-term relationship with a spouse, friend or an employer.  There are ups and downs.  How healthy people navigate long-term relationships is fairly standardized.  Such navigation has become a lost art.

 

Here is how the process works in the context of a church (but this can be applied to anything):

 

Immature Fusion:

This is the perfect church! There are no perfect churches and if you ever find one, you will ruin the whole thing the moment you show up.  Immature Fusion is temporary in nature because it is essentially based upon an illusion.

 

Confusion:

What, this church isn’t perfect?  When the balloon of our Immature Fusion is popped by reality (and it always will be), we may become temporarily disoriented and stunned.  That this is a surprise when it happens is stunning in itself but it does happen…again and again.   

 

Disenchantment:

This church is terrible… This is point at which people articulate, “I have been hurt or disappointed by the church.”  The church isn’t whatever that person thought it would be or should be and they are thrust into an unsustainable position of inner conflict.

 

Termination or Renegotiation? This is a crisis point.

 

Termination:

I am going to quit this church and look for a perfect church  Sometimes leaving is the best thing to do.  The best reason to quit a church is because you are no longer aligned with the church’s mission.  But if we are too quick to hit the eject button every time the plane ride gets bumpy, we are going crash a lot of planes on one hand and never learn to navigate in bad weather on the other.   People who terminate normally revert to the “Immature Fusion” stage in another church and play the whole cycle out again.

 

Renegotiation:

No church is perfect but I will serve God faithfully right here. Even highly effective churches consist of flawed people, flawed systems and flawed leaders because we live in a flawed and fallen world.  Sometimes termination is the right answer but the more terminations you compile; the more broken things you leave in your wake.  Quitting is always easy and often the path of least resistance but perpetual quitters never grow up. They are doomed to a life lived in a loop film concerning relationship, jobs and churches.  Renegotiation is normally the “grown up” play.

 

Mature Fusion: 

This is an imperfect church.  I will have a great attitude and give it my all.  Those who renegotiate get all the benefits of Immature Fusion but they are now in a sustainable position to serve effectively for the long haul.  They don’t expect that things will be easy, systems will be flawless, things will always go their way and people will never make mistakes.  It was with people like this that Jesus Christ build his “Big C” church and for people like this the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost!

 

Like all pastors and church staff, I have had seasons of discouragement, disappointment and heartache in the context of the church.  But to miss the “priceless treasure” because we are discouraged by the “clay pot” would be like throwing away my 1934 Goudey Dizzy Dean baseball card because one of my grandkids marked up the plastic case encapsulating it with a Sharpie.  What keeps mature people of faith going is a sharp focus on the perfect treasure and not the flawed container.

 

Learning the “Lost Art of Renegotiation” is imperative for any long-term relationship.

Shane Memphis

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

 

Preaching the Bible (all of it)

A major failure of modern orthodox Christianity has been an unwillingness to preach and teach the whole of the Bible.  I am as guilty as anyone.  We play the hits over and over but we don’t play the whole album.  As a result, most of the content of the Bible goes unaddressed and unexplored in the life of the church.

Sometimes this happens because the material seems too distant and too dry.  Let’s face it, Leviticus is a tough read but just as often it happens because the material is too difficult (Hebrews) or too controversial (Romans).  It is hard leading these days and many pastors don’t want to invite additional “drama” into the life of their church by wading into “sure to be controversial” material.  They are overwhelmed already. 

As a result, many preachers over the past few decades have simply skipped the tough stuff.  Series preaching makes this very easy to do and many congregations actually appreciate it because they don’t have to work very hard.  As a result, some preaching has digressed into the “hermeneutical fast food” genre.  It tastes good, has a great packaging, can be served quickly but won’t make you strong.  There is just not enough nutritional variety there.

This failure to address the whole of the Bible has produced Christians who believe themselves to have a solid faith but have no idea of what is in the Bible beyond the Old Testament Bible stories and popular New Testament material like the Sermon on the Mount.  This has left good church folks theologically “un-anchored” to the Word and wide open to false teaching.  What is served in many churches is a “soft” Gospel that fails to offend the people in the pews but lacks breadth, depth, clarity and transforming power. Right for attendance and the budget. Wrong for making disciples.

Perhaps we have convinced ourselves there has never been a more difficult time to be ministry.  Perhaps we over-think everything.  Perhaps we tell church “ghost stories” and wonder why we can’t sleep at night.  We read Romans and cringe to think how controversial the material is but fail to realize it was just as controversial in Paul’s day! They ran Paul out of cities, beat him and jailed him time after time. Truth has always comes at a price…it always will. 

Preaching the “greatest hits” of a book like Romans and skipping over the tough stuff is easy to do. You probably won’t get any congregation complaints but selective preaching may be coming at the expense of making well-grounded disciples.

The challenge with Biblical truth is that it takes effort, hurts our ears, flies in the face of our sensibilities and puts us on a collision course with culture (and possibly each other).  Rough air makes us nervous that the plane is going to crash so we simply take the plane to a different altitude to avoid turbulence. 

Preaching then becomes an exercise in a cycle of “ever improving our grasp of the obvious.” We teach what people already know. So we work on better metaphors and illustrations and design slick sermon packages that keep us on trendy but safe cultural ground. I get it. 

But…

I am convinced that it is the collision of the way we think with what the Bible clearly says that produces true spiritual movement in us. Without the irritant, we don’t get the pearl. We have to get our folks reading the Bible, hearing the Bible, studying the Bible and living the Bible.

I don’t mean this in a caustic way but the Bible doesn’t really care what we think of it. When the sensibilities of our modern age are long forgotten, Biblical truth will still be shining like a new dime.  It is not the task of the church to make the Bible more palatable to our culture; it our task to speak Biblical truth in love.

And to do that, we have to preach the Bible…

All of it.

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

The Heart of a Pastor

(Few know the heart of a pastor.  We hide such things well.  This is for pastors everywhere.)

   

Today I was informed that a beloved family of this church will be leaving us. Not because they are moving but because they have lost a connection here and feel called to another congregation.

 

I picked up the phone and called because I had some things I wanted to say. I wanted them to know what an honor it has been to speak into their lives over these years and how grateful I am for their service here. I wanted to offer my blessing as they go, let them know they will be missed and let them know they need not hide if they ever run into me at a restaurant. I also offered to call their new pastor to say what an incredible family they are getting if that would ever be of help.

 

I was thanked for calling and so glad that I did so. When I hung up, I wiped the tears from my eyes, took a short walk to compose myself and went back to work.

 

That is what I do, I go back to work.

 

So you think people are just numbers?

They are not to this pastor…

Shane Preaching

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