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Christ Church, MLK and Me circa 2019

Christ Church has been holding special services around the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday since the late 90’s. In those days we ran about 300 a week in worship and were anything but racially diverse but we had a dream.

In the early years we participated with our friend Rev. Sylvester Weatherall and the good people of the Washington Park UMC. We did symbolic marches from Grace Church to City Hall, had church and shared a lunch. Forrest Bevineau and I sang the “Reconciliation Song” every year.

When Sylvester moved to Springfield in the early 2000’s, the next January came around and there was no Metro-East celebration to attend. I found the silence deafening. After a one year silence, God spoke to my heart to pick things up at Christ Church. I didn’t feel qualified but the line was non-existent and I did feel called so we began holding annual services and events right here at Christ Church.

Our MLK Service has been graced over the years with Bishops, Scholars, Educators and Judges. We have been blessed by incredible music, poetry and prose. We received new insights and understandings from our incredible Associate Pastor Troy Benton. We have learned that MLK Day is not a Black Holiday, it is an American Holiday! I rejoice in the vision and courage of Martin Luther King Jr. and the new America he helped to build and we continue to build. His was a dream of America in keeping with what our forefathers found to be “self evident.” The simple notion at all men (and women) were created equal and deserve equal opportunity, protection, respect, access and yes, responsibility. I share that dream!

Such egalitarian notions are deeply rooted in the Christian tradition (and my Methodist tradition and that is why I feel Christ Church continues to be a wonderful place to celebrate, remember, worship and be re-membered.

I have long dreamed of a time when Sunday morning is not “the most segregated hour in America” and Christ Church circa 2019 is an example of that prophecy fulfilled!

Gathering together on a special Sunday when we connect to those things most noble, most humane and most Christian is simply a marvelous idea. We will remind ourselves of how far we have come, how far we have yet to go and of the goodness of God.

We will celebrate, lament and dream!

This year our special guest will be IGRC Bishop Frank Beard. I can’t wait!

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

A New Way of Thinking for a New Year

I am a Systems Theorist. I believe that all systems are designed to produce what they are currently producing, not what we hope they will produce. Your life is a system and so is mine. We each have inputs that produce very specific outcomes. Over time, the relationship between these inputs and outcomes becomes highly predicable.
 
In my case, if I eat what I want when I want and don’t exercise, I gain weight.  I have this particular cause and effect sequence clearly established and it should not come as a surprise to me.  Ever.
 
If your outcomes from 2018 consisted of peace, passion, purpose and power, then rock on!  If you are consistently getting the outcomes you desire, you are clearly doing what it takes to produce those outcomes. But if your life in 2018 was filled with dejection, drama, despair and disappointment, then your life was designed to produce those outcomes.
 
Systems theory states that if you want different outcomes in 2019, you will need different inputs than the ones you had in 2018.  It is really that simple.
 
Despite “easily made and quick to fade” resolutions, most people will do in 2019 exactly what they did in 2018…and hope for different results. That my friends, is a life strategy that befits a definition for insanity.
 
Today is a good day to ask what different outcomes you would like to see in 2019 but it is an even better day to decide upon specific changes you are going to make to bring about those outcomes.
 
Too much to tackle? I get it.  Then just tackle one sector.
I am a firm believer that when the “God piece” is right, everything else starts getting right. Since we can’t realistically sustain change in all our inputs at once; a firm commitment to grow in our relationship with God is the perfect place to begin. 
How?  Just take the next step!  You probably know what that next step is already!  It can be as simple as weekly church attendance, giving, daily Bible reading, finding a small group or discovering a place to serve. 
 
When you engage new and positive inputs into your life; you have every reason to believe a great 2019 is coming your way!  
2019 Mantra: Do the right things the right way and you will get the right results in the right time!
2019 Verse: Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.  -Matthew 6:33
2019 Big Idea: Put God first and everything else will find its proper place.
SHANE Valley of the Doves
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

Following Up Your Big Christmas Week

Social Media is a great tool to keep up with what God is doing in churches far and near.  I love reading each and every glowing report! Many churches had record attendance for Christmas Week and I rejoice with them!  Clearly God was moving. Bam!

However, failure to effectively follow up major “victories” (like a record Christmas Eve) is a common mistake many churches make year after year.  Simply put, they fail to leverage significant events and squander their momentum.  Rather than attendance “spike and build,” they go “spike and back” to where they were before.

Like some of you, Christ Church set a new attendance records this week.  Our Christmas Eve services were incredible and God touched lives profoundly! We exceeded our attendance goal and by the looks of Social Media, people are excited and enthused. We have some serious momentum!

It is not time to rest up.

It is time to follow up! 

Why Do Churches NOT Follow Up?

History is filled with military victories that could have been great victories if the victor had pressed the retreating army.

There are many reasons why this happens:

  1. The victorious army is exhausted and in need of rest
  2. There is an underestimation of remaining strength of the victors
  3. There is an overestimation of remaining strength of the retreating army
  4. Victorious armies desire to celebrate
  5. Generals are unwilling to suffer additional casualties
  6. Generals are happy to leave the field with “a win in their pocket.”
  7. Mission becomes the comfort of the soldiers rather than the objectives of the army

Most churches have few real victories.  Of the churches that achieve significant victories, most fail to follow them up for the same reasons armies fail to follow up.  Churches that consistently grow must not only create victories but learn to leverage victories in systematic and intentional ways.  A great Christmas Eve does not insure a great new year but it can create some momentum toward it!

So you need a few days to rest, I get that but the second you get back to work, it is time to follow up!

Following Up 

  1. If you set a record or had strong attendance, celebrate it!  Get word out!  Let the people in your church, community and region that you have “something going on!”
  2. Hotwash your 2018 Christmas week services and schedule this week while things are fresh on your minds.  What went well?  What went poorly?  What needs adjusted?  What can be added?  What needs replaced?
  3. Ask yourself what can be done to draw another 10% in attendance next year.  Might you add a “get away” service or a Christmas Eve Eve service? Our Christmas Eve Eve service drew almost twice as many people as we expected!
  4. Plan your 2019 Christmas Week schedule immediately.  Get the dates on your calendar.  Keep other things off the calendar that week to free up your human and financial resources.
  5. Thank your key players for their sacrifice.  Then thank them again. Posting photos of volunteers on your Facebook page and hand written thank you notes are always a good start.  Gift cards are even better. Did a volunteer go “above and beyond” the call of duty, take them to lunch. People love being appreciated!
  6. Follow up on all leads and local first time guests.  Take them something they will actually like (we take really good pies from a famous local bakery) and invite them back.
  7. Plan some sort of community service project or outreach in January and invite your new folks to help your church “make the world a better place.” We are doing a one Sunday coat drive.
  8. Work to get your “average” worship service and welcoming ministries up to your Christmas level.  You have established a new bar of excellence, let a raised bar become the “new normal.”

BIG IDEA: Don’t settle for a great Christmas Week!  Follow it up and place yourself in position for a great 2019 church year!

-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.

Navigating Christmas Week (and staying sane doing it)

 So it is Christmas week!  Here are a baker’s dozen practical ways to help navigate the hustle and bustle of the next few days!

  1. Finish up your shopping The week before Christmas is crazy at the retail centers and you don’t want to be at the mercy of the mail to deliver an on-line order before the wire.  Finish up.  Settle down.
  2. Adjust your attitude If you are doing Christmas entertaining out of duty, guilt or obligation, it is always going to be an emotional drag.  Shift your thinking.  You are blessed because you have people to bless!  Enjoy the season.
  3. Stay within budget The days leading up to Christmas can tempt us to “add on” to what we are buying for family and friends.  This can take us over budget and provide a rough start to the new year when the credit card bill arrives.  Remember this rule: If you have to charge it, you can’t afford it.
  4. Slow it down Don’t fly through things. Think of Christmas week like a great steak and not a cheap hamburger.  Savor every bite.  Christmas is way too special to just gulp it down.
  5. Pull up a chair or two Do you know someone nice who will be spending Christmas alone?  Invite them to your festivities!  You will be surprised how quickly you will get a “yes.”  There is always plenty of leftover food anyway.
  6. Build in worship The more Christmas themed worship services you can attend, the better you will be connected with the reason for the season. Make traditions around worship attendance on Christmas Eve or other special services and you will create a generational legacy of worship in your family!
  7. Tell stories Make sure there is time to remember those no longer at the Christmas table. Celebrate their lives and their contributions to your life.  Tell funny stories and laugh!   Honor your empty chairs.
  8. Delete drama Drama feeds off of drama. If you have someone running for Christmas Drama King or Queen this year, just don’t pay any attention to them.  Drama quickly dies for lack of fuel.  Fuel it and it will burn the whole house down.
  9. Share the Christmas story BEFORE you open gifts Anything special you think you are going to do after gifts are opened isn’t going to happen. Read the Christmas story before the gift exchange.  Link what you are about to do with God’s gift of Christ Jesus.
  10. Offer grace at Christmas dinner Have people put their phones away and actually have a formal Christmas Grace. Do it old school.  Hold hands.  Don’t have a child do this one.  Whoever the spiritual leader of your family happens to be, they should take the honor.  And don’t make the prayer too long.  I really like, “Almighty God, you have blessed us so much…and we are grateful.  Amen!”
  11. Treat people really well Regardless of who joins you for your Christmas celebration or the dynamics of their story, treat them really well. Remember that you don’t have to approve of every aspect of a person’s life to make them feel welcome and show them love.
  12. Create memories I remember very few gifts I received growing up but I will never forget Christmas Eve services, snowball fights, football games and family game times.  And take lots of pictures.
  13. Honor the aging.  Pay special attention to the older members of your family.  Make sure they are included and celebrated.  Ask them questions.  Learn from them.  Put it into the “things I will never regret” file.

Merry Christmas Dear Friends.

Remember Jesus.  Choose love and forgiveness.  Hold it steady.  Navigate well.

Winter Smoky Mtn Tunnel

 

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

 

 

A Story About Re-Conversion

I am releasing some Christmas stories from my books. This version was in “Exactly as I Remember it.” There will forever be an empty chair at our table. Our unborn son Liam would have been 21 this year. I would have loved to have had the chance to be his dad.

A Story About Re-Conversion
Sumner, Illinois circa 1996

Ever since attending a seminar on how to do ministry with Senior Adults in Peoria in 1993, I had begun each of my worship services at Sumner/Beulah with an energetic, “God is Good!” The people would then respond, “All the Time.” I would repeat, “All the Time” and they concluded with, “God is Good!” It was a bright, cheery way to begin our worship services at Sumner/Beulah…until the cold winter of 1996.

We were well into Advent 1996. Advent is a traditional time of preparing our hearts for the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas. On Friday, Melissa was informed by her doctor that our third child, a son we were to call Liam, had died in his mother’s womb. Nothing could be done until Monday and Sunday loomed in between. It was as if the hope of Christmas had been dangled before us and then suddenly snatched away in a cruel cosmic joke. Never had I felt so crushed, staggered and well…de-converted. All I could think about was the expectation that I would start the worship services 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 I could bear. The Sumner church met first and I skipped my customary opening. People noticed and as I drove to Beulah for the second game of my Sunday double-header, I knew I could not duck it again.

These were the days before hospital privacy laws and everyone in my open air, country congregation knew what was happening with us. Rural folks know how to dance with pain and death, and they gave us space to hurt so when we walked in, there people steered clear and then the service began. On the bulletins were the names of Melissa and Shane Bishop. Melissa was scheduled to open the service by singing a song called Harmony with Sherri Baker about God’s gift of a baby boy to creation and I was to open the service with “God is Good!” to follow. During the prelude, I thought, “If the church were placing an order, harmony and hope were two menu items of which Shane and Melissa were all out.” As the congregation sang the beautiful seasonal carols and hymns, the words of U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name raged inside my head. “I want to run. I want to hide. I want to tear down these walls that hold me inside. I want to reach out and touch the flame, where the streets have no name.”

To my amazement, when the prelude concluded, Melissa (with our dead baby in her stomach) quietly arose from her seat and in beautiful harmony sweetly 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 whose life had her pinched on this day between a rock and a holy place. As I sat in awe of Melissa’s inner strength, beauty 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 was not good last week either. It was 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 stood behind that wooden pulpit and shouted for my life, “God is Good!” to which the people replied, “All the Time!” I was re-converted. I still begin my worship services with “God is Good!” and probably always will. But never assume it is a light or trite kind of thing. Sometimes you have to bite, scratch and claw for it.

Love God Love People DDDC

-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church,  has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairveiw Heights, Illinois since 1997.

UMC Christmas Truce

I would like to make a motion that the United Methodist denomination cease all internal hostilities until after Christmas for the purpose of focusing on Jesus.

Can I get a second?

We will call it the UMC Christmas Truce of 2018.

A Place to Stand as the Holidays Near

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. Gut 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. He is the only hope I have.

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