Getting Smaller (to reach more people)

2 Dec

Rev. Shane L. Bishop

“In 2014 Christ Church became a sociological mega-church.  

Now I think we have to get smaller.”

Though we average over 2,000 per week in worship, we don’t feel like a mega-church.  Our weekly attendance is the aggregate total of eight worship services of varying sizes held in four locations (nine services in five locations if you count our monthly Biker Church).  Our largest two services average less than 700.  We also offer a service that average about 250 on Sunday evenings, one that runs about 150 on Wednesday evenings and three campuses that average a little better than a 100 each.  In addition, we offer a traditional Saturday evening service that averages 50 and monthly Biker Church averages about 30.

It occurs to me that we are less a mega-church than a congregation offering multiple worship services of all sizes and several musical styles in various locations throughout the week.  My guess is that congregations that wish to…

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Finding Forgiveness and Restoration

18 Apr

Finding Forgiveness and Restoration 

 

Mark 14:66-72 (NLT)
66 Meanwhile, Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by
67 and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”
68 But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
69 When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!”
70 But Peter denied it again. A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”
71 Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!”
72 And immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.

Let’s begin with these assumptions; God exists, God loves us and God wants to be in relationship with us.  We were created to be in fellowship with God but we are just two chapters into the Bible when that relationship is severed by sin. God was so grieved that he set about to offer us another opportunity to be in relationship through the Ten Commandments but soon it became clear that the separation would not be bridged by the obedience to the law.  We just don’t seem to have that piece.  I believe the rest of the Old Testament, as messy as it may be, is God doing what God had to do to bring a New Covenant to us in the form of Jesus Christ.  Because we could not get to God, God came to us.  The first Covenant failed because it was based on our grip on God, the second can not fail because it is based on God’s grip on us. 

Let’s begin our camp meeting with simple idea that God Saves.  Theologians call salvation Justification and the United Methodist Book of Discipline says in Paragraph 101: “In justification we are, through faith, forgiven our sin and restored to God’s favor.”  Today we are going to utilize Mark’s version of the denial and restoration of Peter as a metaphor for what it means to be saved.  But before we explore this story, I am going to ask you to take off your church colored glasses and view this as a human drama; for those of us who have been in the church for a long time that can be difficult.  I heard a story in England last week that gets at my point.  An Anglican priest named asked a question in a children’s message.  “Children, I am thinking of something, can you tell me what it is?  It is smaller than a cat, had grey fur, a bushy tail, lives in a tree and eats nuts.”  A ten year old boy raised his hand and responded, “Reverend, it truly sounds like a squirrel but I am still going to have to say Jesus.”   Salvation through faith is something we need to give a fresh look in 2013.

Mark reports that the Last Supper was over and Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn as they walked to the Mount of Olives.  It is here our story begins:

Mark 14:27-31a (NLT)
27 On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”
29 Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”
30 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
31a “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”

After a gut wrenching time of prayer in which Mark reports, Jesus was filled with “horror and deep distress,” Jesus asked Peter, James and John to stand watch while he pleaded with God to “take this cup of suffering away.”  Jesus returned to find Peter and the others asleep.  After chiding them, Jesus said those classic words which so easily define us, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”   In the next instant Jesus is betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Temple Police and led as a prisoner to the home of the high priest where a hostile council and a crowd of well roused rabble awaited him.  All the disciples fled the scene except Peter who lurked in the shadows on a cold night and finally slipped into the courtyard to warm himself by a fire.  Jesus’ hearing went poorly and he was led away blindfolded as people spit upon him and hit him with their fists.  Things were turning violent for the Prince of Peace and Peter was scared to death. 

 

V. 66-67 Peter was below in the courtyard when a servant girl recognized him as a disciple of Jesus Peter was the leader of the Apostles and had no doubt reveled in the notoriety when Jesus’ ministry was selling out shows all over Israel but now his Public Figure status on Facebook as a religious leader was turning…unfortunate.

 

V. 68 Peter denied the allegation and walked to another area of the courtyard This is not the first time someone ever tried to walk away from trouble but Peter found that trouble often follows you.

V. 69-70 The girl began to tell others in the area that Peter was a disciple of Jesus and he denied it again Emotions were running high and this girl saw her opportunity to get her 15 minutes of fame with her juicy allegation; this was the most attention she had ever received and she wasn’t about to let this thing go.

 

          Soon Peter was recognized by others Word of mouth got around that Peter, the leader of Jesus’ disciples was in the courtyard and others gathered around to take a good look at Peter in the firelight.  Peter tried to conceal his face and keep out of the firelight but it was no use. It was him.  No doubt about it.

V. 71 Peter swore by God that he did not know Jesus Now between the proverbial rock and a hard place, Peter used the name of God to deny the son of God.  It was the ultimate denial spoken in fear by a man trying to save his own skin but the ultimate denial none the less.

 

V. 72 A rooster crowed the second time In the raw emotion presented by this sequence of events, Peter had acted and reacted out of an instinct to survive but when the rooster crowed a second time, Peter’s house of cards all came tumbling down.  He was exposed for the hypocrite he was and all his former bravado simply mocked him.

 

          And Peter broke down and cried Peter had failed God, failed Jesus, failed the disciples and failed himself.  Deep in his heart he had always wondered if he were nothing but a big mouth with feet and now his actions had provided the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt and a rooster proclaimed the verdict.  Guilty!  Downing in despair, Peter could walk away, change his name and catch the first ship to anywhere or he could repent, hope for forgiveness and pray the destiny prophesied by Jesus was not forever off line.  At the point of his greatest life crisis, Peter chose well.  Peter knew God’s love for him was unconditional for he had experienced that love in Jesus Christ. 

Possible Responses to Failure at the Point of Crisis

1.     Condemnation (Satan’s solution) Any response to failure that provides no hope as an outcome is Satanic.  There is always hope in Christ.  Rebuke the devil at this point and refuse to listen to his lies.

2.     Flee (Coward’s solution) Running not only delays the inevitable but it will intensify its outcome.  If you get a ticket for speeding it is one thing, if you try to outrun the police, it is something else entirely.  Living on the run from God is unsustainable.

3.  Rationalize (World’s solution) There is always a temptation to try to convince ourselves that what we did wasn’t really that bad.  Reject this kind of thinking; sin hurts God, hurts you and hurts others.  It is that bad and probably worse.  Until we admit our sin, there is not a thing God can do with us.

4.     Repent (God’s solution) Repentance comes when we reject condemnation, refuse to flee, rebuff rationalization and bring our sin before God in all its filth.  John wrote, “If we confess our sin, he is faithful and just to forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  (I John 1:9)

 

Our sins are an offense to God and where there is love on the part of the offended, there is always an opportunity for reconciliation.

Steps to Forgiveness

1. Pour out your sin before God

2. Ask Jesus to fill you with his presence

3. Make restitution where you can

4. Forgive yourself

5. Move on

 

I heard something that really jarred me last week from an Anglican vicar named Jon Cooper, “God’s love is released in us through forgiveness.”  Cooper told a story about a parishioner who attended church each week but refused to take communion.  When he one day inquired as to why, he discovered the man was estranged from his adult son.  The boy had packed up and left home the minute he was legal age and his father had not heard from him in ten years.  The father told the vicar that this situation had nearly extinguished his faith in God and asked for prayer.  The vicar refused to pray, he said to the father, “Your resentment of your son has kept God from moving in this situation, nothing will happen until you forgive your son for the hurt he has caused you.”  The father forgave his son, took communion in good conscience and returned home with a renewed faith…but there is more.  Two weeks later he was contacted by his estranged son was now married and had a young son who would like to meet is grandfather.  When we forgive those who have hurt us God’s love is actually released into the situation.

Forgiveness releases God’s salvation in us and in the relationships most important to us.

Almighty God,

I have rejected your way.

I have been hurt and have hurt others.

Forgive me as I forgive

That your power may be released into my life.

Jesus enter my life fresh and new

That I may forever live in connection with you.

In your strong name I pray

Amen!

Is that the devil or am I just on a bad stretch of highway?

21 Mar

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When is it a Spiritual Attack?

 

Identifying Spiritual Attack

Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Mark 9:28-29 (KJV)
28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out?
29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

I am not a guy who sees a demon under every rock but I do have a pastoral file for “Spiritual Attack.”  The one thing I know for sure is that if the attack is spiritual in nature, good business practice (even when baptized) won’t address it.  Spiritual problems can only be addressed by spiritual solutions.  Here are a few of my filters and criteria for discerning if I have a common leadership, personality or systems problem or if we are under Spiritual Attack.

Possible Indicators of Spiritual Attack:

  1. Arrives after significant Holy Spirit movement
  2. Practical solutions fail to address simple challenges
  3. No flagrant sin involved
  4. Inability to nail down root causes to an ongoing problem
  5. Situation is more significant than the sum of its parts
  6. Energy around non-missional things
  7. Timing around major growth opportunities
  8. Neglect of Spiritual disciplines and spiritual leadership (have created footholds)
  9. Situation brings out the worst in everyone

10. Unholy positioning

  1. 11.  People actively working toward destruction of others
  2. 12.  Situation does not lead to personal repentance
  3. 13.  Condemnation rather than conviction
  4. 14.  Common mission lost in personal agenda

If a determine something to be a Spiritual Attack, here is how I counter-attack.

 

The Counter Attack

 

  1. Prayer (How many hours have you spent in prayer about your situation?)  Talk less.  Pray more.
  2. Identification of strongholds (i.e. confusion, gossip, self pity, ambition, pride, lust) List them and pray against them.
  3. Fasting (How serious are you about this?)
  4. Personal repentance
  5. Renewed commitment to the missional good

 

Leading During Attack:

 

1. Teach Spiritual Warfare to the best of your understanding

2. Encourage people to identify and activate their Spiritual Gifts

2. Get serious and intentional about prayer and devotion

3. Resist the devil

4. Engage in fervant prayer (learn how to pray in such situations and solicit the prayers of those who already know how)

5. Learn to catch it early (early diagnosis of spiritual attack in the future can be a game changer)

I am far from an expert here and I fully realize that I am much more considered a practical leader than a hyper-spiritual leader.  However, I am convinced that learning to identify what is a spiritual attack, employing a strategy for conducting spiritual warfare and leading spiritually is the most practical thing in the world.

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

Rev. Shane L. Bishop 2013 Bio

20 Feb

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Shane L. Bishop was named a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church in 2010 by The United Methodist Foundation for Evangelism.  With his strengths of vision casting, preaching, passion, soul winning and leadership, Christ Church weekend worship attendance has increased from approximately 200 in 1996 to over 1,700 each weekend in 2012.  His Bible-based sermons and passion for extending the church outreach to those in need “down the hall, around the corner and around the world” is matched by the commitment of those who attend Christ Church. The Illinois Great River Annual Conference recognized the growth and outreach of Christ Church with its 2002, 2007-2012 Awards for Church Growth and Evangelism for Large Churches.

A former history teacher and coach, Shane holds both graduate and undergraduate degrees from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. An Elder in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Shane graduated cum laude in 1992 from Candler School of Theology at Emory University. There he received the Rollins Scholarship Award for his strong academic work and effectiveness in pastoral leadership at the St. James-Manchester Charge in Manchester, Georgia.  From 1992-1997 he served the Sumner/Beulah Charge in Sumner, Illinois where he was presented the Denman Evangelism Award in 1994.  He was appointed to Christ United Methodist Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois as its senior pastor in 1997.

Elected to represent the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) at General Conference three times and Jurisdictional Conference four times, Shane was a member of the Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee from 2004-2012.  He has traveled extensively around the world in mission and ministry.

2013 speaking engagements included the National Gathering of United Methodist Men in Nashville, Tennessee and the Equipping, Calling, Going (EGC) Conference in Manchester, England.  His first book Exactly as I Remember it was published in December of 2012.

He resides in Belleville with his wife of 30 years, Melissa.  The couple has two married children and four grandchildren.  He enjoys hiking the Smoky Mountains, playing competitive NSA softball, American History and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Seven Growth Strategies

15 Feb

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It was 1998.  The E-mail was an SOS.  “Could anyone point me to some churches in our conference who were running in the low 200’s a few years ago and are running over 400 now? “ To say the list was short would be an understatement. As Christ Church has grown through the years, I have made a point of documenting some of the things we have learned about breaking though natural plateaus that tend to put a lid on most congregations. Here are seven strategies that continue to guide our church.

1. Vision: Take your staff and leaders to a church twice your size that was your size five years ago. Let them worship, spend some time with the staff and spend a week-day there to sense the flow of a larger church. It is fine to go to Monster-church conferences but most of them just depress me. Find a model you can get your head around and learn everything you can. We can’t achieve what we cannot imagine.

2. Worship: The quality needed for a church of 400 is twice that of a church of 200. You need better preaching, singing, flow and impact. You will need some competitive technology, more instruments and some fresh music or fresh approaches to traditional music. Churches grow into their quality, they seldom add quality as a response to growth.

3. Think Big: You must staff and budget for the size of church you wish to be, not the size of church you are.  No risk, no reward. The biggest risk of all is to do nothing.

4. Rethink Staffing: Staff to improve worship. Strategically budget to improve worship. Invest serious money to send your pastor to world-class preaching conferences.  You need a full time, first class worship director worse than a youth director or a generalist associate pastor. Hire a business administrator to free the Senior Pastor to do ministry full-time when you get to 400 or so.

5. Multiple Services: Don’t take anything away from people. Do everything you can to help your “hymn-based” service grow and get even better. Then begin new worship experiences in other time slots that feature different kinds of music.  In time you will probably end up with one unique style in most or all worship services (like we have) but you don’t get there overnight.

6. Communication: Document every statistically positive sign your church shows. Get the people believing they are a growing church and then get them acting like a growing church. Make your monthly newsletter a point of celebration.  Write it.  Text it, Facebook it, Tweet it, Blog it.

7. Evangelize: The key to growth is reaching people on Profession of Faith. Have someone come in annually and teach your congregation how to share their faith and lead someone to Christ. Take a Saturday four times a year and knock on every door in town to invite folks to church. Churches must rediscover evangelism and do it apologetically if they are to grow.

In 2006 I preached at a church in San Pedro Sula, Honduras that averages over 20,000 per week, there is no way I can get my head around that but the principles I learned about holding relevant, culturally attuned and evangelistic worship services and streaming people into small groups was a game changer!  These principles have worked for us as we have grown from 200 in 1997 to well over 1,700 in 2013.  I pray they are of help to you!

My Main Concern (is that you aren’t very smart)

13 Feb

One day when my son Zec was six or seven, he got into some trouble with his
Mom. I was duly warned about the situation so I came home from church prepared to have an “Andy and Opey” moment. Zec told me the nature of his indiscretion, informed me his mom had given him a swat on the rump-a-rootis and followed with a defiant, “I told her it didn’t hurt.” After about ten minutes of silence I finally addressed him, “Buddy what you did wasn’t great but that isn’t what concerns me. What concerns me is that you don’t appear to be very smart.”

These days I see a lot of folks who should know better doing not-great stuff but you will have that from time to time. That they post it on Facebook is what concerns me. Makes me think they aren’t very smart.

You Can’t Quit! (You Were Drafted)

5 Feb

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I am often asked how a history teacher and coach raised by Bap-ta-costal Jesus People became an Ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church.  My first response is that I have ruled out good luck but upon more serious reflection (there is no less serious reflection) I was simply…called.  About this time in 1987 I was on a bus headed to the No Greater Love Ministries Mardi Gras Outreach.  We were somewhere between the arch and the French Quarter when a voice inside my head simply said, “Go to seminary.”  That was it.  No hints about which seminary, what I was to do with a seminary degree or what might be involved; just a clear sense that God wanted something of me for which I needed more training and seasoning.  These were the days before cell phones and when the next pit stop offered me the opportunity, I called Melissa from a pay phone and said, “Miss Ann, I can say without a doubt that God has called me into ministry.  We are going to have to leave everything we know and go to seminary.”  After a pause, she simply replied, “Okay.”  Upon my return from New Orleans (and you do return) I applied for admission and scholarships, called some District Superintendents about a possible Student Pastorate and by September, we were living at 16 Johnson Avenue, Manchester, Georgia; I was the pastor of the St. James-Manchester Charge, school had begun at Emory and Melissa was holding our family of four together.  It all happened that fast.  There have been many times since I have been discouraged in ministry and a handful of times that I seriously thought about doing something else.  Then I remember, I did not enlist, I was drafted.  I can’t quit.  Jesus called me and only he can release me.

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