John Bishop is the senior pastor of Living Hope Church in Vancouver, Wash.
CONNECTION TO OUTREACH MAGAZINE: Bishop was one of the National Outreach Convention speakers featured in the September/October 2010 issue of Outreach.
What do you intentionally do to know Jesus more every day?
I used to read devotionals and various Bible readings or go through the Bible in a year, etc., and I realized I was doing the right thing but for the wrong reasons. I was burdened by doing too much, and God showed me that more activity does not result in more maturity. Now, I live the messages that I preach. I focus on the text, the original words, the practical implications, the history. I simply immerse myself in the text I am going to share with the congregation. I feel like in so many ways my heart has been awakened, not just biblically, but authentically as I approach the pulpit each week.
In addition, I pick a book to read. It may take a week or a month, but I allow the teaching in it to become part of my daily life. I feel like I have learned to converse and walk with Jesus moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day.
What has been the most successful, rewarding experience in your ministry to date?
I am most pleased that for as much as we have failed and have changed, we have never lost focus on the one thing that matters the most—evangelism. It’s so easy to become a megachurch that tries to do everything. But the smell of Living Hope is clearly about lost people, and the culture is both missional and attractional. I believe you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and we have measured how many have been baptized in Living Hope Church, which is close to 6,000 people in the last four years. Every baptism is deeply satisfying and rewarding for me. Knowing that everything we do is for that one person to have that one moment with their Savior.
What has been your most fantastic mistake? What did you learn from it?
I am a firm believer that you overcome failure by failing. Our most “fantastic” failure was thinking that God had blessed us so much that we could stroll into an urban environment and it would just be awesome. What started as a campus of 400 with me preaching live was met every week with declining attendance. We have tried to do church in Portland several times, and each time it has been met with a definite sense of doing it in our own strength. Looking back, I have learned not to presume upon God’s blessings, but to walk through the doors God opens and avoid the ones He clearly closes. And when the horse is dead, dismount as quickly as you can. Failure should never discourage us, but should be a wakeup call to listen more clearly to the voice of God.
What has been your biggest ministry disappointment so far?
I am always disappointed when someone leaves the church. You pour your life into a person and then experience rejection, failure, pain. I’m learning to release people and realize they don’t ”belong” to us. This part of ministry will always be the Achilles’ heel of pastors who love people. I’ve learned (slowly but surely) that it’s OK to be disappointed.
What areas of growth or development have you experienced in your personal spiritual life in the last year?
It’s so true that our greatest strength can become our biggest weaknesses. My father died when I was 4, and as a result of dealing with the sense of abandonment, I became insatiably codependent. My greatest strength is being with people; my weakness is not knowing what to do when they leave. I am learning to acknowledge it and deal with it. In the last year, I have learned to intentionally guard my heart and listen more to the voice of God than the voices of those around me.
What has been the greatest obstacle to spiritual growth for you in the last year? How have you overcome it?
My greatest obstacle to spiritual growth is boundaries. I’m not great at knowing when to shut off. Over time you can get away with a pace that is unhealthy, but it eventually catches up with you. We will reap what we sow. I am trying to do better at having boundaries with our house and my family time. (For those with young children, please remember that the time you spend away from your kids now is time you will never get back.) It is not an easy thing to conquer, but it can be done. You just have to be intentional.
BOOKS BY BISHOP:
Dangerous Church: Risking Everything to Reach Everyone (Zondervan)
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