LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. -- Rev. Shane Bishop of Fairview Heights Christ UMC encourages his congregation to be evangelists when he says, "We exist to connect people with Jesus Christ; that is all we do here." He practices Wesleyan Evangelism in every aspect of his leadership, which is why he has been named the 2010 Distinguished Evangelist of The United Methodist Church by the Foundation for Evangelism..
Rev. Bishop has been the senior pastor at Christ UMC since 1997. Under his leadership the average worship attendance has grown from around 300 to more than 1,200, and membership has grown from 400 to over 1,000. In the last three years, there have been almost 200 professions of faith. Yet, Bishop insists he is not the sole minister of the church. The ministers are all those who attend, and he puts this philosophy into practice by promoting discipleship and spiritual growth so that more individuals may be evangelists for Christ. He encourages laity to plant seeds wherever they go. Many people under Bishop's leadership have "caught the fever for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ," according to Alan Prass, Executive Director for Christ UMC.
The son of a Baptist preacher, Rev. Bishop is described as having "southern Illinois grit," a down-to-earth manner that makes him both approachable and reputable. His congregation feels his strengths in Bible-based preaching, soul-winning, and leadership have helped the church's congregation to grow six-fold since 1997. Bishop holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church and a graduate of Candler School of Theology at Emory University. A former history teacher and coach, he is a world-traveler having served in mission and ministry to the Philippines, Israel, Jordan and this year plans to travel to Greece. Evidence of Wesleyan Evangelism is found wherever Bishop's influence touches, such as reaching out to families with small children, promoting door-to-door "knock and talks," Invite-a-Friend Sundays, and cultivating culturally relevant programs and ministries to meet the needs of outsiders.
Since Rev. Bishop's tenure began, the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference has recognized Fairview Heights Christ UMC with its Award for Church Growth and Evangelism for Large Churches four times. Rev. Bishop has also been recognized with the Denman Evangelism Award (1996) and was inducted into the World Methodist Evangelism Council's "Order of the FLAME" in 1999.
The Distinguished Evangelist of The United Methodist Church Award is presented annually to an individual whose personal ministry in evangelism has been recognized throughout the United Methodist denomination. The Foundation for Evangelism is an affiliate of the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. Founded in 1949 by the late Dr. Harry Denman, the Foundation provides grants for Doctoral Education, Leadership Development, Leadership Enrichment, and Venture Capital.