Interview with Chip Bishop

On Changing from Senior Pastor to Financial Advisor: A Conversation with Jack (“Chip”) Bishop

by Molly Lineberger

January 27, 2011

 

What is your current professional position?

Financial Advisor, CFP, Edward Jones Investments, in Waynesville, NC

 

How long have you been with Edward Jones?

10 years

 

How long were you in full-time professional ministry before you made the change?

20 years. My last position was as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Waynesville, where we are still members.

 

Why did you leave professional ministry?

The various reasons are complex. Some of the reasons I understood 10 years ago and some are just beginning to dawn.  During 20 years of ministry, the churches being served evolved to have very different expectations than those I grew up in.  My family belonged to small churches, often new mission churches where the pastor was sometimes bi-vocational.  Two of the churches met in homes early on.  The members shared wholeheartedly in responsibilities.  There were usually less than 100 members and there was no such thing as an inactive membership.  Church was a very “hands on” experience. It was a pastoral ministry.

Another aspect of my early upbringing in church was a dual participation in military chapels since my Dad was in the military for 21 years.  There were times we went to the chapel services on base on Sunday mornings and Baptist Fellowships on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.  So we had a broader array of Christian brothers and sisters from other denominations.  I even went through a catechism training at one point and our youth group was led alternately by a Protestant Chaplain one week and a Catholic Chaplain the next, with neither of them condemning the other.  It was a very eclectic mix of church styles and members, but still a rather small gathering week to week.

 

Yet, ten years ago I was serving a church with 1,400 members, a healthy church by most measures.  But everyone did not know your name when you walked in the door.  My early role models, the earlier experiences of “home church,         ” and my own sense of what pastoral ministry should be finally led to burn out. I found myself running from hospital to hospital, appointment to appointment, committee to committee.  My own expectations were ludicrous.  So, over a three year period through much prayer and contemplation, God and I seemed to agree that I was not meant for that style and size of congregation, however wonderful all those people were and are.

 

Of course, another factor was that during all 20 years of ministry, there was denominational controversy.  I did not feel that I was completely in agreement and felt stifled, as if I had to explain what kind of Baptist I am over and over. Eventually, I did not consider myself to be a Southern Baptist and that was hardly fair to a congregation who gave the majority of mission support to the SBC.

 

My family was also a major part of the decision.  Some of my D.Min. work had centered on the work of Murray Bowen and Family Systems Therapy to strengthen my needs of pastoral ministry.  I had two children, ages 9 and 13. I knew the importance of being present for my family.  Yet, my presence as part of the “family system” was lacking.  That just was not right.  I did not want the church nor my dear family to seem competitive for my time and attention.

 

Finally, part of it was a sense of calling to do something that would put me back in the pew. I wanted to be independent of church and denominational issues.

 

How did you know it was really time for a change?

I had been an Edward Jones client for 10 years, and had an early interest in investing. So, I really was going TO something; there was no sense of running away or failure. I just had a sense that it was time to do something else.

 

I realized that much of the pastoral skills set really does transfer to the corporate setting. Throughout the decision process, I felt a growth toward another calling. There are no regrets and no baggage. We are still members of First Baptist Waynesville.

 

My own financial advisor during the decision period was a deacon in the church – a close friend and mentor, who invited me to join him at Edward Jones, IF I really was going to change vocations.  He did not want anyone thinking he had lured me away!

 

Tell about the change process.

When I announced my intentions, people were intrigued by this professional change – both ministers and laity. The congregation was shocked, some of them hurt (and always some who are glad). They did not see this coming, but most were very accepting, even if they could not understand such a move. I reassured them that it was not them; it was personal and a God thing.

 

Two quotes seem to capture the poles on either side of the tight wire we balance upon in church ministry and in my own walk with Jesus:   “I would accept Christ if he did not insist on dragging along that leprous bride,” by William Southey and conversely, “There is so much that that the church does right that is not done by anybody else,” by William Willimon.

 

What advice do you have for other ministers who are considering a transition?

First, it has to be for the right reasons, not because of conflict in the church or because some individuals are making things hard. You need to resolve the issues first.

 

Second,  their training as a minister is broader, more applicable, and more appealing in other vocations than we may initially trust. There are leadership skills, organization, fiscal responsibility, work ethic (I went from a 24/7 expectation to an 8 to 5 day), and pastoral and counseling skills that transfer quite ably to other careers.

 

Can you share any other reflections?

Church ministry can be so all-consuming for individuals, spouses and families.  Be aware and ready for feeling quite strange and out of place.  There are difficult withdrawal symptoms.  But gradually and continuously to this day, I have been discovering unknown and new aspects of myself, family, friends, community, and yes, even in the church previously hidden.

Take care of yourself.  Ironically, both ministers and churches have a hard time doing that.

Learn more about the subversive nature of Jesus and his teachings and our own calling and teaching and preaching.

For our ministers and churches who continue to think and do and excel and struggle with leading and bearing the name of Jesus into the lives of one another, thank you.

 

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