Saturday, January 06, 2007

Crusaders for Christ -- Second in the series of Christians with the Heart of a Servant


I 'm a firm believer that Christ leads us into the pathways of those who will aid us in His ultimate plan. Whether it be through support, friendship, talents or abilities. With each person that comes into my life, I wonder exactly where they will fit into the scheme of things.
God has blessed me continually by introducing me to people who enrich my life and the lives of my family. Therefore, when Brian Bishop waltzed into our office (already friends with my employer), I knew great things were in store. This young man's sense of humor, zest for life, and willingness to bear the name of Christ greatly impressed me. In a world where our younger generations find more joy in X-Box and Nintendo than Christ, Brian was a breath of fresh air.
Brian Bishop is a financial advisor for AIG VALIC and I met him when he be-bopped into our office to set up our individual financial plans. His heart for his work and blatant honesty impressed me, then when he shared his testimony, I knew this young man was destined for success. Sit back and enjoy learning about the heart of this servant.

Brian, thanks so much for allowing me the opportunity to share your "heart of a servant story." Tell me, how long have you been a financial advisor, and tell me what exactly a financial advisor/planner does?

I've been an advisor for five and a half years. There are various types of specialities in the financial advisory fields, but primarily financial advisors help individuals identify and plan to achieve their short, medium, and long term goals - whatever they may be.

I guess my main objective was simply to retire (laughing). I'm ashamed to admit planning for retirement all seemed so distant. It never really sunk deep into my mind until I jumped the middle-aged fence. Embarrassed as that makes me, the more I talk to people, the more I see I'm not the only one whose been dragging my feet on this issue. Like I said, it seemed so distant -- then one day you wake up staring at retirement within a twenty year time span. It's a little scary! An uncharted pathway, so to speak.

What prompted your interest in the financal advisory field?

I've always known I liked to help people. I was in healthcare while working my way through college. I was a pre-med major my first year, then I realized that being a physician would not allow me to have the kind of family life I wanted. When I talked to my advisor about changing my major, a suggestion was made to try a finance class and see if I liked it. I took the class and I loved it. I lifted the decision up to the Lord in prayer and He gave me a great peace about switching to Finances as my major. After I graduated, I wanted to pursue a career where I could use my education and help people in my local community.

Now, that is exactly the thing that impressed me about your level of confidence. As a young adult in college you were already directed enough spiritually, that you placed those type of life decisions in God's hands. I was also impressed you didn't "ask for a sign." Rather, you prayed for peace in the decision you'd made. If more people would make decisions based on the peace of Christ, they'd find their answers a bit quicker. So many wait for "a sign" instead of looking to the guidance and strength that God can offer us in the decisions we make. I'm proud of you.

Being a financial advisior is a high stress level job, how do you manage to balance the responsibility of the job with your homelife?

I have tons of support at home from my wife. She understands that my job can get stressful and we both understand that my job shouldn't dictate how I live my life. I know that there is more to life than a job, and I'm the type of person "who works to live, not lives to work." I'm a very active member in the community, in my church and with the student ministry, as well as my family. God has shown me that there are much more important things in life other than a job, so keeping that in mind helps me not to get worked up -- even in tax season.Tax season! The dreaded tax season. Can I offer you a bottle of asprin? You made a great statement when you said you work to live and not live to work. Good philosophy. Perhaps more of us work-a-holics should pay attention to that. Let's talk a second about your ministry within your local church. What is your role with the youth?

I work with the student ministry inside our church. This includes middle school and high school kids. My main focus is with my small group. I lead a group of ten tenth grade young men. Every Sunday in Sunday school we (all the middle and high school kids and leaders) meet for one big open session message, then we break into small groups to discuss the message and how to apply them to the student's lives. It's an awesome thing.

How neat. How many kids are we talking about in this student ministry?
We average well over 100 kids in every service. It's also the responsibility of the leaders, such as myself, to set up and tear down chairs, tables, floor coverings, etc. each weekend. Because of our numbers we meet in the gym for our student ministry.

Wow, that's encouraging. You have so many kids you have to meet in the gym. That's wonderful.

Tell me more about the student ministry.
We have a student OUTREACH program every Thursday night, it's called Summit. We have a time for food, our praise band plays worship music, and our youth pastor speaks. This is an awesome event. We've recently done a Summit tour called "The Redirect Tour," where we take the show to local high schools in the area. Can you imagine being able to go into a public school and sing Christian songs, then preach the word of God? God has opened doors that only He can open.
We had ten stops this year and God blessed everyone involved in EVERY STOP. There were over 100 decisions for Christ made during our tour, so GLORY TO GOD for that!
At a Summit, and while we were on tour, I help counsel the kids that made decisions. We go to a quite place, pray together, and I answer any questions the kids may have about their new walk with Christ.

It is amazing you're able to get into the Public School systems. God does work wonders. You said the tour brought over 100 decisions for Christ with these young kids. What about a follow-up program after they've made their decision for Christ?

We get their name, phone number, address, and email address to follow up with them afterwards. This way they know they have at least one person to lean on about their new life as a child of God.

So you enjoy this ministry, huh?
I am so glad that God called me to work in the student ministry. I only hope that I am a blessing to those kids as much as they are a blessing to me while serving them.

Now you see why I believe God leads us into the lives of those who work for His plan? It's a circle of God's unending love and care for His children. You're a part of the plan, placed perfectly to serve.

Let's get back to your job. As I mentioned earlier, you're only a hair older than my own children (sigh...they're grown up, too!) But you impressed me with your willingness to openly say you had prayed for peace in your job choice. That told me immediately you were young, but you had your head on straight. Can you tell me, to what extent you incorporate your prayer life into your business?

Sometimes I think prayer is the only thing that that gets me through my day. There have been many situations where I have prayed for God to give me wisdom for a piticular situation and He never fails me. I meet people from all walks of life. For example: At 7 a.m. I could be meeting with a city trash truck driver, then at 9 a.m. I could be talking to a physician, and by 11 a.m. I could be talking to a widow. I realize two very important things (1) that no human on earth can be right 100% of the time and (2) only God knows what is going to happen in the future. He knows everyone better than they know themselves, so I lift lots of things up in prayer. That way I know I am seeking God's will and wisdom from Him in order to do the right things for my clients and for people that I talk with who may not be clients of mine.

In your field of work, people have to trust you. After all, you're handling their life savings. It can be easy to allow their accounts to roll along on their own, but you don't do that. You remain very active with your clients. How can you say your spiritual convictions have affected your work attitude?

I know that God has put me in front of the every single person I have as a client. This, along with my desire to help people, is enough to make me stay active and be in touch with everyone -- no matter the size of an account. I learned two driving factors to how I treat people and my quality of work. The first is that I know I am a walking testimony. People should see enough of Christ in me to allow a conversation to open and for me to share with them. (And that does happen.) The second is found in Colossians 3:23: "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as if working for the Lord, not for men." If you live by this rule, there is suddenly a different way you look at everything. I know God wouldn't want me to invest someone's life savings then forget about them for years. How would that pleasing to God?

Do you look at yourself as one who is a servant of God to your clients?

Yes, without a doubt. I try my hardest to serve God in all I do.

How are you able to minister on a personal level with your clients?

I know that I am there for a reason, and I can only hope that I am able to drop a seed to an unbeliever or lift the spirits of a believer when I talk to them. There are many ways to minister to people -- sometimes its a smile, sometimes a handshake, a hello, or sometimes it's simply showing people through actions, that I really do care about them intrinsically. I do all I can, as often as I can to minister to people, but not because of me, rather because of He who is in me...Christ!

That's awesome, Brian. What a wonderful example you set by your personal life and convictions.

What do you do that sets you apart from the average guy when you handle your clients and their accounts?

Well, two things I think. (1) I always put the client's needs, wants, desires, and interest before my own. This is a very rare thing in this industry since we are all commissioned advisors. (2) I know and communicate to all of my clients that investing and or saving are not that complicated. It's all solved by one easy rule: Q+D+Y=FS. Q is for quality. I educate my clients that quality investments are paramount in planning for any occasion. The D stands for diversification. I educate my clients on the different asset allocations and diversification styles then we can, together, better decide how to structure the assets for their particular goal. Finally the T stands for time. Time horizon will always direct the client and advisior as to what needs should be met first. The FS stands for financial success. When you have quality investments, a diversified portfolio and you give them time to work, then you will succeed. When it boils down to it, I educate my clients on everything I do, and this is not very common in my industry. I can, without a doubt, credit this philosphy and discipline to my relationship with Christ.

In a world where the markets shoot up and down by leaps and bounds during a single day, how do you manage to remain calm in your business?

This is a great question. I have peace of mind that only God can give -- that I will do right by my clients in every situation. People often misunderstand this market and how it fluctuates. Sure, markets go up and down, and it's enough to make some people sick. A good rule to follow is, if you are worried to death about your investments, then chances are... you are not in the appropriate investment to begin with. (As you recall from my previous answer - education is a great foundation.)
Another key element is to remember that the first time you invest, you should buy good quality investments, and you should hold those investments and not consider changing until one of two things happen. You should consider changing if your goals change, because every investment is not suitable for every goal. You should also consider changing if the fundamental of the investment changes. For example: If a portfolio manager leaves or if a CEO retires. If that happens it will only be prudent to take another look at that investment. The bottom line is this; if you buy right the first time, and it is a good quality investment, then you shouldn't have to worry about market ups and downs. Always keep in mind that it isn't the market that drives how you invest -- it is the goal you are trying to attain that should drive how your investments.

Brian, it's obvious that your are a firm Christian and that you and your wife plan on raising your (soon to arrive) baby within the the spiritual arms of God. Tell me how you believe God has blessed you, your business, and your family? And you feel, even when things have been shakey, that God has carried you through?

God blesses me in various ways. In my business, He blesses me by simply allowing me to earn a living helping people with my skills, education, and my testimony. There are tons of people all around the world that don't have that luxury. I try my hardest to honor God in all I do. Especially in my business because He has given it to me in trust.
My family, is richly blessed. I have a wife that loves the Lord. We put Him first in all that we do, and we plan to raise our little boy (Caleb) to do the same. I see God's blessing every time I look at my wife. Yes, I know with all of my heart that God has carried me and my wife, and even my business, through some "shakey" times. He is our rock, our fortress, our Father... He knows us better than we would ever know ourselves.
The Bible teaches us of a love that only God can supply to His children. Knowing this, helps me and my wife, understand that everything He does, He does for a reason. It isn't our job to understand all things, but to trust Him in FAITH. This alone has carried us farther than I would have ever dreamed.

When the market takes a turn for the worse, how do you feel God helps you manage your clients? Some must panic and worry. I may actually end up being one of those worry warts.

Yes, some panic and worry no matter what. When this does happen God gives me compassion, patience, empathy, and understanding. Sometimes people can get a little rough when it comes to their money. When this happens, it's usually very easy to control just by going back over the goals and reasons for what we have put into place. If that doesn't work, there is a face to face meeting that needs to take place. There we will basically start from square one again. Keeping in mind that God has put me there for a reason, always keeps me in a peaceful state of mind.

Well, I guess you've put the financal aspect in to perspective, Brian. Thanks so much for taking time out to allow this interview.

Brian is a wonderful example of a Christian with the Heart of a Servant. His desire to lead others to success brings him into his own success and peace. In the financial world, everyone is not a willing or helpful soul. It can be a very harsh and tempting world -- one that requires a great discipline and a level of trust. Brian proves that using the heart of a servant to help others, allows personal peace and reward -- not to mention the peace and reward his work provides for others.

Brian and his wife are expecting their first baby, ANY DAY NOW! I wish them the best of luck as they enter into this life changing event. There is a peace knowing that your values lay within the arms of God. Not only does Brian have to help plan our financial future -- he's now got to plan the future of the little one God has entrusted to them.

If you'd like to contact Brian about AIG VALIC or about his ministry with the student outreach, drop me an email at and I'll see that Brian gets it. Keep him and his family, his ministry, and job in your daily prayers. THANKS BRIAN!

Join us again in a couple of weeks as Mountain Breeze talks with Christian Radio DJ, Mike Riddles of WCQR and his heart of a Servant.