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The Irrepressible Fred Bishop

January 3, 2014

Praise-a-Thons

(Herrin, Illinois, circa 1988)

For a while in the late 80’s, dad was active in Christian television.  Active in the same sense piranha are active when they encounter meat.  It was really a pretty good fit.  Television loves larger than life personalities and Fred Bishop is larger than several lives.  Dad loves to learn new things and enjoyed getting to know the old pros from the Christian television circuit who took time to show him the ropes.  For a while it seemed we could not turn on the television without seeing dad.  He did talk shows, he did remotes, he did panels and he did shorts.  When we would go to the mall, people would stop him and ask if he was the guy on television.  It is not a difficult thing to be a celebrity in Southern Illinois.  Like so many others, I watched, but not because I enjoyed the programming; I watched to keep an eye out for my dad.  Excitement often gets the best of him.

Once a year the regional station held a Praise-a-Thon.  A Praise-a-Thon is like a telethon, only saved.  For this event national heavyweights would come to preach, croon and testify for the purpose of raising the station’s annual budget.  My dad was a Praise-a-Thon machine.  When money would roll in, it seemed to crank up his already heavily cranked metabolism.  He would get downright giddy.  At these times he would lose his perspective.  Once he offered to personally deliver his hat to the next person to pledge.  He and mom had to drive to Cape Girardeau to deliver the hat.

One year while I was watching the Praise-a-Thon, money was coming in slowly.  Impulsively, dad decided to earn some of that money he wasn’t being paid.  Dad decided that for the next thirty minutes he would match the financial pledges of all callers to the station.  I began to panic.  Dad had no real money and I could imagine some millionaire calling in and pledging a few hundred thousand and hurtling dad to debt and disgrace.  I did what any good son would.  I called the station.  When they asked for my pledge, I informed them I was not calling to pledge.  I was Shane Bishop, Fred Bishop’s son, my father had gone insane and I was calling to tie up the lines.  I would neither pledge nor hang up.  When they hung up on me, I immediately called back.  The damage was manageable.

For years I couldn’t understand how dad could so lose his mind…then I came to Christ Church.  We began to hold Capital Campaigns and Melissa and I began to give more than we could have ever imagined.  As we gave, God gave back to us and enabled us to give more.  It is a wonderful thing to get caught up in something bigger than you are.  I am convinced true life happens at the precise point you become consumed in the stuff of God.  Dad learned this long ago.

-from “Exactly As I Remember It” (2012) by Shane L. Bishop

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