Good Friday Reminds Us (that it is not the end of the world)
Have you ever had a Good Friday moment? I certainly have.
When God had called me into ordained ministry in the spring of 1989, it changed the trajectory of my life. By the fall I was enrolled in seminary and had moved Melissa and the kids halfway across the country and away from parents and grandparents in Southern Illinois (which now seems unthinkable). Three years later we moved back to Illinois and had served under appointment in Sumner for a couple of years. I was preparing to undergo my final step toward Elder’s orders in the United Methodist Church. With probationary time served, seminary graduated with honors, psychological taken and paperwork complete, all that stood between me and final ordination was a perfunctory interview with a small group of Elders. I had every reason to think things would go well. I had been informed of no problems during my probationary period, my counseling elder was fully supportive of me, my District Superintendent seemed high on me and my two churches were thriving. The interview was held at Little Grassy Campgrounds outside of Carbondale and I was ready to celebrate. Dinner reservations had been made, the families had been invited and I was honestly expecting a lot of affirmation. It was going to be the best day of my life! To say the interview went poorly would be an understatement. I was blindsided and left stunned and devastated. I was invited to come back the next year after I had jumped through a few more hoops. For a full year the deferment defined me and the pain bled into every area of my life, family and ministry.
Then there was the night I decided to leave the United Methodist Church. It was about nine o’clock in the evening and the decision was finalized in my heart when the phone rang. Melissa handed the phone to me (in the bathtub) and said Rev. Dwight Jones was on the other end. Dwight had never called before and I really didn’t know him all that well. “Shane, I don’t really know why I am calling, but I felt I should tell you not to give up and that God has big plans for you in the United Methodist Church.” Dwight went on for a while encouraging me and hung up completely unaware of the pivotal role that single call would play in my life. God sent Dwight to rescue me from a decision that would have taken me out of His will. After sitting out the ordination process in 1995 (I was still in a bad mood), I submitted to the Board of Ordained Ministries in 1996 and received the kind of treatment I had expected two years earlier. I was passed through with flying colors, chosen to represent my class in taking the flame from retiring Elder Dr. Paul Simms and awarded the Harry S. Denman Award for effective evangelism.
Though I will never remember my crushing fondly, it now seems clear God still had work to do in me that perhaps, could be accomplished no other way. I truly thought my deferment was Good Friday. I thought it was over. Looking back, it was something that had to happen to prepare me for Easter!
-Shane L. Bishop, a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL since 1997