Melissa is retiring.
I am humbled.
My wife, best friend and ministry partner Melissa Bishop is retiring at the end of the year. She formally announced the news last week. I am happy for her. She has served as the Youth Director, Worship Director and most recently, the Education Director at Christ Church over the past two decades or so. She is the ultimate generalist and can do anything and everything. Some consider me the second-best preacher in the family (though clearly the most prolific). Melissa has done exceptional and innovative work in every area she has ever served, raised up leaders around her and functioned as a catalyst for change. She is a spiritual force, a mentor and a principled and relentless professional. She boldly speaks truth, constantly frames the mission and wouldn’t know how to back off or back down. She is relentless. Christ Church would not be what it is without the contributions of Melissa Bishop.
She has been praying about retiring for a couple of years and finally, she felt a release. Those called by God can’t quit (since we were drafted) but we can be released. We sold our suburban home and moved to a rural cabin in the middle of a woods early this year. Our private lives are exceptionally quiet and filled with an alternating rhythm of enjoying the property and extremely hard physical labor to maintain it. Our phones don’t really work out here, it is thirty minutes to the church and you can only see our cabin via a long drive on a gravel lane or by helicopter. It is me, Melissa and our nine-year old rescue dog Buffy. We love it here. We are happy. I am delighted that Melissa will have endless hours to care for our property, dig in the dirt, work in her gardens, hang out with her dog and commune with God. She will tend our home, our gardens, our lives and our souls. Full-time.
Some might find it surprising that I use the word “humbled” to describe my emotions at this moment. For me, humility is the full realization that any good thing that has been accomplished in life was made possible by the grace of God and the contributions of others. I live in a daily sense of knowing how much I have been blessed by incredible people…but no one has blessed me more than Melissa. I would not be the Christian, the man or the pastor I have become without Melissa. I am in her debt.
Melissa is a worshiper, an innovator, a risk taker and a systems genius. She has a level of spirituality about which I could only dream, almost no political interest or acumen, has a true heart and is utterly fearless. That being said, ministry has taken a toll on her in ways it has not taken on me. What comes intuitively and easy for me, comes much harder for her. The inevitable criticism, rejection and backbiting that go with the call, wound her spirit. What I write off as professional, she interprets as personal. Ministry takes a disproportionate toll on Melissa. It always has. I have at least another decade left in me. She does not.
Melissa has served God and fought back to back with me for thirty years of ministry. Far too often, the spotlight has ended up on me and the wounds have ended up on her. It was never fair but warriors don’t think like that; they just serve in the only way they know how. Loyally serve is all Melissa Bishop has ever done. I have been the chief beneficiary of her sacrifice and service.
Melissa is retiring.
I am humbled.
Rev. Shane L. Bishop has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.