Moving Christians from the pew to the harvest.” Matthew 9:36-38
Who’s watching for your soul?
This past month, I had the privilege of speaking to the “Southern Arizona Pastors, Leaders and Volunteer Gathering” at Living Faith Christian Center here in Tucson. The theme of the meeting was “”Creating the Atmosphere for God’s Presence to Manifest in Power for Maximum Effectiveness.” Host Pastor Randy Winkles started us off on Friday night with a demonstration of the flow of the Spirit and an exhortation about the necessity of having the power of God in our churches. Saturday morning Dr. Amanda Goodson of New Trinity Temple gave a powerful teaching on how to make the shifts necessary to increase our impact and minister from the heavenly sphere. Apostle Jamie Benjamin of Greater Faith Church followed with an explanation of how to accelerate the forward movement of ministry.
When I stood to minister, it was with considerable fear and trembling. I felt as if the Lord was showing me some things that needed to be exposed, then dealt with concerning the state of the church. The advent of covid-19 has damaged churches and discouraged pastors in unprecedented ways. Weaknesses that were already present were revealed and further weakened. Many churches will never reopen, many pastors will step away from ministry entirely.
One result of the pandemic is the “Amazon Syndrome.” In business, the huge online and big box stores got bigger and richer. The small mom and pop shops were often destroyed. The reason? The rules of the lockdown favored the giants and their resources that allowed them to take advantage of the situation. In church world, the cessation of in-person meetings favored the mega-churches who already had professional grade technical capabilities in place. They could produce a better TV show than a church of 75. As people were trapped at home, they began watching more and more of the higher production-value shows.
A related phenomenon is what I call “Digital Delusion.” That is the insane idea that watching a service online has the same value as going to physical church. I won’t go into it here, but that is simply not true. People get the sense that hearing a bible message from a stranger, prefaced by a professional music set, is “church.” No! The local church with a local pastor was designed by God to minister to the needs of the sheep that God bought with His own blood. He said to “know those who labor among you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:12} You can’t know a guy who you only see on your cellphone. There are people on a local level to whom God gave the responsibility to “watch for your souls.” (Hebrews 13:17) That is very different from teaching a Bible lesson to a camera. You need someone to watch for your soul, whether you know it or not. The stranger on your laptop ain’t gonna do it, nor can he.
Digital delusion is prompted by information overload – too much input from too many disparate sources. Many Christians attend their local fellowship, if they have one, 2 or 3 times a month. They hear a 30 minute homily and go home. At home and in the car, they are able to hear and watch their favorite preachers from around the globe 24/7. The specific message that God has for them as part of His purposely deployed team in the local church is diluted, even drowned out by the Walmarts and Amazons of big tech religion. The vision of the local church is diluted by multiple visions from multiple ministries doing multiple things and asking for multiplied resources. The primary mission is no longer in focus. It’s only one faint and occasional voice in a chattering, constant mob of voices.
Notice what Paul said in his final message to church leaders from Ephesus:
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.Acts 20:28-30 NKJV
Paul thought that the locals needed overseers to protect them from the inevitable onslaught of wolves seeking followers. In that day these folks were physically part of the assembly, known to all as part of the community, and could be dealt with personally by the shepherds. In our day, the onslaught is multiplied. The local shepherd gets an hour a week. The wolves have 24 hour access to the sheep through the wide open digital windows on their laptop, tablet, phone and TV. We need shepherds who will watch for our souls. We need direction from a vision given by God for our own communities. How we do this, I’m not sure, but please let’s seek the Lord for His wisdom in the matter.
Out of the Abundance of the Heart: The issues of reviving local churches in the power of the Spirit is at the forefront of our ministry in this season. I send out a teaching every few weeks by email under the title of “Out of the Abundance.” If you aren’t on that mailing list, just reply to this email and I will make sure you receive it. It is also posted on the blogsite at pastorvirgil.com.
I’m currently writing a series of articles that will soon become a new chapter for the next printing of my book, “Is There an Interpreter in the House.” At the request of several pastors, I’m writing in a bit more depth on testing manifestations of the spirit, and correcting those that are not from the Lord. As soon as that project is done, I will begin writing in some greater detail on identifying and resisting the “digital delusion” described above.
Hunger in the Churches:
I’m writing this from a lovely cabin in Bloomville, NY. I’m on a three week tour doing ministry in 6 different churches. The theme for this day is the necessity of the power of the Spirit in our local assemblies. People are hungry and God is moving. We’ve seen an uptick in what I call “accidental miracles.” That’s where God just heals folks when we’re not really doing healing lines. People are just spontaneously healed! He is not constrained by my notes. There is something special going on. I see it. I hear about it from others: “Wow, Pastor, we really had a Presence in our service today!” As long as I have strength and breath, I want to be part of it. If I can serve you or your congregation, let me know and we will work something out.
Ongoing: All the usual stuff continues. The Bible school in Mexico is prospering. We’re producing materials that seem to be helping local churches. I’m preparing to start a podcast on healing and the power of the Spirit. I’ll send you the announcement when we launch. I simply felt that the content I shared above was more important than a laundry list of activities.
- May 8-10. Mountain Top Christian Fellowship, 7687 County Road 33, Bloomville, NY. 13739
- May 12. Believers’ Family Church. 7 PM. 150 S Comrie Ave Johnstown, NY 12095
- May 15. Thousand Islands Christian Church. AM & PM. 26631 Simpson Rd Plessis, NY 13675.
- May 17. Faith, Hope, and Love Christian Church.
- May 22. Believers Church @Glenville. 10 AM. 304 Swaggertown Rd, Glenville, NY 12302
- June 24-25. Ministering to the Tormented. Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico’
We are scheduling August and beyond. Let me know if I can be of service to you.
Support. You make it possible for us to keep running. Thank you for your prayers and support. When God moves us to go to a church, we never ask that church for anything. I travel, eat and lodge on my own dime. If the church can and wants to help, praise the Lord. I want to be sure that no church ever has to make a choice about our ministry based on their ability to pay. You make that possible. Financial support can be sent to Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson at the address below or given online at www.fcftucson.org. Make checks payable to FCFT, you can designate for missions or pastorvirgil and it will get where it needs to go. We’re getting things done and fruit is happening. Let’s push on to the next level together.
PLEASE!!!! Don’t forget to visit www.pastorvirgil.com. There’s new stuff every week. You don’t want to miss it. Share it with your friends. You can help by looking at the Pastorvirgil.com Facebook page and hitting follow. Whenever you see a post, share it. This will help us reach more people. We also maintain a Facebook page in Spanish @IEMFeonline.
It’s a privilege to serve with you,
Yours in His service,
Virgil and Judy Stokes
3141 W. Ironwood Hill Dr.
Tucson AZ, 85745