Staying on Course
Virgil Stokes is a Pastor and Teacher, serving churches since 1980 in Oklahoma, New York, and Arizona. He and his wife, Judy, pioneered Faith Christian Fellowship of Tucson in 2004. Prior to entering ministry Virgil worked as a Registered Nurse in the field of mental health and addictions treatment. A recovering addict himself, Virgil has written and spoken extensively on Christian recovery. He is the author of several books, and is the founder of Faith Ministry Training Institute, a training program empowering local pastors to equip ministers in their own churches. Pastor Virgil is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and Rhema Bible Training Center. His passion is getting people out of the pews and into the harvest.
It happened twice this last week. It seems as if it happens with remarkable frequency. I was just reading some articles when I saw a headline about a Christian leader who has been accused of misconduct. That was followed by word of another fellow who has gotten off the doctrinal track. Then a famous pastor on trial for financial malfeasance.
You would think I would get used to it. I lived through the great televangelist scandals of the 1980’s and still continued to serve the Lord. I saw a pastor who helped me immensely slide off into universalism and watched one of my most talented students drift into a theological train wreck.
And can anyone count all the gifted men and women who have fallen into sexual or financial wrongdoing? All I know to do is pray for them, and then for myself. “Lord. Forgive them and restore them. And please, keep me on the beam!” There are a few things in my routine that help me stay on the right track:
- Maintain a personal devotional life that includes the Bible, prayer, and quiet. It is the fountain from which all else must flow.
- Maintain regular contact with my wife. She knows where I am and she knows who I am with. If it changes, I call her.
- Maintain relationship with other ministers and connection to an oversight organization. This means actually contacting people and taking part in the organization in a meaningful way. Relationship is not a certificate, it is a connection.
- Maintain a sense of awe and responsibility at the wonder of being called by God to care for His property and people. I like to revisit my call to remind myself why I am still alive.
- Test all things before I preach them: If no one else has ever preached it, then I need to talk it over with someone. I am not the source of new revelation.
- Strive to keep my heart free from judgment of those who fall: The moment I think it couldn’t happen to me, it has probably already started.
Somebody Said: “A beast does not know that he is a beast, and the nearer a man gets to being a beast, the less he knows it.” – George MacDonald
Scripture Reading: Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation. (1 Timothy 4:16, MSG)
Final Thought: There are many, many more who have stayed faithful than there are those who have fallen. I thank God for each and every one, and pray they maintain their character and their message. I also pray for each of the little ones damaged by the failures of the ministry. May they each find one of the faithful ones to help them through. I pray for those who are church-shopping that they will examine the character before the preaching, the doctrine before the delivery. Remember: Horse first, then cart.