An Alabama pastor, who urged his congregants to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded in March, is now being mourned by his family and church after he died from the virus Saturday.
Pastor Michael “Mike” Stancil of Fulton Bridge Baptist Church in Hamilton was 49 when he died after a six-week battle with the new coronavirus, TAB Media reported.
And the loss was palpable as Gary Mixon, chairman of the church’s deacon board, talked about Stancil’s passing during an online service on Sunday.
“You know, the church has lost a pastor but the family has lost a husband, a father, a son, we’re all hurting. We need as a church, and the body of believers to lift this family up. Not only Michelle and the children and the family but the church,” he said in remarks broadcast on YouTube.
“This church is nearly 110 years old. Never in its history have we lost a pastor while still in the pulpit. Never has this church faced a pandemic like we’re facing now. The only way that we’ll get through this is with God’s help. We as the body of believers must fall on our knees in prayer and lift the family up,” he said.
Church secretary Shirley Mitchell told The Christian Post on Monday that Stancil had been leading their church for the last nine years and he was the kind of pastor who “tried to be there for everybody.”
“He was very caring,” she said. “He was just one in a million. He was a pastor that loved us all. He had to deal with a lot of different personalities but he loved us all.”
She explained that since the start of the pandemic, the leaders of the church have worked hard to follow all the necessary health guidelines.
“We don’t let anybody have funerals, weddings, we met outside during the summer months, we broadcast on YouTube,” Mitchell explained.
Still, she noted, several members contracted the virus. All of them survived. And when Stancil got sick about six weeks ago, they expected him to survive too.
At one point, said Mitchell, it looked like her pastor would have beaten the virus, but he developed a staph infection and that changed everything.
“We believe that everything that was to be done was being done for him. For some reason God chose this time for him to go,” she said. “I don’t know who God is going to send us for our next pastor but he’s going to have some big shoes to fill.”
In an extended post on Facebook, Lindsay Evans also remembered the late pastor as a compassionate man.
“There are no words that could adequately describe the impact Brother Mike had upon my life. He touched so many lives. He served his Lord with everything he had! He showed compassion, and loved with his whole heart! He made it known to all that his Lord came first!” she wrote.
“He consistently urged our church family to seek God in all that we do, Pray, Pray, Pray, Stay in the word, and share the good news! He would say, ‘You better be ready church!’ We know not the day nor the hour, we each have an appointed time! He would stand in the pulpit, and weep because of the burden he had for lost souls. There aren’t enough words to describe how he cared or how genuine he was to his immediate family, church family, and community! It seems unreal and unfair that we have to continue on without his daily reminders just to say he is praying, and his encouragement,” she continued.
Evans also explained that even from his hospital bed, Stancil was a faithful witness.
“I text him and told him.... That so many were praying, and we loved him! He text me back this verse...’When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other.’ - Ecclesiastes 7:14,” she wrote.
In-person services at the church have been canceled, Mixon announced on Sunday, until the second week of January when God’s work will continue.
“We have got to get this church back open. Services have got to resume, we’ve got to carry on God’s work. Brother Mike would have wanted it. God demands it. The Bible tells us go ye therefore unto all nations, teaching and preaching and baptizing in the Holy Ghost. The Great Commission. We are commanded to do it, whether we do it here or on the street,” Mixon said.
The family will conduct a private graveside funeral for Stancil on Wednesday while his congregation will celebrate his life at a later date.