Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Virtual Pew News #10 Meetings Starting in Wichita Area

News from The Virtual Pew

The last month has been busy and active. A lot could be said but for those that didn’t know, The Wichita Eagle did an extensive story on The Virtual Pew which garnished a lot of recognition and response. To see that story here:

Cyber church
Pastor Mike Furches' The Virtual Pew aims to draw people into discussions about spirituality.
The Wichita Eagle

Pastor Mike Furches wants to help make better followers of Christ by using the power of the Internet. Furches, of Derby, is pastor of an online church called The Virtual Pew, found at There, people can participate in faith-based forum discussions, download MP3 files to listen to Furches' weekly sermons and chat with people about spirituality. He said the Web site attracts about 55,000 visitors each week.

Furches launched The Virtual Pew, which is not affiliated with a church or a denomination, last May. He said he was seeking to reach people and talk about spirituality on a stage where thousands of people build relationships daily -- the Internet.

"I don't know any other way to explain it," he said, "but I felt in my heart that God was saying, 'there's people that need this type of ministry.' "

A mission to reach out

Furches said the mission of the Web site, launched about a year ago, is twofold:

One, it serves as a private and nonintimidating way to reach people who are disconnected with church, he said.

Two, it helps people grow in their faith and spirituality by giving them a popular way to connect with others -- on the Web.

What The Virtual Pew is not meant to be -- and Furches said he makes this clear to those who visit the site -- is a replacement for people's churches.

"The truth of it is, for some, it is," he said.

"But the intent is to, for those who can, plug them back into a community church."

Before launching the online church, Furches served for more than four years as pastor of a southwest Wichita church, United at the Cross.

He said the church was small -- it had about 65 members -- and closed last year, primarily due to financial reasons.

"To me, the bottom line is with small inner-city churches, it's really tough to make it financially," he said.

While Furches enjoyed interacting with the church members and preaching, he did not see himself fitting the role of a "traditional pastor."

"Traditional pastors, contemporary pastors are more administrators than they are pastors," he said.

So he wanted to focus on a different type of ministry.

Furches has a strong interest in the Internet. Since the mid-1990s, he's reviewed movies for an online site,, a Web site that examines pop culture from a spiritual perspective.

'A source of fellowship'

Kelly DeBardelaben came to know Furches through his reviews on After learning about his online church, she began to visit it regularly.

Through The Virtual Pew, she has made many friends whom she communicates with about religion and other issues.

"I look for the same things at The Virtual Pew as I do in my physical church," said DeBardelaben, who lives in Colorado Springs.

"It's a source of fellowship. I just see it as another tool for fellowship and getting to know people and getting to know God."

Colby Reddin, a regular visitor of The Virtual Pew, said it's Furches' messages that keep him coming back to the Web site.

"I like how Mike uses his own personal experiences and past experiences to help enlighten people as to what Christians should do and how Christians should live," he said.

A ministry, not business

Nationwide, there are about 200 Web sites similar to The Virtual Pew, according to Pastor Dick Helms of the Wellsville, N.Y.-based ChristRing Ministries.

ChristRing has an online missions church,, which Helms called the oldest online ministry in the United States.

Helms said such online churches are experiencing slow growth.

"There for a while, there were an awful lot of them out there," he said. But many sites have gone away, he said.

"People think they're going to make money on it, and they find out they're not going to," Helms said. "You're not going to make money, so it's got to be a ministry."

That's exactly what Furches is calling his Web site.

"The way I'm made up," he said, "I knew that God had called me to something different, more of an individual ministry."

And he said he's not in it to make money.

The budget calls for him to make $300 a week. There are links on the Web site where people can contribute financially. But usually, he said, any money that comes in is paid out for bills and to help others seeking assistance.

The Virtual Pew does not have nonprofit status, as churches do. Furches said that's because he wants to be able to speak out on government issues without concerns about whether he is violating the nonprofit status.

Furches said his wife, Mary Jane, who works as a middle school teacher in Derby, is the main financial supporter for the family.

An uncertain future

Comparing his pastoral experiences at a physical church vs. the online church, Furches said there is little that he misses.

"I miss the weekly discipline of having to prepare something different to speak, I enjoy speaking," he said. "that's about the only thing I miss."

He said he still interacts frequently with people from his church in Wichita. He still gets to counsel people and talk with people face-to-face.

But he's convinced that many relationships are made today through the Internet. He's convinced that offering a spiritual tool such as The Virtual Pew can help bring people back to the church.

His goal is to build the online church over the next three years to where he can have two full-time staff positions and a part-time position.

But he admits he's not sure what will happen.

"How big we get, what we do? I don't look that far ahead," he said. "What I would hope is we can get to a place where we can touch a soul."

Reach Joe Rodriguez at 316-268-6644 or

A Big Thank You

I must also send out a big thank you to those supporting The Virtual Pew over the last month. There was an unexpected cost of attending and speaking at a funeral some distance from Wichita. I made it known that funds were low and that we needed help in order to be of service at this funeral. Within 3 hours $300 came in and those gifts made it possible to attend this funeral and be of service to this family. Thank you for your support. For those that don’t know this ministry is entirely dependant on gifts from individuals and assistance that comes in via speaking or writing ministry. All support is appreciated and needed. I draw at most a salary of $300 per week as mentioned in the article, truth be known, it has been several months since that amount has come in. For example, so far this month, my salary has only been $480 for the entire month. You don’t have to be great in math to realize that don’t come out to $300 per week.

The Virtual Pew Face To Face With Faith in Film

This week is an exciting time for me and for those in the Wichita area who have expressed some interest in The Virtual Pew. This week, starting March 31 we are going to be starting a Faith in Film series.

The Faith in Film series will meet between 2 and 3 times each month and will operate in a small group format. We will gather together in homes to start, and then take part in discussing and looking at how we can identify faith and spiritual issues in contemporary culture. The Bible says in Mark 4:33, 34, “He never taught them anything without first telling them stories.” The following is information that can be used for the Faith in Film Series. You can also contact me to obtain a flyer print out for the series.

What Is The Faith In Film Series? It is a Small Group with a focus on discussing spiritual truths that exist in the arts, not just film. We realize all truth comes from God and God’s truths are often spoken about in culture. Jesus used parables to teach spiritual truths. The Bible states, “He never taught them anything without first telling them stories.” Mark 4:33, 34. Movies, books, television, and music are the most popular form of storytelling today; using these media we will look for ways to deepen our faith as well as finding ways to share spiritual truths with the unchurched.

Your Facilitator: Mike Furches has been using the arts to share culturally relevant truths with those in the church, and unchurched for over 15 years. Recognized as one of the leaders across the country in this field he is adequately prepared to present this in a small group setting. Mike currently writes for one of the most visited review web sites in the world, Hollywood Jesus. He also facilitates and operates an online community of faith called The Virtual Pew.

What will we do? We will watch all kinds of movies, television shows, and listen to all kinds of music. The focus will be on popular arts within the non Christian sector. Some of these will be ‘R’ Rated and will include discussion while at times looking at adult themes.

Who can come? Anyone and everyone that is age appropriate. This is a great opportunity to invite unchurched friends or those who are open to these types of themes. Small children should not attend for obvious reasons. Media that has more of an adult theme will be announced in advance.

How often will we meet? 2 – 3 times a month. A calendar of meeting times will be made available. You can also access information about the events through and via making contact. You may also email regarding a schedule of events to

Please Note, No Small Children as Adult Themes are Covered.

Bring Movie Snacks and Refreshments.
Arrive Early for Choice Seats, Might bring a cushion for floor seats.

400 S. Georgie, Derby Kansas (Behind the Bowling Alley on Hwy 15)
For More Information Call: 316-788-1961 or -258-3952

We will watch the program and then discuss Spiritual Themes

Anyone wanting to donate to help with the costs of the Faith in Film series is welcome to do so. With the costs of refreshments, DVD’s and so forth there is some costs involved. Of course anyone is welcome to come but space is limited. As the group grows we will look for additional venues to host the event. We do expect that some of the Spring and Summer events to be hosted outside and shown via projection units to accommodate the group.

This group is being held in conjunction with small group activities with Mosaic Church but anyone and everyone is welcome.

For the first series we will look at an episode of The X-Files, Season 3, episode 11, titled Revelations. We will also discuss this episode via the internet at and the Hollywood Jesus MySpace Group,

While discussion is encouraged the week after the viewing of the Faith in Film series showing, discussion can take place at anytime thereafter on the particular showing.

Please note that the week prior to the show date, the show or music will be announced so those on line can obtain the film, music, or other media and watch it and actively participate in the on line discussion. I will also post notes from the discussion on line after the initial meeting. Dates for Faith & Film follow:

Music Video of Faith with Scully from the X-Files

March 31 – The X-Files Season 3 Episode 11 - Revelations

April 14 - TBA
April 21 - TBA

May 5 - TBA
May 19 - TBA
May 26 - TBA

June 9 - TBA
June 16 - TBA
June 23 - TBA

July 14 – TBA


There is a lot more going on and I would encourage you to check out the links and see all of the articles and so forth. I continue to be involved in providing daily counseling via internet and phone with individuals all over the world. God continues to bless this ministry and I appreciate all of those who have been a part of it. We will soon be celebrating our first year of ministry; some didn’t think God would do what he has done over that time. I am amazed and know that the future is bright for ministry. God is touching people; thankfully he is using us among many others to accomplish his purpose.

For those that can contribute financially, thank you, we need it. For those who can’t we appreciate the prayers. Remember any small prayer, or any small financial gift adds up. Blessings to you until next time, and remember, if in the Wichita area, get in touch and become a part of The Virtual Pew Faith in Film Series group. It would be great to see you face to face.

Now for those that do not know, make sure you check out the numerous articles and blogs by checking out the archives. If visiting The Virtual Pew or MySpace they are archived on the left hand side of the page. Scroll down to where you see newer or older listed under archives and then click there. There are hundreds of postings so make sure to check out the archives.

You can visit and on the front page down on the left side you sill see our store. Your purchase provides needed funds to The Virtual Pew. If you do not see something to purchase you can click on the search engine, (do not put anything in the search box at this time). You will be taken to Amazon where you can search for anything you desire. Hopefully you will consider a gift to The Virtual Pew.

Here is our contact information

The Virtual Pew
P.O. Box 17731
Wichita, KS 67217

Click on the following links to learn more about The Virtual Pew.(Please note that the links for The Virtual Pew blogs have been going through some changes and the url’s have changed.)

This Just In, Many know of our support for the ministry in Lahore Pakistan. I just spoke with Minister Boby today and his brother Naveed is struggeling with cancer. Naveed is 22 years old and has been sick since 2002. He is now at home in a great deal of pain and the financial struggles for the family continues to mount. Anyone wanting to help in prayer and/or financial with this family is encouraged to do so.

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