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A brief update on my sabbatical

Posted by Stephen Witmer on June 26th, 2018

For anyone who’s interested, here’s a little update on the Great Witmer Sabbatical of 2018.

We’ve been in Belfast, Northern Ireland for just over one week and are over the jetlag. It’s been a great week of connecting with Emma’s family and enjoying the extraordinarily good weather here (everyone’s talking about it). Sweet time of worship at Gilnahirk Baptist Church on Sunday, with soul-feeding singing and strong biblical preaching.

I’ve had more time to hang out with Emma and the kids, and that’s been really good. We’ll have lots more time together as a family over the next few weeks, since we’ll be on some traveling adventures together.

I’ve been able to start in on my personal growth project (reading Ed Welch’s book on fear and anxiety, Running Scared, and thinking/praying through patterns of fear in my life) and more regular exercise (jogged several miles a few mornings so far, best day was up the hill to Stormont, the Northern Irish Parliament building – but jogging along the Antrim coast has been pretty good, too).

And I’ve now plunged into the writing of my Intervarsity Press book on small-town/rural ministry, provisionally titled A Big Gospel in Small Places. In fact, right now I’m all by myself for a week in an apartment in Port Stewart, on the Antrim Coast of Northern Ireland, writing all day, every day. The apartment belongs to Emma’s very generous aunt and uncle, and it’s an amazing place to write.

Here’s the view out the living room window.

This is my stack of books (yup, all packed over from the US in suitcases).

This is the sunset over the ocean last night.

And this is the writer. Please note the haggard, unkempt appearance befitting any properly world-weary, tortured writer.

Please do pray for clarity, energy, focus, joy, wisdom, and confidence as I write this book. I’m on my second of six days and it’s going well so far. God has been gracious. I’m praying for those who will read this book even as I write, longing for it to be useful and encouraging for them.

What is Small Town Summits?

Posted by Stephen Witmer on June 12th, 2018

Over the past year, I’ve had a incredibly fun and fruitful time helping to launch Small Town Summits, an organization committed to reaching and resourcing small-place churches and pastors throughout New England. If you’re curious to know more about Small Town Summits, who we are and what we do, here’s an article I wrote to explain that, published on the website of the Rural Matters Institute of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College.

TGC report on our recent Vermont Summit

Posted by Stephen Witmer on May 26th, 2018

It’s a huge privilege to be helping out with Small Town Summits, which partners with The Gospel Coalition New England to reach and resource and encourage small-town/rural pastors, churches, and lay leaders around New England. We’ve now hosted events in New Hampshire and Vermont – our Vermont Summit was just last week, on May 16. Here’s a report of that day on the national TGC site. I’m praising God for good fruit!

TGC podcast on small-town/rural ministry

Posted by Stephen Witmer on May 25th, 2018

Not long ago, I got to speak with Collin Hansen of The Gospel Coalition about rural America and ministry in small towns. We spoke, among other things, about Robert Wuthnow’s new book, The Left Behind, in which Wuthnow seeks to understand and explain the needs, fears, and hopes of rural Americans. If you’d like to listen to this TGC Podcast episode, click here.