I esteem these men very highly in love

Posted by Stephen Witmer on May 11th, 2018

The five PCF Elders got away on May 11 for our annual day of prayer and planning. We spent a lot of time listening to God, dreaming about the future of our church, setting goals for the coming year, and praying for all 160 of our PCF members. It was a fun, exciting day. We ate well (thanks, Emma, for the chocolate chip cookies!) and we laughed – laughed really hard – a lot. Working together side by side in Christian service with people you love is not a burden; it is a joy.

The main thing I want to say about these four men is that I love and respect them tremendously. I am in awe of their wisdom and tender hearts and willingness to sacrifice and serve. Three of these guys work outside our church, and they took the day off to serve our church through our praying and planning. These men get paid nothing to serve us – but they do it cheerfully, honorably, and sacrificially, year after year. They do a lot that most people will never see, and they pay a price lots don’t know about. Why do they do this? Because they love Jesus, and they love us.

The Apostle Paul asked the Thessalonian Christians to ‘respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work’ (1 Thessalonians 5.12-13). I do esteem these men highly in love. I respect and honor them. They hear my confessions, hold me accountable, encourage me, pray for me, and help to guard my soul. And they lead and pray for and shepherd all the rest of the folks at PCF, too, particularly the 159 other folks in our church who have told them (by becoming members) that they’re eager to be shepherded by them, too. What a gift. What a tremendous gift from the risen Christ to us.

How can we at PCF respect our Elders and ‘esteem them very highly in love because of their work’? I’m willing to bet that if you pray and ask Jesus for some answers to that question, he will be glad to show you.

Small Town Jesus conference

Posted by Stephen Witmer on April 23rd, 2018

I’m back now from a great three-day trip to Morehead City, North Carolina, where I got to participate in a Small Town Jesus conference hosted by my friend Donnie Griggs and One Harbor Church. I love the vision and passion for God’s glory in small places that is so evident in Small Town Jesus. I was excited to lead a breakout session on ‘Joy in Small Places’ and give one of the main conference talks on how ministry in small places can uniquely display the awesome glory of God.

On Sunday, I got to preach twice at the One Harbor location in historic Beaufort, North Carolina (Blackbeard’s ship sank nearby!).

I’m grateful to God for many good friends who are pursuing God’s glory in small towns, help from God to teach and preach, traveling mercies, a church that sends me to do this kind of ministry, Elders who preach so well while I’m away, a wife who serves and blesses me and cares well for our family when I’m away.

God, be big in small places.

The preciousness and power of hospitality

Posted by Stephen Witmer on April 9th, 2018

Hospitality is a really big deal in the New Testament. On May 3, 2015, I preached a sermon on hospitality called ‘The Amazing Ministry of Hospitality’ (click here and scroll down to the correct date). Preparing for that sermon helped me to see how important, precious, and powerful hospitality really is.

It’s good and it’s important for each of us to consider how opening our homes to others can be used by Christ for the sake of the gospel. Toward that end, here’s a Gospel Coalition review of Rosaria Butterfield’s new book on hospitality, The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Christian Hospitality in our Post-Christian Word. Read, apply, repeat!

Here are some reasons to come to our Easter sunrise service (with your kids)

Posted by Stephen Witmer on March 25th, 2018

Parents, here are four reasons to take your kids to an Easter sunrise service this coming Sunday.

(1) It marks Easter morning as different. I grew up going with my parents and brothers to Easter sunrise services on a hill in north central Maine. Those experiences are vividly etched in my memory. When else would we get up before dawn and gather, shivering on a hilltop with 20-30 other people? Um, never. Easter morning was different. And it should be experienced as different from every other day in the year by our kids! It’s the high point of our lives as believers in our resurrected Lord.

(2) It helps our kids imagine the events of the first Easter. We’re all embodied creatures. And there’s something about dragging your body out of bed early, while it’s still dark, and heading to the sunrise service in the pre-dawn hours, that gets you a little closer to the experience of the first disciples, who came to the tomb ‘while it was still dark’ (John 20.1). You hear the birds twittering, you see the sun rising. Our church meets for our sunrise service in a graveyard – and what a powerful visual aid, to look around at all those graves, imagine Jesus coming out of his tomb, and realize that the enormous power unleashed by Jesus’ resurrection will result in the resurrection to eternal life of all who trust in him. Doing something so out of the norm captures the imaginations of kids.

(3) It’s fun for kids. Of course it’s not fun initially, when you’re dragged out of bed by your parents. But once you’re up, and driving to a place you don’t normally go, and seeing people you don’t normally see at 6am, and singing songs as the sun rises, it’s fun. I loved the sunrise services when I was a little kid. Easter should be fun.

(4) It makes Easter even more of a family celebration. Hopefully, your church has breakfast together after your sunrise service. Families eat together, and on the highest day of the Christian calendar, it is good for the Christian family to begin the day by eating together. Each year, as our church family trundles over to the church after the service, and kids run around, and breakfast casseroles are consumed, it feels like a family celebration.

So, give it a try this year. Set the alarm, and explain to your kids why you’ll all rise early this Easter. They’ll remember it the rest of their lives.

Our PCF sunrise service is at 6am at the Park Street cemetery, followed by a breakfast afterward at the church. I hope to see you there – with your kids!

Is he worthy?

Posted by Stephen Witmer on March 17th, 2018

Watch this music video of Andrew Peterson’s song ‘Is He Worthy?’ in order to prepare your heart and mind for Good Friday and Easter. Echoing the searching question of the book of Revelation, this song is a paean of praise to Christ. My heart swelled with praise as I watched and listened to it many times. He is worthy.