Dear PCF: you’re invited to our 9th annual Leaders’ Training Day!

Posted by Stephen Witmer on January 15th, 2018

Dear PCF,

One of the things I love about our church is the many people who cheerfully serve. My heart is full of thanks to God for each of you.

If you serve in ministry at PCF, I want to invite you to our 9th annual Leaders’ Training Day on Saturday, February 3, 2018. We’re defining ‘leader’ broadly, as anyone who serves in ministry in any way at PCF. If you greet on Sunday mornings, or serve as a Deacon, or teach a PCF Kids class, or make the coffee, or mow the lawn, or lead a Life Group, or shovel the steps, or…the list goes on and one…you’re invited!

Our desire is to say thanks by providing an enjoyable time together with other PCF leaders and excellent Bible teaching that will equip you for even more effective ministry.

Our Leaders’ Training Day this year will run from 9am – 2pm on February 3 (come a bit early for coffee and a snack). We’ll provide lunch and childcare. Best of all, these training days are always times of togetherness and laughter and joy. I’m excited about our Training Day this year, because our PCF missionary Josh Rattin will be teaching us about ‘The Sweetness and Sacrifice of World Missions.’ Josh will share his own story of how God called him to cross-cultural missions work, and will help us to see the importance and joy of reaching the nations with the gospel.

Our past eight Leaders’ Training days have been highlights of my year, so I’m looking forward to our time together. Please join us! I trust it will equip all of us to better serve God and his people at PCF.

Please RSVP as soon as possible to Ed Marino in the church office for planning purposes. Also, if you’re a parent and bringing a child/children, please pack a lunch for your child. The children will eat lunch together downstairs.

With anticipation,

Pastor Stephen

A great ministry opportunity to students at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Posted by Stephen Witmer on January 15th, 2018

Dear PCF,

God has again opened a door of ministry for us as a church. From February – May 2018, I’ll be teaching a course on the Gospel of John at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (the course will be a few hours each week). I’m thankful that the PCF Elders see this as an important ministry and have given me their blessing to teach this course.

Gordon-Conwell is located in South Hamilton, MA (about an hour from Pepperell). Many of you know that I did my seminary training at Gordon-Conwell and taught there for a year before becoming the pastor of PCF, so it’s very dear to me. Pastor Jeff graduated from Gordon-Conwell and our ministry intern Tyler Yates is currently a student there.

Gordon-Conwell draws students from 86 denominations and 47 different countries. Many of these students enter full-time vocational ministry after graduation, and many who come from other countries return to those countries to do gospel ministry. I’m praying that the students who take my Gospel of John class will be encouraged and equipped to make their study and teaching of the Bible central to their ministries. Teaching this course to future ministers is a way to serve the many churches they will one day teach and shepherd. I’m asking God to multiply the effectiveness of this course and display his worth to these students.

I’d love for you as the PCF congregation to partner with me in serving these seminary students. When I taught a GCTS course on 1-2 Thessalonians last year, some of you sent cookies for the students and many of you adopted a student to pray for (we put their first names in the PCF bulletin, and will do that again this year). It was wonderfully encouraging to the students.

I’ll teach the course in ten sessions beginning on February 1, each session on Thursday afternoons from 2–5pm (Feb 1, 8; March 1, 8, 15, 22; April 5, 12, 19, 26). Would you pray for these class sessions, and for the students taking the course, that God’s Word will be sweet, nourishing, powerful, inspiring and convicting? Please pray for me, that God will equip me to teach this class with excellence and passion. Please pray that the ripple effects of the class will be great – that churches around the country and the world will benefit as these future Christian workers fall more in love with God’s Word and with the One who inspired it. Thanks for participating in this ministry to seminary students!

Gratefully, and with anticipation,

Pastor Stephen

A few resources on Reformed theology

Posted by Stephen Witmer on January 11th, 2018

I said on Sunday that I cherish the Reformed understanding of God and salvation, the Calvinist understanding of God’s sovereignty. It’s not because I’m drawn to a particular human system, but rather because I believe that teachers throughout church history, in the great stream of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Whitefield, Keller, Piper, Sproul (and many others) have rightly understood the Bible’s teaching on God’s sovereignty in the world and in salvation.

Someone asked me the other day to point them in the direction of resources on Reformed theology. There’s lots of great material available, so I’ll suggest just a few resources.

I’d recommend R.C. Sproul’s book Chosen by God. If you’d like to go even deeper, you can watch the six sessions of Sproul’s teaching series ‘Chosen by God’ online for free.

Also very helpful is John Piper’s teaching series TULIP, on the five points of Calvinism, which you can watch for free on the Desiring God website. Here’s the first session, with text, video, and audio. If you benefit from this session, you can click through to the others.

Finally, you may be interested in hearing how I think about the important personal, pastoral benefits of the Reformed understanding of God and salvation. Here are a couple pieces I wrote, one for the Gospel Coalition, and one for Desiring God.

I came to the Reformed understanding of God and his sovereignty only over time, through conversations with others and mainly through reading the Bible and studying it to see if these things were so. I so appreciate what R.C. Sproul says in the first few minutes of his teaching series Chosen by God (see the link above) – these are doctrines that stretch and challenge us, and doctrines that call for great humility and charity toward one another. This view of God will humble us if we really understand it. It will steady us and strengthen us, as we rejoice in an all-wise, all-sovereign God.

Help from Richard Sibbes

Posted by Stephen Witmer on January 3rd, 2018

I’ve recently been feeding on truth from the good Richard Sibbes (1577 – 1635), known to his contemporaries as ‘the sweet dropper’ because of the encouraging gospel flavor of his teaching. Sibbes says something in his famous work The Bruised Reed that I think applies to small churches in small places. We often think of smallness as a disadvantage – we don’t have the resources, energy, connections, education, or budget of the big urban/suburban churches.

But might our smallness rather be an advantage? Might it actually incline Christ toward us? And might it show us more clearly our inadequacies and so persuade us of our need for Christ?

This seems to be the direction Sibbes inclines:

‘As a mother is tenderest to the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest. Likewise he puts an instinct into the weakest things to rely upon something stronger than themselves for support. The vine stays itself upon the elm, and the weakest creatures often have the strongest shelters. The consciousness of the church’s weakness makes her willing to lean on her beloved, and to hide herself under his wing.’ 

Weakness doesn’t necessarily incline us to the strength of another. But it might. And if it does, weakness and smallness will be ultimately no disadvantage, but will lead to great, eternal gain.

May the Light shine upon the nations this Christmas

Posted by Stephen Witmer on December 11th, 2017

I recently visited mission partners from our church who are serving in the Middle East. We stood atop a hill overlooking the great city where they live and minister, praying for the millions of people who live there. There were mosques almost everywhere we looked. My friend said to me as we gazed out over the city, ‘Many of the people here will never hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many will never personally know someone who knows and loves the gospel.’

We sing ‘Joy to the World’ at Christmas. And we worship the Light of the world. Our Savior is not a tribal deity. He didn’t come to save just one tribe or tongue. The news of him is to go to the ends of the world.

This Christmas, let’s yearn and pray for what God himself purposes. ‘Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy’ (Psalm 67.3-4). ‘God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!’ (Psalm 67.7).