You are what you love

Posted by Stephen Witmer on October 3rd, 2018

In this past Sunday’s sermon I mentioned James K.A. Smith’s very helpful book You Are What You Love and shared some quotes from the book worth pondering.

‘Virtues are learned and acquired, through imitation and practice. It’s like we have moral muscles that are trained in the same way our biological muscles are trained when we practice a golf swing or piano scales.’

‘The church – the body of Christ – is the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and retrain our appetites…the practices of the church are also a spiritual workout, inviting us into routines that train our heart muscles, our fundamental desires that govern how we move and act in the world.’

‘The church’s worship is the heart of discipleship. Yes, Christian formation is a life-encompassing, Monday through Saturday, week in and week out project; but it radiates from, and is nourished by, the worship life of the congregation gathered around Word and Table.’

And here’s the book, which I highly recommend.

Small Town Summit in Dexter, Maine on November 17

Posted by Stephen Witmer on September 17th, 2018

Small Town Summits will host its third Summit this coming November 17 in Dexter, Maine (not far from my hometown of Monson!) and I’m excited about gathering with Maine pastors, laypeople, and ministry leaders to consider how the gospel can shape our churches and our lives in small towns and rural areas. We’ve got a full day with some great breakout speakers from around the State of Maine and I’m praying God will use this to mightily encourage gospel workers.

If you know folks from Maine please encourage them to check out our website ( and register for the Maine Summit here.

Andy Crouch's book will help you use technology wisely

Posted by Stephen Witmer on September 5th, 2018

One of the books I got a lot of benefit from reading over my summer sabbatical was Andy Crouch’s The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. It’s short, clear, beautifully written, and very practical. I have thought a lot about Crouch’s aim that his family would be a place of fostering wisdom and courage. I’ve appreciated his understanding of technology as ‘easy everywhere,’ and how he distinguishes technology from tools. His discussion on disciplines and nudges is going to feature in our upcoming sermon series at PCF (‘First Things First’).

In short, I highly recommend this book. It has helped me and I think it will help you too.

We're back!

Posted by Stephen Witmer on August 23rd, 2018

‘What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?’ (Psalm 116.12)

The ‘benefits’ to which the psalmist was referring focused on God’s preservation in suffering and God’s deliverance from suffering.

But God’s benefits extend well beyond situations of suffering. They include all the good things he does for us. Over the past two months our family has felt again and again God’s benefits to us.

We’ve just returned from a wonderful sabbatical. There are so many people to thank – the many kind folks who hosted us and served us while we were overseas, our church family who sent us and cared for our home while we were gone and filled our fridge with good food for our return and left a balloon and welcome home sign and cut-out heads of the youth leaders scattered throughout our house (we live in fear of finding more)!

We’ll treasure memories of these two months for the rest of our lives. It was a grace-filled time. Lest I paint too rosy a picture, I hasten to say that the grace included God’s forgiving grace when we were tired and snippy with one another during our travels. But for the most part the grace was simply abundant, lavish, unmerited gift upon gift upon gift.

Weeks with Emma’s family (what a treasure). Playing with cousins in the pool in France. Extended time with dear friends in England and sweet time with our two godsons Isaac and Ben. Walking Omaha Beach in Normandy and seeing the hallowed ground of the American Cemetery there. For me, days and days of working on my book in cottages with no wifi or telephone. For Emma and me, a marriage get-away and the opportunity to climb Slieve Donard. Saturday mornings at St. George’s Market, early morning jogs, times of prayer and reflection, visits to castles, the Bayeux Tapestry, I could go on and on.

I’m grateful to God that he allowed me to complete a first pass at the rough draft of my book on rural/small-town ministry. There’s more work to be done, but what I got done surpassed my hopes and prayers. And in the process I even grew a marvelous ‘Sabbata-beard’ that has since been shaved off (in deference to my wise and lovely wife). That’s not to say that I can’t occasionally rock a fake mustache (see below).

‘What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?’ (Psalm 116.12)

The psalmist goes on to answer his own question. ‘I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD…I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 116.13, 17).

Like the psalmist, we’ll aim to do two things in response to God’s benefits to us. First, thank him publicly among his people. There will be stories to tell! Second, we’ll keep lifting up the cup of salvation, seeking to trust him and live for and from his gospel as we return to our town and church family. God is precious to us, his gospel is life for us, and we couldn’t be happier to be living where we are (in Pepperell) and worshiping God with the church family he’s given us (Pepperell Christian Fellowship).

Thank you, Lord