At the Church we live life together in lifeGroup. Small groups that meet weekly in each other's homes. We WELCOME our friends and neighbors, share a meal and share our lives. We WORSHIP, grow in the WORD, pray and care for each other. Together we serve our neighborhood and community as a WITNESS of Jesus' love. Authentic biblical community requires deep connections. Our connection to other people is at the heart of our Christian experience. Though we often experience worship in a large setting with many other people, authentic connections happen most effectively in smaller groups where there is opportunity for dialog and relationships.  In lifeGroup, people at all different stages of their spiritual journey grow together in Christian fellowship as they worship, experience God, minister to one another, and serve together in their community.


We have been focussing on lifeGroup over the last few weeks learning about the Gifts that are given and received as we gather together.  lifeGroup is one of the places that you can engage as a follower of Jesus, one of the places you can invite a friend to join you. Let’s review what the gifts are that are given and received in lifeGroup: The Gift of Prayer … Promise ... Participation … Presence ... Penitence … Perseverance … Partnership … Persistence …  Patterns …  Praise … Purpose and People.  WOW…  that is a lot of gifts! If you missed one of the sermons or the lifeGroup Scoop video, you can watch here.


Which gift stands out to you?  Which one have you had the pleasure of giving and receiving?  Which gift seems to be missing currently in your lifeGroup?  


Extend the gift of invitation.  Receive the gift, and say yes!  Connect to a lifeGroup today!


Pass it On – Part 2: Learn It

It’s been a few months since Part I: It Only Takes a Spark was printed.  How did it go?  What was the harder to show love to your neighbor, or to answer if they asked why?  Did they end up doing something nice for you?

It seems pretty common in discussions about what God has blessed us to do, how He has gifted us specifically, that people have a hard time answering about themselves, even though they can easily point to qualities they admire in others.  The same seems to hold true when I try and think of what part of my following of Jesus seems “good enough” to share with other people (put that kind of thinking out of your head if it’s there).

So, instead of convincing you about the many ways God has blessed you, or trying to say that discipleship is a two way street, so you both learn together (which is true, but doesn’t make getting over the starting hurdle any easier), let’s reverse the question. 


So here is Pass it On - Part 2: Learn It

  1. Find someone who does something well that you want to do.
  2. Ask them to show you how they do it, and to teach you to do it for yourself.
  3. Actually learn it (do it and practice it).
  4. Pay attention to how they discipled you, and what you can learn about discipling from this experience.

I could (and probably will someday) ask any of a number of people I know who quickly turn to God in prayer to show me how.  Recently a friend said he was on a journey to practice discerning the work and voice of the Holy Spirit.  It sounded really cool to me, and moved me right away to want that for myself.  So, I’ve asked him if he could show me what he’s doing.  Over the next few months, I’m just going to join him in the way he is practicing and learning, and we’ll see what happens.

Maybe someday someone will ask you to show them how you spend time quietly with God, because they have seen that pattern in your life and wish they could have the same.


East Madison Check In

Hi (the) Church!

I wanted to give you a quick update on how things are going at the Church in East Madison.

Over the summer we have been consistently worshipping on Sunday nights at 5pm.  Sunday nights seem to work really well for us as it’s easier to get back for worship if you go out of town for the weekend, say camping (something a few of us did together one weekend this summer). As of September we’ll be moving to Saturday night 5pm worship again, since Higher Ground meets on Sunday evenings. 

We have great relationships with the building manager and maintenance people, especially Capon, who I have great conversations with whenever I see him. 

There are two friends of our families who have been us for worship off and on, both of whom many of us have been able to know through lifeGroup and playing Ultimate Frisbee.

The Blood Drive we hosted on June 24th was a great success. Thank you for all of your donations, volunteering, for giving or trying to give blood.  Here is what our coordinator, Dannie Jaeger, had to say:

  • We served our community and donated 24 pints of blood - that can potentially help 72 people.
  • The space looked super nice & inviting - I loved the flowers & our pictures!
  • I witnessed SO MANY conversations taking place - in the donor room, at the registration table, at the food table....It was by far my absolute favorite part of the day.
  • We made new, initial connections with people in our building.
  • We made new, initial connections with Access for Independence.

The Red Cross already offered to make us a regular donation site, and we’re deciding how many we can commit to organizing (currently we’re looking at 2-4 times/year).

Thank you for all your support, prayers, and though we don’t always get to see you, for being partners in the vision to see the Church in many neighborhoods making Regional Impact!


Not Another Church


That was on the flyer five years ago when we officially transitioned from a regional gathering of lifeGroup members to a regular worship site.   Maybe that’s when things started getting sticky.  Ironically, the floor WAS sticky due to the room being used as a banquet hall the night before!  I mean sticky as in I started to stick to the Sunday worship as the focus of the Church in Verona.  And four years ago when we started leasing a space to call our own all week, things got even stickier.  We could INSTALL things, we could make things look NICE so that it was a desirable place to GO TO CHURCH  with hopes that more people would want to GO TO CHURCH with us.  


 Many well-meaning Christians go “church shopping”  when they are looking for a church that is in line with their beliefs, feels right, meets their needs; where people are friendly, the music is uplifting, and there are activities that fit their interests and availability. If you visit the Church in Verona to do some comparison shopping, you may be confused or disappointed.  You won’t be able to slip in and out unnoticed. And beware, people will talk to you, they will want to know you and love you because, as the rest of that flyer from five years ago states,

WE’RE HERE TO BE THE CHURCH.   Come and BE a part of something different. 

Coming to a different place to worship and BEing different are two different exercises. The first took some getting used to since the Church in Verona is intentionally not like the places I’ve worshiped all my life.   And I’m still working on the second.  Or maybe I should say God is still working on me despite myself.  I know that attracting people to Sunday worship is not our primary goal.  But it’s a whole lot easier to DO things that make the Sunday morning worship happen than it is to pursue a relationship with someone I don’t already know.   It’s also easier to talk to someone who comes to our worship service than someone who may not have ever been to a church.  

I also know that spiritual growth is more important than numerical growth.    And in our smaller, intimate setting we get to hear and share stories on a weekly basis that powerfully reflect spiritual growth. Unfortunately, the stories don’t translate into our culture’s measure of success.   After all, when I am asked “How’s the Church in Verona going?” the expected answer and the one I’d like to report is a numerical increase in attendance.   It seems that would justify the cost of maintaining our worship site.   One could easily get discouraged knowing that of the 18 families connected to the Church in Verona in the past five years, 10 have either moved away or worship elsewhere.  I have felt defensive and been quick to criticize others’ spiritual maturity rather than my own.

I have definitely fallen short of the type of spiritual growth that results in numerical increases.  I can articulate what it means to BE the Church, to BE a missionary, but I have rarely moved from knowledge to practice.   I’m still DOing what I’ve done all my life.  I’d rather let someone else follow the Holy Spirit’s prompts to do new and uncomfortable things.   The fact is I don’t want to be different.  I don’t want to change.  I am afraid.  But God still loves me. And He will still have His way with me.  He is very patient.


lifeServe with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County Elsa Gumm

In mid-July, a team of eight people representing all three sites of the Church served with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County in a neighborhood on Madison’s west side.  We also partnered with Thrivent Financial, who provided us with t-shirts and refreshments.  Working with a Thrivent employee and the on-site construction supervisors, we were able to clean four homes, making them move-in ready, and help with wall construction on a fifth home.  When we spent most of our time that day cleaning instead of building, we tried to remember that following Christ’s example means serving where there is need, not serving only where or how we prefer to serve.  Christ also set the example for us of learning what assets and resources already exist within a community that we can make use of in order to best serve that community.  Serving with community partners like Habitat and Thrivent -- who have already built relationships with the neighborhoods and families they serve and who serve with them -- makes it easy to say “yes” when we’re invited to work with them.  And we will have many more opportunities to say “yes” to these lifeServe opportunities in the future.


Habitat for Humanity of Dane County’s mission -- seeking to put God’s love into action, bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope -- is making affordable housing increasingly accessible for families in the greater Madison area.  In 2017, the Church has committed to partnering with Habitat for Humanity’s Faith Build in Fitchburg’s Renaissance on the Park neighborhood.  A Faith Build involves several churches coming together to provide an Apostle’s share (or 1/12) of what it takes to build a Habitat house, and committing to a minimum of five workdays staffed by teams of church volunteers.

I invite you to pray with me for current and future Habitat families and all the volunteers who work to build affordable homes, and for our church as we continue our partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dane County for the 2017 Faith Build in Fitchburg.  Prior to the beginning of the Faith Build, I invite you to attend one of their informative, inspirational “Unlock the Dream Tours.”  During the tour, you’ll learn how Habitat’s homeownership process works, and hear a homeowner’s personal story about how owning their Habitat home has made a lasting impact on their family. Upcoming tours will be held on Thursday, August 18 (5pm), September 7 (8am), September 15 (5pm), and October 5 (8am), and last one hour.  Contact me if you’d like to attend one of the tours, and consider inviting a friend along with you!