The Listening Life

The missional life is a listening life.

If we don’t listen, we won’t develop relationships. Without relationships, we can’t make disciples. If we don’t make disciples, we are not embracing our Kingdom role of joining God in his mission to redeem and restore this world he loves sacrificially.

So let’s open our hearts to love, beginning by opening our ears to people. Let’s be interested, engaged, and overwhelmed by all our neighbors are, what they think, their felt needs and dreams, and what they have to contribute to their own well-being and the well-being of other people, their communities, and the Kingdom.

This has been my message as I have served this past year. As I prepare to honor God's call in the next phase of my ministry, I trust God that this message has been transformational, moving some to live a listening life.

It has been a joy for Beth and me to worship with you, serve alongside you, laugh and cry with you, and grow deeper in faith. May God's peace always be with you.

The missional life is a listening life. I pray this will be true for us all as we continue on and do well in Jesus’ name.


Returning but Still Sent

On behalf of those who worshipped at our recently closed Verona site, I want to thank our entire church family for the warm welcome we received as we returned home to Fitchburg on October 9. We count it as God’s blessing that we, for a season, gathered in Verona to celebrate God’s grace in the sacraments, robust worship, and commitment to one another through Jesus-honoring relationships.

Beth and I came to Verona less than a year ago from the City of Minneapolis to the suburbs of Madison. This transition would have been much more difficult had it not been for the love and acceptance of the Verona family. We thank them for their welcoming way and generous hospitality.


Our last worship service together, we celebrated memories of Verona’s beginnings, children born and baptized into the family of God, leaders who have served faithfully for more than five years, and relationships that formed and strengthened over time and sure to last until Kingdom come.


On October 2, after worship, we rolled up our sleeves and began the somewhat sad and demanding work of vacating our site premises. In all honesty, I have never witnessed such camaraderie and positive attitudes in the face of a difficult circumstance. By 2:00 pm we had brought the last of Verona’s furniture, sound equipment, ecclesial supplies - you name it -  over to Fitchburg (sorry for the mess for those who use the Fellowship Hall). Everyone contributed in some way. I praise God that though many were working on very tall ladders removing heavy audio/visual equipment and wiring from the ceiling, no one was injured. God’s grace covering this project was overwhelming.


Though we no longer have a lifeWorhship Center in Verona, we have not in any sense abandoned Verona as a mission field. The energy we gave to facilitating Sunday worship will now be redirected toward facilitating Regional Impact Gatherings to serve and restore shalom to Verona area neighborhoods. These gatherings will focus our imaginative energy on the health and spiritual vitality of the Verona community, one neighbor and one neighborhood at a time.

On October 9, it was wonderful to see most of our Verona brothers and sisters in worship at Fitchburg. As we worship and integrate with the larger church body, may we be refueled for the missionary task at hand, connecting people to life in Jesus in the Verona region.

The Church Leadership Board - Meet the Nominee

On Sunday, December 11th, from 12pm-1pm, our church will have its Annual Voters Meeting. A few key points of the agenda include learning about the budget for 2017 and electing one new board member. The 2017 budget is available for review at the Church.


I find the Annual Voters Meeting is the perfect chance to become more informed about some of the servant leaders of the Church as well as the specific ministry plan of the church. And in preparation for electing a new board member, here is just a little information about her as well as the board’s criteria for nominees.


Joan Dawson - Board Nominee

  • Joan lives in Fitchburg with her husband Mark and attends the Church in Fitchburg. As a senior plan consultant with Cuna Mutual Retirement Solutions, she is responsible for retirement plan administration support of large clients. In serving her community, Joan shares her gift of music on worship teams and volunteers countless hours with our youth in Higher Ground. She and her husband Mark are recent “empty nesters” and she looks forward to serving on the Leadership Board as God directs her.


Criteria for Nomination to the Leadership Board

  • Regularly participate in the worship and educational life of the congregation.

  • Undertake personal spiritual disciplines for the development of their own faith lives.

  • Not be ministry staff members or employees of the Church.

  • Have been communicant members of the Church for at least two years prior to assuming a position on the Leadership Board.

  • Are visionary and good communicators.

  • Understand and support the basic concepts of Policy Based Governance.

  • Are willing and able to support the vision frame and vision proper.

  • Invest personal energy and skills in the mission and ministries of the congregation, seeking opportunities where individual skills and abilities can be applied other than the role of Board member.

  • Be willing and able to accept the responsibilities of Board membership as specified in the Policy Manual.


You can meet the rest of the Leadership Board here. The congregation is welcome to submit names of nominees as well, and may do so by contacting anyone on the nominating committee by November 27, 2016. (Peg Strange , Elsa Gumm, Dannie Jaeger)


I look forward to seeing you on Sunday, December 11th, for the Annual Voters Meeting. And don’t forget that the Packers play the Seahawks at 3:25 pm that day, so we won’t miss the game!

Do you have other questions or comments for the Leadership Board? Sign in and leave your questions or comments in the comment section below.

Hear, Trust, Obey

There is an amazing prayer resource and journal that I have used for the past couple of years called the Pray! Prayer Journal.  Each month has a different focus.  Recently I was looking back in my journal, and I was struck by the past three months’ focus themes.


August: Hearing His Voice

September: Trusting His Way

October: Obeying His Word


Hearing His Voice: I need to be still and silent long enough to hear from God.  While reading the book Uninvited by Lysa Terkeurst I came across this quote on pg.111 “I am trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life, so I can whisper, “God, what might you want to say to me right now, I’m listening.”  We live in a very noisy world.  We have access to more information and images than we could ever possibly handle right in our hands, most of us on our phones.  We have to choose to silence the noise.  We have to be intentional about being still and quiet, long enough for the chatter in our minds to quiet, and then to hear from our Heavenly Father.  How are you doing at Hearing His Voice?


Lord, when I consider how well I listen, I know I need You to teach me how to do it better. Let me be like Mary who chose sitting at Your feet, listening to what You had to say. Help me pay attention and not be distracted. Give me ears to hear what Your Spirit is saying and a heart that stays tender in response. Guide me with Your voice as I walk through my day (Luke 8:18, 10:38-42; Revelation 3:22, Hebrews 4:7, Isaiah 30:21).*


Trusting His Way: God always has the perfect plan for us.  His Way is always the best way.  Trusting His Way involves surrender.  Being willing to say, I am not in control, and I do not know what is best.  And I will choose to trust you Lord, even when I do not fully understand. Our God is trustworthy.  How are you doing at Trusting His Way?


Your ways aren’t my ways, Father, but they are perfect. Show me Your ways and teach me Your paths - I will trust You with all my heart even when I don’t understand. Your love is unfailing - let me sense that each morning as I put my trust in You.  Help me stay committed to Your way as I trust because there’s no God for me but You (Isaiah 55:8; Psalm 18:30, 25:4; Proverbs 3:5; Psalms 143:8, 37:5, 31:14).*


Obeying His Word: To obey God’s Word, we have to be reading God’s Word and meditating on what it says and applying it to our lives.  It is not enough to just hear it on a Sunday morning from a sermon.  We need to have a regular time to read it and memorize it and hide it in our hearts.  Then we can do what our Lord Jesus asked us to do… walk in love. (2 John 1:6)  How is it going for you loving those nearest you?  Loving those who are nothing like you? Loving those who irritate or annoy you?  We are called to love one another; it is a matter of obedience. How are you doing at Obeying His Word?

Lord, You have said that to obey is better than sacrifice. You delight in our obedience. Give me understanding so that I will obey Your Word with all my heart. Help me remember what I’ve received and heard from You. I’m responding to Your wake-up call so that I maintain an obedient and repentant heart. Help me work wholeheartedly at obedience to Your commands so that I display and walk in love (1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 119:34; Revelation 3:2,3; 2 Chronicles 31:21; 2 John 1:6).*


May each one of us grow in Hearing His Voice, Trusting His Way and Obeying His Word.  


*The prayers and scripture references in italics are taken from the Pray! Journal by Dean Ridings


A Joyful Sabbatical

As I hope you’ve heard, our church’s milestone (goal) for the next year is to “experience a significant increase in contagious joy, because we will be able to identify 100 people who are re-examining missional living as they practice and experiment with what it means for them to live missionally.” If you have questions about this, please feel free to talk with me or another staff member. I’m excited about this goal because it highlights that God designed us to experience great joy in our lives. We’re made in God’s image. We are sacred, beloved, free to love others because of Christ’s sacrificial, unconditional love. How could we not have joy-filled lives?!


Well, we all know there’s plenty in our world (and in ourselves) that can set obstacles in the way of joy. Every day, I struggle with my thoughts and reactions -- worries, a short temper, unkind words, holding on to resentment, etc. -- that too often strip joy out of my life. I recognize that some thoughts and reactions are easier to control than others, and that some of us may even experience physiological obstacles to the ability to choose how we respond in certain situations, and I don’t want to minimize that. However, I also know that God has equipped each of us with the capacity to choose joy.

It’s understandable that when we’re faced with changes to the status quo (how we’re used to things being/going), we may face difficulties and have trouble choosing joy.  One such change at the Church is that this month Pastor Jeff and Amy Meyer are beginning a six-month sabbatical (November 2016 - April 2017). My hope and prayer for Pastor Jeff and Amy is that they experience great joy during this time, and my hope for each of us individually and corporately as a church is that we will choose joy, that we will live in joyful relationships with our family, friends, coworkers, and other neighbors, reflecting Jesus’ love. I further pray that when we struggle in this capacity, we will share our struggle with a trusted friend, and with Jesus, whose love is perfect and heals perfectly. I love you, church, and am thankful that so many of my life’s joyful moments are with you!  

The Lord your God will change your heart so that you will love him with all your heart and so you may live! Deuteronomy 30:6


If you’d like a copy of the documents detailing the sabbatical, please email me or stop by my office.  Here are some key pieces of structure / contact information:

  • Leadership: Youth Director Emily Powers is serving as Interim Executive Leader; Head Movement Elder Brian Hayman is serving as co-leader with Emily (;

  • Worship / Preaching: Pastor Matt Wipperman and several guest preachers are leading worship services during the sabbatical (

  • Congregation: Please direct questions and concerns to staff and board members as needed (Staff Coordinator Elsa Gumm -; Board President Peter Huebner -, seek pastoral care from Pastor Matt Wipperman and Pastor Mike Peters (;, and consider prayerfully how you may serve and lead in the church.

  • Learning: Two Connections classes offered during this time period are an opportunity for new and existing members to learn about the identity and structure of the Church. Click here for more info on Connections.