Brent Bickel continues to make an “Impact.” He’d been called, he said, to start a ministry somewhere in Dane County. He interviewed church leaders throughout the county, and found Waunakee to be the right fit.
He began his Waunakee ministry in 2011 with the children’s program at the Waunakee Village Center. In 2012, he founded North Ridge Church. “The Waunakee Village Center is a great place to call home for North Ridge because it is a place where the whole community can come together,” Brent said in an interview.
Not long after, Brent joined the Waunakee Chamber of Commerce and later took a seat on the board of directors, immersing himself even more fully in the village.
“Our focus is on intentional and tangible blessings for our businesses and our community,” he continued. “[We] not only pray for our businesses and our community to succeed but we also offer notes of encouragement and support. The world can often put church and business in ‘separate columns,’ but we believe they actually impact and influence each other. The community works best when we lean in and work together.”
In 2012, I met Brent. I was immediately impressed and moved by his ability and willingness to personally connect, and so my husband and I joined the church. One thing that stood out for me is that after my husband and I were baptized together by him, things started to change. It changed us individually for the better and helped us to be ‘Better Together,’ fostering a renewed love for our marriage.
I see his love for people. On any given morning, you will see him at a local coffee shop. He’s never in a hurry. He takes time for anyone who may need him at a particular moment. It’s almost like he was just placed here on earth to brighten others’ days.
He lives in the moment. There would be a huge void if he suddenly wasn’t here.
In one of his recent sermons, titled “Harbor Less, Forgive More,” his theme was forgiveness. All of us have past memories and associations that were (or remain) difficult: people who hurt us, whether deliberately or not. Brent wanted us to focus on the larger picture.
We dwell on those memories, Brent said in his sermon, and through those memories, we hold on to the pain, and the pain triggers all kinds of harmful emotions. But do you think the person who hurt us is still holding on? Perhaps, but more often, not. But how can we move beyond the pain? Is it possible?
“It’s hard because it deals with deep, deep, deep emotions. But what we’re doing is not punishing them, we’re punishing ourselves,” he added. Why is it so hard to forgive others, he wondered.
-Do we want to punish the other person?
-Do we want justice?
-Are we excusing the other’s behavior?
“The Apostle Paul said: ‘If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink,’” Brent continued. In other words, loosen the pain for a moment and show them you care. And know that the benefits will outweigh the effort.
“Forgiveness is the most important thing we can receive or offer,” he said. “Forgiveness is not really for them, it’s for you.”
Later in the sermon, Brent sat on a stool and recounted two stories, still almost too raw to relate: losing his beloved father, and losing a cherished friend who gave generously of herself to her family and the entire community. His voice trembled and he hesitated. But he wanted to leave the congregation with a message.
“We tend to pansy around,” he said. “We tend to go through life as if every day is going to be normal. We tend to put off the things that need to happen because we think we have time.”
But, he said, time is short. “Tomorrow is not guaranteed. So, get your relationships in order. The pain you will feel if that is not done is way worse than the pain to say what you need to say, to do what you need to do.”
I couldn’t agree more. So, what do you need to do today?