A Regional Vision for Gospel Growth at Westgate
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30)
God has called us as a church to be a gospel-centered community living each day on mission for Christ. This means sharing life together in the gospel—depending on it and applying it to every aspect of life and relationship. And it means partnering together for the gospel—making disciples of Christ here in New England and to the ends of the earth.
This is a vision for what we might call gospel growth—the kind of growth that happens when the good news of Jesus gets ahold of our lives. From growing deeper in personal holiness and spiritual maturity in relationship with God, to growing fuller in our relationships with each other in Christ, to growing wider as a church by seeing others come to know Christ, a vision for gospel growth is not about numbers, but the glory of God through lives changed by Christ.
A vision like this means we must continue to keep the gospel central. The good news of what God has done to establish his kingdom and deal with our sin through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what makes all the difference. Being gospel-centered means that everything we are and everything we do as a church flows from and points back to finished work of Christ. We must be utterly dependent on him and fully invested in his glory. As Paul says of Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Community and Mission
A vision like this also means thinking carefully about how we cultivate relationships and outreach—community and mission—in order to apply the good news of Christ to all of life.
During our recent 40th anniversary celebration, we introduced a ministry strategy our elders have been working on to help us put this vision into practice more effectively in the years ahead—a regional vision for gospel growth at Westgate.
There are several challenges we can expect to face as we seek to serve Christ in the years ahead. Some of them are cultural—we live in one of the least religious regions of the country. Some of them are spiritual—we are broken people in a broken world who have a motivated enemy.
But one of the unique challenges we face at Westgate is logistical. We are not a particularly large congregation, but we are very spread out. At present Westgate consists of 115 households in 30 different towns, covering an area that is approximately 45 miles wide and 35 miles high.
That’s not a bad thing. But it does create a challenge when it comes to living out the vision God has given us. Distance makes it hard to share life in community, especially when you factor in busy suburban lives. It can make close relationships harder to cultivate. It creates inconsistent attendance in our home groups. And all of this effects discipleship, care, outreach, and shepherd oversight within our community.
Being so spread out also creates a challenge for mission. Who exactly are we trying to reach with the gospel? If you aim at everything, you almost always hit nothing. And if we target one specific town as a church, it’s hard to create buy-in for people living in other towns farther away. Not because they don’t love Jesus, but simply because they don’t live there or have natural occasion to be there. And if our mission requires getting people to our building for gospel ministry to happen, many of us are at a severe disadvantage.
A Regional Vision for Gospel Growth
But distance doesn’t have to be a liability to gospel growth. If we think carefully about it, it can become a beautiful advantage. Instead of diffusing our effectiveness, distance can actually expand our influence. Westgate is in 30 different towns! This is an exciting opportunity for kingdom witness.
What is needed is a way to organize our community and mission around where we actually live, work, and spend our time when we’re not gathered at our building. A way to cultivate a shared sense of identity and ownership for gospel growth with others who live near us. We believe the best way to do this is to begin thinking of our Westgate family in terms of five parishes or regions: central, east, south, west, and northwest.
- Central: Natick, Weston, Wayland
- East: Wellesley, Needham, Newton, Waltham, Watertown, Belmont, Arlington, Lexington, Walpole, Brighton, Boston, South Hamilton, Stoughton
- South: Dover, Sherborn, Westwood, Dedham, Norfolk, Medfield
- West: Framingham, Shrewsbury, Westborough
- Northwest: Marlborough, Sudbury, Stow, Hudson, Concord
There are multiple strategic advantages to organizing our midweek ministries and relationships this way. For instance, it now becomes clear who exactly we’re trying to reach with the gospel: each region can now work together to build friendships, be a blessing, and bear witness to Christ in the towns and communities they already live and work in. We may even see the seed of future church plants as a result of this work.
It also builds stronger networks for discipleship, fellowship, and caring for each other in the body—simply because it’s easier to work closely with those who live closer. This is one of the reasons we will begin to form our home groups by region rather than affinity in the future.
Of course none of this means we want to devalue or forsake existing friendships with those who happen to live farther away. We are one church family, who gather as one for worship on Sundays, and who will continue to share life and ministry with each other beyond our geographical constraints. Nor do we want to become slavish about regional boundaries—regions are made for man, not man for the regions. There’s nothing wrong with overlap or exceptions, especially if the bigger goal of gospel growth is better served through the exception.
Yet we do believe this regional vision has incredible potential for strengthening our community and mission for gospel growth, and are excited to see how God will use it in the years ahead.
Making the Transition
We have already begun to organize the shepherd care of our elders according to regions, and are transitioning our home group ministry to this regional model over the next year.
We’re also in the process of forming leadership teams for each region, beginning with elders and home group leaders, and look forward to expanding those teams to help coordinate prayer, community and outreach, care and visitation, children’s involvement, and missionary connections.
To help us connect and begin building identity at a regional level, each region will be hosting a region-wide event this fall. You’ll be hearing more about these in the weeks ahead, though some events are already underway.
The elders welcome any questions or ideas, and invite you to pray with us as we seek to live out our vision at Westgate, whether we’re gathered for worship and discipleship or scattered throughout the Metrowest. May God be pleased to bear much fruit in and through us for the sake of his gospel’s advance.
Your partner in the gospel,