Looking Back, Moving Forward
Dear Westgate Family,
As the New Year approaches, we want to take the time once again to praise God for what he has accomplished in the year behind us, as well as look with expectation for what we pray he will do in the year ahead.
First of all, we want to stop and marvel at the grace of God revealed to us in the gospel. As we’ve seen this year in Matthew, Jesus Christ is the true King of heaven and earth. He is the one who has “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18), who is making right all that is wrong in this world, who lovingly laid his life down on the cross to make us his own. And he calls his followers to announce to the world that there is only one King of heaven and earth, only one kingdom that will rule in the end, and that there is no greater treasure than being included in his kingdom, and no greater terror than to miss out.
Second, we want to give praise to God and say thank you to all of you for the countless hours of faithful service that have been offered through our various ministries this past year. God has blessed us with a loving, caring, generous, and sacrificial congregation. I couldn’t be more thrilled as a pastor.
Third, we want to give praise to God for the service that our pastoral intern, Tom Morris, provided through June, and for bringing Lawrence Klingsheim to our staff as our new Student Minister.
We also want to give thanks for how God has led us closer toward our vision in the last twelve months. We began the year by asking the question, “What will it take for our experience of ‘church’ to be less like something we go to, and more like something we are—a family of missionary servants empowered by God’s Spirit to make disciples for Christ?” Through the January preaching series and several congregational meetings, we discerned three key steps for 2013, which saw varying degrees of progress as the year unfolded:
- To provide one new outward-focused ministry expression at a congregation-wide level. God answered this initiative with the Alpha Course, which ran from March to May, and provided an opportunity for many people within and outside the church to explore the Christian faith more carefully in a warm and non-threatening environment. For 2014 we are set to offer a similar type of event, using the “Christianity Explored” curriculum, at the home of Steve and Natasha Hope.
- To provide one new outward-focused ministry expression at a smaller group level. The goal here is to help reconnect gospel-shaped fellowship and gospel-driven outreach, and live it out not just in the building we gather to, but also in the towns we live and work in. We offered training through the “Living on Mission” workbook and the “Missional Communities 101” workshop in April. From there, Pastor Brandon met with some of our Home Fellowship leaders over the course of several months to explore the idea of repurposing our Home Fellowships to embrace a more missional identity. Our exploration helped us shape a new plan for 2014, that will also involve the creation of new groups (see more below).
- To begin identifying people who might serve as part of an outreach team (or perhaps ‘mission mobilization’ team). This initiative also remains in progress, and will develop hand-in-hand with the previous one.
As we look ahead to 2014, we want to continue to give focused attention to God’s call for us to live on mission for Christ, not just as we gather, but as we scatter. And so we’re starting 2014 by revisiting the question we asked at the beginning of last year, through a January preaching series on 1 Peter 1-2: “Real Church: It’s not what you go to; it’s who you are.”
- January 5: Real Faith (1 Pet. 1:1-12)
- January 12: Real Community (1 Pet. 1:13-25)
- January 19: Real Worship (1 Pet. 2:1-10)
- January 26: Real Mission (1 Pet. 2:12-25)
After January, we’ll return to our series through the Gospel of Matthew, continuing our exploration of who Jesus is and what it means to follow him as King.
We also look forward to two outward-facing ministry efforts in early 2014:
- Community Group Initiative
Returning to the second initiative from 2013, we’re seeking God to begin a movement of smaller community groups among Westgate that live out gospel-centered community and mission in the towns and neighborhoods where we already live and work. We’re calling this the Community Group Initiative. In early 2014, Pastor Brandon will be looking to recruit, train, and mobilize leaders, who in turn will recruit and launch new community groups in the fall of 2014. Stay tuned for more details.
- Life on Mission Conference: March 21-23, 2014
As we’ve been discussing, the call to make disciples of all nations is not just for those who go overseas. We want to see every member live as a missionary, for whom every sphere of life is their mission field. And so as a parallel to our fall Missions Conference (where we emphasize the missionaries and agencies we support), we’re starting an annual spring Life on Mission Conference, where our goal is to equip and mobilize our own people for living each day on mission.
The theme for our inaugural conference is Gospel-Centered Mission, and our speakers are Jared Wilson and Bland Mason. Click here for more details.
We count it a privilege to serve and seek the Lord together. May he be glorified in and through us in the year ahead.
Your servants for Jesus’ sake,
Westgate Church Elders
Bruce Daggett (Associate Pastor)
Brandon Levering (Lead Pastor)