We believe that we can do more together than apart
Seven Mile Road is a diverse family of churches working together to serve New England. There are more than four million unchurched souls in greater Boston and not nearly enough healthy, gospel-centered churches to engage and disciple them. The same need is there for New England as a whole. We believe Seven Mile Road is uniquely situated to play a helpful role in seeing more healthy churches doing fruitful gospel-centered work so that our neighbors meet Jesus.
In 2001, Seven Mile Road was a fledgling, nameless community of 11 people gathering in a living room in Everett. That small crew had been launched out of Forestdale Community Church in Malden with the hope of planting a healthy church that would be contextualized to just-north-of-Boston culture, engaging it with the grace and truth of the gospel.
To say that we didn’t know what we were doing would be the understatement of the century. For four years our Father humbled us, allowing us to muddle through lots of trial and error, study and prayer, repentance and redoubling of effort. Although this was a difficult stretch, our resolve only grew stronger as we prayerfully engaged our Bostonian people group, read everything we could get out hands on, continued to preach Christ, and met and loved lots and lots of people.
In 2005 several factors coalesced that enabled us to take a corner toward health and sustainability. We were referenced to a church planting network called Acts 29 and, by God’s grace, became one of the first 25 churches welcomed into the network. This brotherhood, with its missiological emphases, helped us finally clarify who were called to be. It was at this time that much of our theological and philosophical DNA was set. At the same time, we multiplied our eldership from 1 to 3, mitigating some of the (many) weaknesses of our planting pastor and creating a more broadly gifted leadership team of disciple-makers which the church benefited from immensely. In addition, we formally called members for the first time, looking each other in the eye and saying, “Here’s who we are. Here’s where we are going. Here’s what it’s going to take. And, we’re in.” Although a number of good friends left at this juncture, those who remained were fully on board with our commitment to living with missional intentionality as a church.
The subsequent four years were marked by strong, healthy growth in all aspects of our ministry, including Sunday attendance. By 2010 we had become a community of nearly 200 who were growing in the gospel together. Throughout this time we were a single-site, single-service church, gathering each Sunday in 2,200 square feet of rented space in a former City of Malden elementary school. And we had access to one bathroom. Yes, nearly 200 people using a single bathroom. While there were many benefits from this arrangement, the lack of space handcuffed our potential for growth. Our Sunday service had no free seats at all, our children’s space was maxed out, the line to our one bathroom was endless, and our lease prohibited having a second service. And so we began seeking out a space solution for our community.
In August 2010 a friend received word that a church in nearby Melrose had recently closed. Since we were chasing all possible leads, we arranged for a site visit. While impressed with the space, we figured that its cost would prohibit us from pursuing this space while maintaining our presence in Malden. Since relocating exclusively to Melrose was not an option, we left feeling like another space with some potential would not work out. Gladly, our real estate advisors connected with the leadership responsible for selling the property later that week. To our surprise, they expressed a strong desire for a gospel partnership in which the property we would continue to be used as a church and they would sell at a price that would simply allow them to cover their remaining indebtedness. And so we went for it.
The next 2+ years were a fun, hard, slow learning process of figuring out how we were going to be structured to optimize discipleship and mission among the Bostonians we were sent to. In those years we: experimented with multi-site ministry, running staggered Sunday morning services at 10 in Malden and 11 in Melrose; sent two dearly loved pastors and their families to other missions (the Luces to church planting in Africa and the Thompsons to church planting in Wakefield); saw a third of our church membership relocate away from Boston for work, school, family, etc.; and lost our space in Malden. Although there was beautiful gospel work being done during this time, all the uncertainty and volatility minimized much of the momentum we had been feeling in 2010.
We were treading water locally while generously investing resources outside of ourselves for the sake of the bigger mission of Jesus. And we were observing, learning, and praying for grace.
Then several significant things happened. Our remaining pastor/elders and their families committed to not going anywhere else for the next ten years. We resolved to move gospel communities to the forefront of what it means for discipleship and mission to happen at Seven Mile Road. We renovated the Melrose space without going into a penny of debt. And we committed ourselves to a vision of seeing 1500 Bostonians believing the gospel, being discipled and living on mission in the next 10 years by becoming one church family with many contextualized congregations sent to make Jesus known throughout greater Boston area.
And so here we are. Melrose is the healthy mother church. Malden was planted in April 2014 and is a growing church. Waltham and Kennebunk began meeting weekly in September 2017. We’re meeting people, making disciples, shaping church planters, loving each other, and praying hard that Jesus would continue to build a happy, holy, healthy church for His glory, our good, and the salvation of those He has sent us to.