Since the day of our cookout at Edgeworth, I haven’t stopped thinking about a name for our church. Here’s 7 reasons why I love the idea of a name emerging from the Emmaus Road story.
By the way – 7 Mile Road is taken from Luke 24:13-35. If you haven’t already, go read the story. You’ll love it. Basically, two disciples are walking 7 miles to a village called Emmaus. They’re completely downcast because it had only been a few days since Jesus had been crucified. On the way, the Risen Christ appears to them but they don’t recognize Him. He’s right next to them but they’re completely blind to Him. Anyway, as they’re walking this road together, Jesus begins to show them the Scriptures and how it all points to Him. And as they’re hearing His words, their hearts are just burning with the truth. Finally they get to the village, Jesus breaks bread with them, and immediately, their eyes are opened. They get it! At once they run back to Jerusalem to tell others about who they had just seen.
Got the story. Ok, 7 miles, 7 reasons. Here we go.
Mile 1 I love the whole theme of a road or a journey or a walk. The idea of people walking together and discovering the truth over a journey is hugely important to us. That has been a huge shift in my thinking over the last few years. Previously, my only framework for ‘becoming a Christian’ was the instant decision for Christ. But now I see that unbelievers often catch Christianity as they hang out with us, share life with us, and walk with us, rather than in just a response to a distinct moment or a single sermon. The idea of a journey, or a process, is a Biblical one, whether it is the salvation of sinners, or the sanctification of saints. So, I’m drawn to the idea of a church that invites unbelievers/almost believers/believers to walk the same road together and discover Christ along the way.
Mile 2 I love that Jesus reveals truth to them. Biblically, we’re convinced that apart from God opening our eyes, we are blind to spiritual truths. And so the Emmaus Road narrative is a great picture of God awakening two men to the reality of Jesus. Edgeworth wrote this song called Awakened. I love the lyrics to ‘Awakened’ and I feel that Emmaus Road captures that same idea. We long for a church where God comes as He did on this road and reveals Himself to people so that they shout, “Now You are my God. You have awakened something deep inside of me. You took my heart and made it new. My eyes can finally see.”
Mile 3 I love that Jesus opens the Scriptures and shows them how all of it was about Him. This totally reflects the commitment of everything we want to do. We don’t read the Bible and see dozens of heroes – Abraham, David, Paul, etc. We read the Bible and see one hero – Jesus Christ. The teaching, the preaching, the singing, the gathering, the sending, all of it must be centered on Jesus Christ. We long to be a church where every detail orbits around this central truth – Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
The Emmaus Road narrative also captures the response we long for in the hearts of all who would hear the Gospel. After Jesus had left, the disciples asked one another, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures.” We ask God that people would experience that among us a thousand times over as they hear the truth of Christ.
Mile 4 I love that it contains a picture of the three of them sitting at a meal. Food and eating and community are important parts of the Kingdom of God. If you love to eat with friends and family, you’ll love the Kingdom. The whole experience is likened unto a feast. Plus, we long to be a church that takes the sacrament regularly. When we come to the Communion Table, we will do so as one body, seeing Jesus through simple elements like a piece of bread and a small cup. The disciples sat in Emmaus, sharing a meal with Jesus, and as they did, they saw Him.
Mile 5 I love that they “rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem.” Someone pointed out that the first thing these disciples do after discovering the truth of Jesus is run back to tell others about Him. They walk the 7 miles back to Jerusalem and share the good news of the Risen Christ. Our church must exist for the sake of mission and we are called to respond as these disciples did. We long to be a people who encounter and experience the Gospel and then return to our culture as witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Mile 6 I love that it’s Biblical. Every time you say the name to someone new, you’ll have to have a conversation about what it means and what it’s about. So inevitably, you’ll be engaged in a conversation about the Bible, and more specifically about Jesus. You’ll get to point unchurched, Biblically illiterate people to Jesus with every mention of the name of the church.
Mile 7 Plus, in terms of Philly, many second generation Indians resemble the disciples in this story. They know who Jesus is, but they don’t really get it. And so many of the Indians we hope to reach are like these disciples – they’ve got the facts right (Jesus was crucified), but their hearts need to be awakened, their eyes need to be opened. So this story fits like a glove for many of those we hope to connect with.[Reason 7.5 Shainu thought of it!]
I tried to keep that as brief as possible just to whet your appetites and get you to reflect further upon the story as a possible name for the church. Journey, truth, revelation, community, Gospel, Christ-centered, missional – its all there.
So what if the story of that 7 mile road was our story as well. What if we were a church that invited everyone to walk with us – believers, non-believers, seekers, curious, skeptics, opponents, whoever – and discover the truth of Jesus along the way? What if we were a community who shared life and meals together, experiencing Christ through it all? What if we were a people whose hearts burned with the truth of the Gospel and ran back on mission to our culture with the Good News to begin the redemptive cycle all over again?
What if we were called the 7 Mile Road?