7 Mile Road

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  • July 18, 2007

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?

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About Ajay Thomas

Ajay lives in Philadelphia with his wife Shainu and their kids Hannah and Micah. He is responsible for preaching and vision as a pastor at Seven Mile Road. He loves God, family, food, and football - in that order.

4 Comments

  • Jim and Leena says:

    We really like the thinking and idea behind the Emmaus Road. Leena was wondering why not Emmaus Fellowship?

    If it was 7 mile road, would it have Fellowship or Church added to it?

  • Ajay says:

    I think Shainu likes having “Emmaus” in the name too.

    But absolutely…no matter what name we land on, we’ll definitely be “xyz” Church. So it would be “Seven Mile Road Church” (which, I know is a mouthful – but may be abbreviated over time).

    The weakness of “Emmaus Road Church” is that it’s already taken by many churches and URLs are taken too (google it and you’ll see). Plus, there’s an Acts 29 Church that has that name (which is ok and we could still do it) and they said one of the things they’ve seen over the years is the difficulty for unchurched people to spell it and look it up online. Also, many don’t know how to pronounce it, and it may seem foreign in a way that is more alienating than it is intriguing.

    All that to say – I really love “Emmaus Road Church.” It’s probably my favorite. But what if the negatives outweigh the positives? It might be better then to have all the aspects of that story without a confusing name. But, “Seven Mile Road Church” is not set in stone. It would be cool to find a name that comes out of that story. Shout them out if you think of any or if you have thoughts.

  • Jim and Leena says:

    Hey guys,

    I was reading Ravi Zachariah’s book, Recapturing the Wonder and came across this paragraph;

    “I think of a walk in the Bible that I would love to have taken – that walk along the Emmaus road when Jesus opened the Scriptures to two disciples walking with Him. After their discussion with Jesus, the disciples said, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ (Luke 24:32). There was the ultimate bridge of the past, the present, and the future. That is the kind of discussion I mean – where you plan time with those who think well, who think deeply, and who think about things that really matter. This is not an accountability group, as important as that is. This is a group of people committed to deepening their walk with Christ and who are disciplined in study and interaction.”

    I think seven mile Road church or some derivative of that would be fine. i’ll think through and shout out ideas as it comes to mind.

    To Him be the Glory!!!

  • cabsplace says:

    I love the name and the logo of your new church plant, “7 Mile Road”. Beyond just loving the Emmaus Road story (because my heart burns within me every time I hear it or read it, even after 20 years as a Christian), it is a name that will attract those who shy away from the typical “established” church or fellowship.

    By the way, I stumbled across your blog as I was just exploring WordPress. I have two blogs:
    http://cabsplace.wordpress.com
    http://thewildmind.wordpress.com
    I appreciate what you are doing. I will check in often, pray for you and would love to keep up on your progress. You have not chosen an easy task, but I think, probably a very rewarding one.
    Cat from CAB’s Place and The Wild Mind

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