Not infrequently in the papers we read of somebody brought before a court who is ‘of no fixed address’ For some there is an element of stigma in such a description. To be ‘of no fixed address’ somehow suggests that a person lacks moral stability. Yet for Christians the very reverse should be true. For us a permanent address is not desirable. We are called to be constantly on the move: we are together on a journey that leads to God. It was this which caused the first Christian to describe themselves as people on ‘the way’ (see, for instance, Acts 9.2; 19.23; 22.4; 24.14).
The precise origin of this description of the Christian life is a matter of debate.
- Attention is sometimes drawn to the metaphor of the two ways found in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow & the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt 7.13, 14). In this context Christians are men and women who have opted to go the way that leads to life, as over against the way that leads to destruction.
- Later Jesus spoke about himself as being the way: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14.6). Here Jesus was speaking in the context of death. To go the way of Jesus is to go the way that leads to life in the Father’s house. Christians can look death in the eye, for death is a defeated enemy. For those who have put their trust in Jesus death is but the gateway into a new and fuller life.
- The demon-possessed girl at Philippi who made a nuisance of herself by following Paul, kept on shouting out “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation” (Acts 16.17). I wonder how much that slave girl realised the truth of her words? Those who go the way of Jesus go the way that leads to salvation – for by faith in Jesus we are set free from the vicious spiral of sin and death.
Whatever the origin, we have here a wonderfully dynamic description of the church. The church consists of men and women who are on a journey together. Interestingly I have recently discovered that the term ‘journey’ is becoming a new term for church. Google ‘journey’ and you will see what I mean.
My New Zealand friend, Terry Calkin, at the age of 78 has just planted a new church in Auckland, called ‘Journey Church’. The first page of their website declares: ‘Everyone is on a journey. We’d love to get to know you and to walk with you as you seek to find your purposes in God.’
The Journey Church has only been going three months, but already some sixty people are meeting together on a Sunday morning in a rented building. Many, if not most of them, are Christians who are disillusioned with the way in which so many evangelical churches appear to be in the entertainment business. They are looking for a new way of doing church to help them on their ‘journey’. In some ways their Sunday morning service seems surprisingly traditional, and yet it is different from what is being offered by many churches. The service is deliberately kept short: one hour and no more. The worship includes just a few songs, for the worship focus is on a weekly meditative celebration of the Lord’s Supper (‘Communion with God’). Preaching plays a central role in the Sunday service: 35 minutes of the hour is devoted to an exposition of God’s Word.
Once the service is over, people are invited to stay for a further hour of fellowship with refreshments – ‘Communion with each other’. The Journey Church has a strong emphasis on loving one another. To quote from their website: ‘Life is about loving God and loving others (Matt 22.40). What is love? C.\S. Lewis defined love as “desiring the highest good of others”. This means that love is a verb, an action more so than a felling. It means that we receive the love we need from God so that we can give it away to others.’
Home groups play a key role in the Journey Church, but unlike many other churches the focus of their AIM groups is not fellowship, but evangelism. AIM is an acronym for Accountable, Intentional, and Missional. Once a year the groups are expected to give an account to the church’s leaders on how effective they have been in introducing others to journey with Christ. If after two years a group has brought nobody to faith, then it will be closed down and its members integrated into groups that have learnt to be evangelistically effective. Goodness, in most churches there would be few if any churches left if that were to be the rule! However, members of the Journey Church see themselves as representatives of Jesus – their purpose, like his, is “to seek and save the lost” (Luke 19.10). They long to see many others journey together with them into God’s Kingdom.