“Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” 

Marcel Proust

Have you ever gone on a trip anywhere and planned out your entire itinerary? You were careful to mark all the right pit stops that would maximize your fuel consumption while also minimizing the amount of time it takes to get to your destination.

I had this experience recently.

Changing plans

I was visiting relatives in Ohio and planned my route from Muskoka, knowing exactly how gas would cost and the amount of time it would take to get to my destination (with two children under the age of 2, the latter was crucial information).

We began the trip and it was a fantastic. I was hitting all of the markers I had laid out for my journey, and made sure we ate at the appropriate times so that the madness of a family car ride was at a minimum.

Then we crossed the border.

Suddenly chaos ensued. I found myself on a massive detour in a completely foreign and unusual place. Now I know that the United States is not as “foreign” or “unusual” as most places in the world, but I found myself second-guessing my plans because litres became gallons, kilometres became miles, and dollars became, well, more expensive dollars.

I had a choice in that moment: I could either pull the car over and wait for my planned route to be ready (which was unlikely, as they were resurfacing the highway) or I could adapt and embrace the new road I was on.

Two Roads

When I was in seminary, a professor taught me that there are two types of ministries that God laid out in scriptures and they were both laid out on roads. The first type of ministry is called the “Road to Damascus” experience and the second, the “Road to Emmaus” approach.

Some of us enter ministry with our plans all laid out and are comfortable with our execution. We know what to look for and are comfortable when things are going the way we always hoped.

However, when a roadblock comes up, we tend to panic or overreact and forget that the detour was carefully mapped by someone else with care taken to get you to your destination.

The Road to Damascus

The “Road to Damascus” approach to ministry looks at the experience that Saul had on the way to Damascus where he encountered Jesus, experienced blindness, had a name change, and was healed because his drastic experience convinced him of his faith.

Some ministries are like this: They are bold, in your face, and apparent in their belief system when it comes to Jesus. Scripture, prayer, sacraments, are all plastered in every part of their organization and one can’t help but recognize they are a “Christian” organization.

The Road to Emmaus

Emmaus Road by Mike Moyers
“Emmaus Road” by Mike Moyers

On the other hand, the “Road to Emmaus” approach to ministry looks at the walk of two men towards a town called Emmaus who are joined by a third. They walk and talk with this third individual and invite the third person to dine with them. It is only after the two men invite the third in to dine is it revealed to them that they have been walking and talking with Jesus.

The subtlety of this form of ministry is embraced by many organizations as well: they are gentle, much more quiet, engaging, and when invited to join are recognized as being a “Christian” organization. It is encouraging to note that both forms of ministry are prevalent in the Bible and used for God’s glory.

Travelling the Emmaus Road

I haven’t focused much on disability so far in this post, but as someone who works in a Christian ministry serving people with disabilities, I’m thankful that this “Emmaus road” is open to us. While sometimes God works in impressive, earth-changing ways, it is a relief to know that he can also work through our small acts of coming alongside people on their journey. We reveal Christ’s love to others as we travel together in faithfulness.

Sometimes in life our paths can look like very different road experiences: sometimes we need to be loud and sometimes gently walking next to our neighbours. It is important to not see one way of ministry as better or worse than the other, as it is God who decides how He will work to bring Himself glory.

As this post comes to a close, I am reminded of the outcome of my journey to Ohio: we arrived safe and sound. The process of getting there was quite different than how I had planned, but with many more memories than I had anticipated.

If you find yourself at the impasse of the journey where you are confused as to how to be in ministry, I hope this acts as an encouragement and reminder that God uses various walks of life to bring glory to Himself.

Tyler Ellis

Tyler Ellis was born and raised in Toronto, ON shaped by a diverse landscape in a Christian household. Tyler graduated from the University of Toronto as a major in History and minor in Political Science and English, going on to complete his Masters of Divinity at Heritage Theological Seminary. Tyler has worked in many capacities within the church, from Youth Pastor to Senior Pastor. He initially began working with Christian Horizons, an organization serving people with developmental disabilities, in 2011. After a hiatus to start and run a street ministry, “As for Me,” in Toronto, Tyler Tyler married his long time sweet-heart in 2015 and moved back to Muskoka. Tyler began working with Christian Horizons again as the Community Development Manager that year and has worked with many levels of the organization to ensure that people who experience disabilities have the opportunity to accomplish their goals while nurturing communities where everybody belongs. He and his wife have settled on a farm to raise his growing family, of which to date consists of two very busy little boys.