Have you ever wondered how Highway got its name?
Highway’s original name was a mouthful. The church incorporated in 1899 under the name, “Union Highway Mission Tabernacle Un-Denominational Church.” It was known as “Highway Mission Tabernacle” long before that became their officially registered name 1984, on the occasion of Highway’s 90th anniversary.
So, why Highway Mission Tabernacle?
One of the first orders of business for the young church was to secure a Gospel wagon, which they used to take the Good News to the streets of Philadelphia. Their goal (as it was translated in the King James Version that was in use at the time) was to “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23, KJV) Rather than waiting for “seekers” to come to their door, they took to the Highways of Philadelphia, with the Mission of spreading the Gospel, and the wagon as their Tabernacle.
Just as in the days of Moses, when the Israelites carried the Tabernacle through the desert as a mobile structure inhabited by the Spirit of God, the Gospel Wagon was a mobile structure by which Highway carried the Spirit of God out to the streets, where the people were. The mission continued in that manner until 1931, when changes to Philadelphia’s traffic laws necessitated the retirement of the Gospel Wagon.
Thus, the mission shifted from the Tabernacle to the Temple, but, as Solomon proclaimed when he prayed over the newly built temple of the Lord in his day, “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (II Chronicles 6:18) Though Highway could no longer take to the streets, its mission still extended beyond the walls of the church, because the message was just as great and the need even greater than it had at the beginning.
Otto Wegner, who pastored Highway in the 2000s, repeated to the church that “the presence of God’s people guarantees the presence of God.” He instilled the culture of the Gospel Wagon, that, as believers, our mission is not just to meet with God in the temple on Sundays, but, more important, to carry the presence of God with us wherever we go, and everywhere the need is.
At Resurrection Life Church and Spring Garden Academy, we are privileged to continue the mission of the Gospel Wagon! With every resource that God makes available to us, we carry the message with us, so that all may hear.
Thank you for partnering with us in this mission!
P.S. – Can you spot E.S. Williams, former pastor of Highway Tabernacle and general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in the pictures of the Gospel wagon? For help, check out the images in the historical pages of Highway’s web site.