Heathen. Goodness the indigestion that name has caused to the point, that I get the sense that are those that keep waiting, hoping that the ministry will die a very quiet death. Biblically speaking, the term was used as a means of referring to anyone outside the Jewish faith. For us today, it is used as a means of describing those outside our faith or our socially acceptable norms of behavior. Another way to look at it contextually in our culture is to equate it with "sinner". But it's not just caused indigestion among some Christians, we've also encountered complaints from pagans, "Quit using our name, it's disrespectful." I'm not even joking. I figure that since we've caused consternation with both Christians and pagans, well, we must be doing something right.
We've talked about the genesis of the concept, but not so much the name. I've talked about it elsewhere, but really at the heart of it is a very real, perhaps brazen, and maybe even misguided (time will tell) attempt at stripping away the pretense of Church. It is a very public recognition and announcement on our part that we are all/were heathens and that this is a place where all are welcome. Might as well define right up front who and what we are. What you see is what you get. That kind of intentionality has won us quite a few fans, as well as a few detractors, "Is that even Christian?" Sometimes, I think I can almost hear, "Why do you eat with tax collectors and sinners?" In those moments I also find myself whispering back, "Because my teacher told me to." :)
Beyond the desire to strip the pretense away, but also still intimately related, is the very real idea that the Church doesn't have the best of reputations at present. We are viewed as being disingenuous, as unloving, as being out of touch, or as I hear an awful lot, "You all are bunch of frauds." And you know what? There is a lot of merit to these things. Look no further than the nearest pastor's Facebook feed; mine is inundated with story after story, article after article, and suggestion after suggestion, as to why group x, y, and z are leaving the Church or why we're dying, and of course myriad ways of how to fix it. All well meaning stuff to be sure, but really the solution seems awful simple...just be the Church. Be the Church without fear and with reckless abandon. Desperate times call for desperate measures. People are dying, losing their faith, and seeing little faith reason for faith all around us. The question we must ask ourselves, "Are we as desperate for those that Jesus died for as He was?"
We aren't offering programs, gimmicks, or anything else but holy love. You come to us we're going to feed you, we're going to love you, and we're going to do our fool best to serve you. Those who have been here have seen it and have experienced it. We acknowledge up front who we are, we also acknowledge where and how we collectively have failed, and we don't make excuses. We just try to show you something different; something authentic and real. The Church says it has a heart for the lost and the broken; but unfortunately, all too often it is lip service, an ideal to be lived out in short bursts often from the comfort of ivory towers with conditions. Us? It is who we are.
We are sinners/heathens saved by grace. Because we recognize not only what we were saved from, but also our identity prior to Christ (there's that recurring idea of transformation again), we love the sinner/heathen. We love the sinner/heathen because we recognize in them who we were, as well as the price paid for them, as well as us. Do we live as if we believe the things that we proclaim? Come and see.