Heathen Church has been an exercise in a lot of things for the team; endurance, perseverance, patience, courage, fearlessness, love, and faith. Of those it is faith that I want to talk about right now. Faith is a really wonderful thing to talk about in Christian and secular circles alike.
“You gotta have faith.”
“I have faith.”
We throw around stuff like that in church all of the time and my question to “stuff” like that, more times than not is, “What does that even mean?”
I think more times than not we simply treat having "faith" as the epitome of the pie in the sky, it’s gonna work out for the best, eternal optimist statement. Faith at Heathen Church isn’t just about “hoping for the best”, but rather trust in survival, that by taking this crazy leap of faith we’re going to be caught…or at least picked up off the pavement when we fall. We are striving to share in God's desire for all to realize His saving grace; not just those that we choose.
There are so many examples in scripture of leaps of faith, as well as actions and ideals contrary to the social and religious norms. I mean goodness folks, Jesus was far more contrarian than we often give Him credit for. So many examples not only in scripture, but in history involved radical leaps of faith, of going against the grain when the norms were no longer cutting it. I think about God and the risk that He took by sending His son to die for creatures that might not ever even accept or acknowledge the sacrifice. I also think of the desperation, the weight of such a sacrifice. God must have REALLY wanted a relationship with us to sacrifice for our mistakes.
And yet, we keep trying newer and newer tactics to halt the exodus from Church or to draw new people, while drifting ever farther away from the very basic, central tenets of our faith. God wants the sinners/heathens. Jesus hung out with them, broke bread with them, and even called them to serve alongside Him. If we trim all of the fluff, the programs, and handwringing away, we’re left with a pretty simple, basic, and most important of all, effective road map to this thing called Church. In so many ways Heathen Church is considered outside the box, brazen, edgy, misguided, and maybe even dangerous. And yet what we are doing there is Biblical and life transforming. Let me rephrase that; Heathen Church is in essence considered all of those things for effectively and simply being the Church. We as a team have wrestled often with changing the name, I myself wrestle with it constantly (you have no idea), and yet I keep discerning this simple sentiment, “It’s not yours to change.” Fair enough. Besides, if I renamed it, “Happy Action Fuzzy Hug Prayer and Song Hour”, I might make the Big “C” Church happy, but we’d be empty. If only people would come and see.
I’ve already exceeded my self imposed word count for these pieces, but bear with me for just a bit longer. Jesus spoke an awful lot about having eyes to see, ears to hear, and then still refusing to use those very basic abilities. I certainly recognize that if Jesus faced such issues, then we are bound to face them at an exponential level; and I also know that what we are doing isn't "for everybody"...even though we are in fact for everybody. Despite everything that has gone on at Heathen Church (baptisms, 50+ new professions of faith, measurable and visible life changes, half of the attendance being made up of unattended children, etc.) I still hear, "Is that even Christian?" when people learn what we call ourselves.
I have a friend that I have a great deal of respect for, that I spent a year with in a pastoral leadership group of sorts. This year included the birthing, building, and launching of Heathen Church, so obviously I spoke of and explained Heathen Church often. Sometime after the group had completed the prescribed time together, I got a message from him that he was going to bring his young adult group to Heathen Church.
After the service ended and the sanctuary had cleared for dinner, he came up to me somewhat wide eyed. What he had to say gave me a lot of hope and validation, but it also perfectly illustrated our challenge.
“Corey, I’ve heard you talk about this for a year, but having seen it, now I get it. I get it, I understand what you guys are doing, and I love it.”
Another friend from that group came a few weeks later and instantly became one of our biggest supporters and cheerleaders. As a matter of fact, he and his church will be providing the food for "Pack the House" this weekend.
So why keep trying, especially in this format? Why attempt something like "Pack the House" when it has great potential for disappointment? We believe in what we're doing and we also believe that something is happening at 900 Denmark St. that is incredibly unique and powerful. It sounds so clichéd to say, "If we just get one…" But here's the thing. This place has the tendency to catch the wettest wood on fire; it has the ability to open eyes and ears. If we have to build this with one person who catches fire at a time; I like our chances.
I don't know who the next person is who will "get it", who will catch fire, but we're going to keep on telling the world what is going on, we're going to keep rolling out the welcome mat, and we're going to keep on being faithful in the hopes that “one more person will come and see.” Heathen Church is growing rapidly, but we're not done. There is more ministry to be done, there are more lives to impact, partnerships to be formed, and miracles to be witnessed. Come and see.