This headline caught my eye: "Bolz-Weber's liberal, foulmouthed articulation of Christianity speaks to fed-up believers." Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber is a 6-foot 1-inch competitive weightlifter with tattooed arms and profanity-laced language. She is also one of the most visible preachers in America today.
Five years ago, she founded the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, known simply as House. Her Lutheran congregation is described by The Washington Post as "an eclectic mix of homeless and corporate types, punk teens and suburban baby boomers sitting on stacking chairs in the rented hall." Each week she travels the country speaking in liberal Christian churches and gatherings. Her autobiography climbed near the top of The New York Times bestseller list.
Rev. Bolz-Weber is a child of fundamentalist Christian parents. A thyroid disorder caused problems with her health and appearance as a teenager. She spent a decade addicted to drugs and alcohol, and worked for a time as a stand-up comedian. In 1996 she married Lutheran seminary student Matthew Weber; they have two children. Now she's a rising star among liberal Christians. When asked about her future, she says, "Christianity is supposed to give me a mild sense of discomfort. I don't get to be in control. It's always putting me into something new."
Her approach to ministry might cause others a sense of discomfort as well. It seems to me that there are three ways of viewing "the Nadia Bolz-Weber phenomenon," as some have called it. One: she is drawing more attention to herself than to the One she represents. John the Baptist said of Jesus, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30).
Two: she creates unnecessary barriers to the gospel for those who are offended by her language. Paul said of meat offered to idols, "if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble" (1 Corinthians 8:13).
Three: her appearance and language connect with people more conventional ministers could never reach. Paul said, "I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel" (1 Cor. 9:22-23).
What do you think of Nadia Bolz-Weber's ministry? Please share your thoughts in our comments section. And consider her story as a metaphor for innovation in ministry today. From 5th century monastics to 16th century reformers to today's social media missionaries, those who try something different can always be accused of focusing on themselves and offending others. But if their hearts are right, they can also be used by the Spirit to reach new people in new ways.
A critic said to Dwight Moody, "I don't like your evangelism methods." Moody smiled and said, "I don't like them much, either. What are yours?" The man admitted he didn't have any. Moody said, "I like mine more than yours."
What are yours?
Publication date: November 19, 2013