Authentic is the New Awesome: Nadia Bolz-Weber

Authentic is the New Awesome: Nadia Bolz-Weber

May 11, 2011 by

The Denver Post did a recent profile of Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber who blogs as Sarcastic Lutheran. It was the typical Easter-interest story—oh my goodness, a Christian who doesn’t resemble Ned Flanders!—and be warned that Bolz-Weber is one of those emergent types (run for the hills!). But the tried and true story does have some nuggets of wisdom, including an awesome intro:

Lutheran pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber is a dichotomy wrapped in a paradox covered in tattoos.

Creation, Advent, Christmas, Lent, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost—practically the entire liturgical year—unfurl in technicolor ink from her shoulder to her wrist.

That’s just her left arm. Mary Magdalene and Lazarus rising from the dead are on the long right arm of this 6-foot-1 Christian billboard.

You gotta respect a well-written description of pastoral tattoo art (read more about those tatts).

“We don’t do anything really well,” said Nadia Bolz-Weber, “but we do it together.”

But getting to the point, Bolz-Weber could care less about market research. She’s not exactly megachurch material:

” ‘Come and die to yourself’ will never sell,” she said. ” ‘Jesus wants you to be rich’ sells. But comfort is not a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Bolz-Weber thinks authenticity is what matters, a theme we hear a lot of lately:

“I’ve never asked myself what do young adults want on church,” she said. “I’ve never tried to fill a market niche by producing a particular religious product.”

As much as we marketing types would like to formulate the perfect approach, sometimes it works better to just do it. Explore, experiment, try, fail, try again. You know: be authentic.

Authentic Beats Excellent
Bolz-Weber describes her 75-member congregation as “anti-excellence and pro-participation.” That’s a new direction—embracing what’s broken.

“We don’t do anything really well,” she said, “but we do it together.”

If you have to choose, community beats perfection.

The book on church visitors: Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time VisitorsMore:

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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7 Responses to “Authentic is the New Awesome: Nadia Bolz-Weber”

  • Steve Fogg
    May 11, 2011

    Hey Kevin!!

    You should of been at Cultivate last week. The very same sentiment was expressed something along the lines of ‘authentic beats excellence’

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  • Alissa
    May 14, 2011

    Why OH Why do we feel like we cannot pursue excellence and authenticity at the same time? Since when did it become cool to be a babbling bunch of clueless vagabonds searching for nothing else but our own comfort and community. Since when are those terms at offs with on another?

    Does not the Bible call us to wisdom and knowledge? It should be our priority to pursue the wisdom and understanding of the Bible with excellence, lest we present false teachings or a false gospel.

    Why cant we authentically pursue excellence? That would mean that sure, we dont know everything, and we stumble along the way of course, but there is a lot to learn about Christ and we are desiring to do so in an excellent manner. After all, the gospel while it is authentic, it is deliciously excellent as well.


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  • Alissa
    May 14, 2011

    at odds*

    (see, that’s me authentically pursuing excellence. heh heh)

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  • Michael Buckingham
    May 14, 2011

    Yes Alissa! So so right. So tired of the either/or mentality. Both/and FTW!

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  • Sarah F.
    May 20, 2011

    Acceptance is something that those not familiar with ‘church’ things needs most of all. The fear of not knowing the ‘right’ way to say something or when to sit or stand, even, can be very intimidating to a new off-the-street person.

    Within each of us, we need to seek Him and serve Him to the best of our abilities, without making our own piety and perfection the focus, and without making the perfection of the work the focus.

    God’s love for the lost, and showing, demonstrating, that love… at a gut level… in a real way with eternal value… that should be our focus.

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  • Ben
    May 20, 2011

    Hey Kevin,

    I’d love your insight/opinion on this article and how this frame of mind, specifically “we don’t do anything really well, but we do it together” relates to the mission, vision and values of CMS?

    I could be wrong, but your closing statement/reference “If you have to choose, community beats perfection.” seems to advocate that it’s okay for churches and ministries not to strive for excellence.

    If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be in competition with the objectives of Church Marketing Sucks—to help churches break out of the chains of poor marketing, design and overall communication.

    Again, I could be wrong. This post was a little trickier to follow with the excerpts from the article and your view of the article mixed together. But I do think it’s important that there is a clear closing message from you and/or CMS as a whole, as to your position on this kind of thinking.

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  • Carin L
    May 25, 2011

    Sigh….I think we can agree on the both/and….pursue excellence AND authenticity…find areas where people are gifted and encourage their growth….our excellence will still be far from perfect. BUT…what I think the greater message here is that in a world of 20,000 people packing into the dome in Houston, and thousands upon thousands flocking into the handful of mega-churches that put on a very excellent worship “show” where there’s minimal if any congregational (can you really call 20,000 a congregation?) participation…..there are people recognizing that the brokenness that Christ embraced is very much overlooked in the fog and lights of “excellent, and relevant” worship gatherings. It’s too consumeristic…it’s too much about what’s in it for the worshiper, and not enough about that person, a broken person, coming into community that is small enough where “everybody knows your name” to be known, encouraged, loved, and to worship and serve. THAT might be the thing that Nadia’s congregation DOES really well….while they’re working on the other stuff.

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