How I almost made our church be one of the churches slamming the door on Jen Hatmaker (and why slamming doors reminded me to keep ours open).

Friends, we’re minutes away from Jen Hatmaker and Nichole Nordeman’s sold-out evening show, Moxie Matters, at Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church where I serve as Associate Pastor. The matinee was a blast and I’m excited for tonight. What a pleasure it was to meet Jen, Nichole, and their team. The 600-person matinee audience shared laughter, tears, stories, and songs. The evening audience will do the same, and with just as much moxie! I’m always amazed at the vulnerability, hope, and community that is shared in that magnificent sanctuary.

I also want to share this article I wrote for our church’s newsletter this month. It shares a little about how I almost said “No” what’s clearly an amazing event. I’m going to offer you my vulnerability and tell you this story. May my teachable moment be a teachable moment for how we all stop divisiveness, practice inclusion, and build God’s kingdom of love. Thanks for stopping by, Dear Reader. If you’re new, thanks for subscribing and sharing.

-nm

Originally published the in Inspire magazine for Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church:

Moxie Matters Tour

I’m proud of this church for walking with people on their faith journeys. Each of us has our own unique spiritual path to find and to follow. No one’s journey is without obstacles, nor is anyone’s better than another’s, and dare I say I don’t think we’ll ever be “done” seeking God. Here’s a vulnerable moment I recently had on my
journey as one of your pastors.

On February 20, Hennepin will host the “Moxie Matters” tour featuring bestselling Christian author Jen Hatmaker and singer/songwriter Nichole Nordeman. It’s going
to be a big one, friends—the evening show in the Sanctuary sold out in less than two days, and the matinee is on its way to a sell-out, too. I’m proud we’re hosting this tour. However, that’s not where I started. When Jen’s tour team reached out to Hennepin to ask if we would serve as a tour stop venue, I admit I was hesitant. True, I knew Jen’s message more by reputation than by my own reading, but the reputation that preceded her didn’t immediately suggest her message would be in line with Hennepin’s mission. Her following was strongest within evangelical circles. This gave me pause. How would her tour play out with the community at Hennepin?

Her books have been used by small groups in hundreds of churches, and Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life hit #2 on the New York Times Bestseller List. Nonetheless, my hunch was most Hennepin members haven’t read Jen’s work. Given our last year of reading books together by the likes of Brian McLaren, Rachel Held Evans, and Marcus Borg, I figured we might
not necessarily see a lot of cultural or theological crossover from those writings to Jen’s. With these thoughts in mind, I reached out to Jen’s tour team to learn more.

Her team listened to my concerns and walked with me as I talked about missional alignment. They offered insight into what the “Moxie Matters” tour content would be. We had good talk, but I still felt hesitant. Then, I got bold. I asked if I could speak with Jen directly to hear from her and, bless them, they said yes. In preparation
for our conversation, I did some research. Turns out, Jen Hatmaker has had quite the year.

Moxie Matters Jen and Nichole

Do an online search for her name and you’ll find Jen Hatmaker vilified by evangelical circles after her recent comments on hotbutton topics, including same-sex marriage
and the mixing of politics and Christian faith. If some people are concerned Jen isn’t “progressive enough,” they have been drowned out by the tidal wave of angry,
hate-filled ramblings dismissing her, dropping her, slamming the door on her. Church communities are no longer letting her speak in their sanctuaries. Christian bookstores are dropping her books. Longtime fans are turning their backs.

It’s appalling how quickly a whole movement of Christians appears to
have simply rejected her for shifting theologically or politically from where
they stand on the spiritual spectrum. That’s when I realized I had done
something similar. I’d dismissed Jen by her reputation, one I wasn’t
necessarily informed about firsthand I was considering closing our doors to
her without hearing her story. And all mixed up in that was my valuing my
place in the journey more than hers. Where was I leaving room for Jen to
discover her way to God? I wasn’t. Jen and I had a wonderful conversation.
I am honored she took the time to speak with a pastor from Minnesota
about his “concerns.” I am blessed to hear her story. And I’m humbled to
see where I could have done better. As we ended our conversation, I told her
what was on my heart: I respect your journey, I am not your judge, and I
can’t dismiss anyone for being where they are on their spiritual path. What
these other churches are doing is petty and wrong. They’re slamming their
doors to you. And our church does not slam its doors on people. We will
gladly host you.

Of Mess and Moxie

I tell you this story as a reminder that we are all seeking our way forward,
and we are walking with each other along the way. Sometimes there is a
gap between something we value and something we practice. I almost didn’t
practice something I deeply believe. Maybe you’ve experienced something
similar.

I’m looking forward to February 20 so I can hear Jen’s story in person. She’ll
speak to 1,000+ people about getting through the mess of life with moxie
and Jesus. She’ll talk about the year she’s had. She’ll talk about her journey
and encourage us to do the same. And I’ll do what our church does when we
are at our best: I’ll listen and walk with her, as Jesus would do for any of God’s
children.

Friends, the divide will only continue to grow if we let it continue to grow. Jesus conquers the divide, mends that brokenness, brings people to the table, and says, “Let’s eat.” My hope is I practice what I preach better, and I believe God’s hope is we all do that a little better, too. 

5 Comments

  1. I disagree with you with my reason being that God created man and woman to be husband and wife. No where in the Bible does God refer to a man and a man as a marriage couple, nor a woman and a woman. It grieves my heart to think that Christianity refuses to stand for what the Bible teaches. I think many would like to just lose parts of the Bible.

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    1. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Pam. I think you and I may simply read and interpret scripture and the cultural context around it differently and that’s okay. I don’t, however, think that sort of difference is a good enough reason to justify the vilification and repulsive treatment Jen has received over the last year for having a difference in opinion. That, to me, is unChristian.

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  2. Thank you for hosting us in your beautiful church last night. I was truly moved by your inclusive and humble message, the graciousness of your volunteers and the missions your church serves. Your humor wasn’t bad, either. 🙂 Even though you are located much further away than our neighborhood church, I plan to bring my family to visit and believe they will feel the happiness and hope I did last night. Thank you again, it was a wonderful night.

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    1. Thank you for coming, Angie, and I hope you had a good experience. I definitely did, what a great show! Come by any time and when you do, don’t be a stranger!

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  3. I love your bigger idea of sitting at the table as each one of us wrestles with our journeys with God. It’s so missing in this day and age of the us/them mentality. Thank you!

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