I am a fan of NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Towards the end of last season the main character, Leslie Knope, was running for councilwoman. In one particular episode Leslie goes bowling to win votes, particularly the vote of a guy named Derek that said he would not vote for her because she “doesn’t look like someone who bowls”. Leslie bends over backwards to get this guys vote. In fact she ignores every other vote in the bowling alley in the hopes of winning the vote that seems to be forbidden.
As I think about this episode I cannot help but wonder if we preachers might be guilty of this on occasion. Charles Spurgeon warned against something similar in his classic work Lectures to My Students. Spurgeon reminds young preachers to “not make minor doctrines main points” as well as to “not paint the details of the background of the gospel picture with the same heavy brush as the great objects in the foreground of it”.
I know that on occasion I have been guilty of doing this very thing. It can be tempting to spend a majority of your sermon trying to win over that guy that you know disagrees with your point. You become like Leslie Knope and have tunnel vision. Your attempting to win over those in the room that hold a contrary position on a minor point and so you spend an inordinate amount of time parsing secondary doctrinal issues.
Spurgeon reminds the preacher to keep the “godly widow woman, with seven children to support by her needle” in mind when you preach:
…if you preach to her on the faithfulness of God to his people, she will be cheered and helped in the battle of life; but difficult questions will perplex her or send her to sleep.
Spurgeon is not saying that we ought never to preach on things that may not be of immediate practical importance to the needle-worker. But he is saying that the greatest force of our preaching ought to be on announcing the good news of the gospel and not wading through, or creating, a theological quagmire.
Preacher, preach with the seamstress in mind and don’t worry so much about winning theological arguments from the pulpit.