Simple Gifts

Preaching on the Tough Issues

During health-care reform efforts this summer, it was suggested that pastors preach on the topic. This sounds like such an easy and simple thing to do—if you are not a local church pastor! Preaching on hot-button issues is never easy.

I serve a church that has sought to welcome all people, including Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, rich and poor. Sixty percent of the congregation members are Republicans; 40 percent are Democrats. When preaching prophetic sermons, I’ve learned to ask myself if I merely want to irritate people, or truly influence them.

Congregants will leave church frustrated if they feel you took a complex subject, oversimplified it, made a “straw man” of their views, and then offered your political views under the guise of preaching scripture. Few change their minds as a result of these kinds of sermons.

If you actually want to influence people, it will take more than a simplistic sermon. Here are a few different approaches to addressing controversial issues with your congregation:

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Sojourners Magazine November 2009
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Tempted by an Apple

’Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’Tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves
in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love
and delight.

Elder Joseph Brackett penned these words to his famous Shaker dance song in 1848. They captured a way of life of a people who found joy in simplicity.

It has taken the near collapse of our economy to help us remember the truth of these words and to finally wake from a stupor in which we found ourselves addicted to consumption. Even most Christians (both good liberals and good conservatives) had subconsciously adopted a life mission captured by a single word: MORE (and its siblings “bigger,” “better,” and “cooler”).

My own persistent struggle with this was exemplified by my desire for the original iPhone. My old phone was nearing the end of its useful life, and I had been waiting anxiously for Apple’s new phone—it was smarter, better, and cooler than my old not-so-smart phone.

I went to the Apple Store on the day the new iPhone came out. I spent nearly an hour there trying to convince myself that Jesus needed me to buy an iPhone. With a battle raging in my heart and mind over whether I should plunk down $400 for this new phone, I walked to the counter. “Tell me once more about the iPhone’s features,” I begged. Finally I handed the clerk my credit card. And then it happened: My credit card was refused! This should have been impossible. I have great credit and the card is paid off monthly. Perhaps Jesus didn’t need me to have an iPhone after all! The clerk asked if I wanted to try another card. “No!” I replied and quickly left the store with a tremendous sense of relief.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2009
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
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