Reformed Baptist Fellowship

On the Pleasures of Preaching to the Choir

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on April 13, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I imagine you’ve all heard the critical phrase, preaching to the choir.  The idea is that you are preaching to people who already agree with you.  Some years ago I began to have a slightly different and liberating take on that phrase.  I learned to preach exclusively to my church, to the people of God under my care, to the people who were sitting under my ministry.    I realized that there were times in my ministry when I would be critical of other churches and other ministries who had no representatives in my congregation.  They did not hear me and most likely never would hear my criticisms and suggestions at how they needed to change.  The end result was not so much faithfulness in exposing false teaching, but rather making ourselves look good.  At some point or other I had a bit of an epiphany that I needed to stop preaching to people who weren’t there and start addressing those who were.   It probably struck me one day when I was preaching about people who are not committed to the life of the church, when the only people who were there were those who were committed to the life of the church!  Those who are not under our ministries are easy targets.  They do not listen to me.  They’ll probably never hear a word I say.  Hence, they do not get offended.  I can be seen as faithful and bold in my denunciations of sins which are not prevalent in my congregation (I rarely have homosexuals or pro-abortionists in my congregation).  It is not that sins brought up in the text ought not to be addressed; it is that they ought to be addressed with special application to “the choir.”   It is this “choir” for whom I will give an account.  It is this “choir” who need my encouragements and my exhortations and, when needed, my rebukes.   For pastors to preach effectively, we must not only seek to know our culture and the world out there, but those who are actually hearing our voices.  Our congregation is made up of a mixture of white collar and blue-collar types.   We range from PhD’s to high school dropouts.  I preach to a lot of home-schooling moms and children who are generally obedient and well behaved.    To rail against feminism and MTV may seem brave, but it is not ministering my particular flock.  I preach to people who, in the main, strive to please God and are faithful to Him. I must not address them otherwise.  Where are they hurting, where are they struggling, what hope, or prodding to they most need?   How do I apply this week’s text to them in their setting at this time?   The answers to those questions are most apt to be found as we love the people of God and are among them.  It is more likely to be found over lunch with a brother or by having a family over for a meal on the Lord’s Day than by reading the trendiest blogs or following the newest theological sensation.  It may seem strange to say that our preaching will improve by getting out of the study, but I believe it will be prove to be the case.  So to my pastor friends-let’s preach to that choir!

James Savastio
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville
  1. One of the differences in the distinction that Pastor Savastio makes is to be found in the hearts of the “choir” while under the ministry of the Word. Under the one kind of preaching the “choir member” may go home and gleefully say over lunch, ‘boy our pastor really let the bad guys have it today’. Under the other kind of preaching that same member may silently meditate on the fact that the LORD really got to ME today.

  2. Excellent and timely wisdom Pastor James — thank you for this!

  3. Amen, Pastor Jim and Bob!

    Bob noted: “Under the one kind of preaching the ‘choir member’ may go home and gleefully say over lunch, ‘boy our pastor really let the bad guys have it today’. Under the other kind of preaching that same member may silently meditate on the fact that the LORD really got to ME today.”

    That is so, so true in my own life!! I of course still have far to go, but I too can say this is liberating as one who sits under this ministry. That’s because it humbles me instead of feeding my pride! I know there’s a time and place for polemics, but not too long ago I realized I had been reading the Word and focusing on what it doesn’t mean rather than on what it does mean.

    Pastor Jim made a point in Sunday School not too long ago about how, if there was a moratorium on Christian blogging that said we couldn’t criticize any of our brethren, there’d be tumbleweed blowing through the Internet.

  4. […] a comment » Jim Savastio suggests that we should pursue just this, and delight in doing […]

  5. Thanks for the wise words, Jim.

  6. A different emphasis than much of historic Puritan thought but relevant to today.

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