What’s the Problem with Preaching to the Choir?

Melissa Henderson

Contributing Writer
Published: Jan 16, 2023
What’s the Problem with Preaching to the Choir?

We've all heard warnings about "preaching to the choir," but are there times when it's necessary?

“You’re preaching to the choir.” Have you heard or read that expression? Maybe you were the one expressing those thoughts. What do those words mean? Is it an insult or a warning? Is there an actual choir to preach to? 

Scripture shares verses about preaching and choirs. How do they fit together?

What Does the Bible Say about Choirs?

A choir can be a group of singers in church, school, or a concert of various kinds. It might include a symphony, a jazz concert, a barbershop quartet, or a youth choir.

From the Old Testament to New Testament, choirs have important roles. Kings of Israel had various musicians for commemorating important events, especially for worshiping God. 

“For long ago in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.” (Nehemiah 12:46 NIV)

In dedicating the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites and people from other regions were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate with songs of thanksgiving. The Bible shares that after the priest and Levites had completed the purification ceremony, the people, gates, and walls were purified. They rejoiced because God had given them joy.

“At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres.” (Nehemiah 12:27 NIV)

The Bible also mentions choirs of singing angels and joyful sounds of people singing praises to God. Praises were given as the message that the Messiah had been born was shared to the shepherds in the field.

“Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14 NIV)

The New Testament book of Romans shares the hope and encouragement given in Scripture. The people were called to give thanks to God for giving them endurance.

“So that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:6 NIV)

How Do Preaching and the Choir Fit Together?

There were leaders and organizers of choirs in the Old Testament, and there are choir directors and leaders today. Just as clergy may decide what sermon to share, choir directors help decide which songs to offer during worship.

Organization and leadership are important in preaching and singing. There are people with the gift of preaching and others with the gift of singing. In some instances, people have both gifts. We can show the love and glory of God through singing and the spoken and written word. Some people are called to be choir directors, and others are called to be part of the choir.

Likewise, some are called to preach, and others are called to listen to the message.

Preaching can be defined as the delivery of a sermon or religious address. The phrase “preaching to the choir” adds a subtext to the action because when clergy preach a sermon, the words usually are not meant for the choir alone. The words are shared for everyone, not just the choir. Hence, “preaching to the choir” assumes something unusual is happening.

The words “you’re preaching to the choir” often mean the speaker is giving advice in a self-righteous way. Maybe you have heard someone tell another to stop “preaching” and simply give the facts during a conversation. Or perhaps the words “I don’t want to sound ‘preachy,’ but….” Delivering and receiving a message the correct way is vital to having a relationship with God.

Sometimes the words “You’re preaching to the choir” are shared in agreement with a statement. People may be acknowledging that they are aware of the situation and share the speaker’s views.

Are There Times That Preaching to the Choir Is a Good Thing?

When can preaching to the choir be a good thing? What if the message being shared is one that someone already knows and accepts? What if we need to have a difficult conversation with someone, so the best way to deal with the subject seems to be not saying anything?

When we need answers, going to God in prayer is the first step. Seek His answer according to His will. Pray before speaking.

We are not called to assume that everyone we encounter knows God. Sharing His message with others is the key to our own relationship with God.

Reading the Bible daily can give new insight into Scripture and how to apply those verses to life. We may read the same verses more than once and find new applications each time, depending on our current circumstances.

Therefore, sharing a message with believers who may already know the message can offer a new perspective. 

There may be sermons or Bible studies that you have heard or studied more than once. The message of God can provide wisdom, discernment, and revelation each time we read Scripture.

When Should We Stop Preaching to the Choir?

Our words and actions should shine the light of Christ to all. If we encounter a situation where we aren’t sure if continuing to speak or write about God, going to God in prayer can provide answers. Our goal is not to cause someone to stumble in their faith journey. We aim to help deepen the relationship between God and His children, including our relationship with God.

Sharing our faith can bring opportunities for learning and teaching. Perhaps you or someone you know has been nervous or uncertain about sharing their faith. Maybe the thought that difficult questions would arise and would be hard to answer and, therefore, keeping quiet might be the solution.

What happens when we encounter someone who doesn’t want to hear the gospel? What if the conversation turns to anger and resentment? Once again, we can pray and ask God for guidance to keep quiet at that moment or continue giving the message.

The person may say, “You’re preaching to the choir. You don’t need to tell me more.” Respecting the requests of others may lead to a conversation at another time. Pray and seek wisdom from God.

Why Is it Important to Seek Out Christians Who Disagree with Us?

Providing a message to those who don’t know God or for Christians who disagree with us can open the door to a relationship with God.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14 NIV)

Perhaps you know someone who disagrees with you about Christian doctrine or how things are being handled at church. Are we called to ignore those people? No. Being complacent can cause others to fall into spiritual issues. Are we called to be “preachy” and condescending? No. We are called to share His love with others through our words and actions, even if there is disagreement.

After Jesus had predicted Peter would deny Him, Jesus gave a new command to the disciples who had gathered together. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 NIV)

Sharing God’s message with other Christians who disagree with us holds the opportunity for spiritual growth for all. Remembering that there may be conflict in conversation and a time for quiet would offer the opportunity for another conversation at a different time helps to keep the line of communication with God open.

God’s children may not always agree, but there is always an opportunity to learn from Scripture and share God’s love.

A Prayer for Wisdom

Father, thank You for choirs and preachers. Give us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to listen. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Blessings,

Melissa Henderson

Photo Credit: Getty Images/bowie15

Melissa HendersonAward-winning author Melissa Henderson writes inspirational messages sometimes laced with a bit of humor. With stories in books, magazines, devotionals, and more, Melissa hopes to encourage readers. 

Melissa is the author of Licky the Lizard and Grumpy the Gator. Her passions are helping in the community and church. Melissa is an Elder, Deacon, and Stephen Minister. 

Follow Melissa on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and at http://www.melissaghenderson.com


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