Perhaps it happened this past week during your pastor’s sermon. Did you hear your pastor apologize for “preaching to the choir” during his sermon? Far too often preachers apologize when in all reality every pastor is called to preach to the choir.
If a pastor dares to “preach to the choir” in many churches, he begins to feel pressures from the “power players” to tone down his message. That phrase “preaching to the choir” carries the meaning that a preacher is now directing his message to the core of the church – the most committed within the congregation. Isn’t that exactly what pastors are called to do? Why must preachers apologize for laboring a point, ministering the Word, caring for souls, and working hard at discipleship?
If a pastor approaches his sermon with the mindset that he will be merely preaching to the choir, he is guilty of assumption and that is extremely dangerous in pastoral ministry. Pastors cannot assume that the church knows the truth, and in many cases, knows the true gospel. Therefore, it’s vitally important for pastors to preach faithfully without assuming that everyone is on the same page theologically.
Pastors Watch Over Souls
According to Hebrews 13:17, pastors are called to be shepherds of souls. The pastor is not a talking head for Sunday religious commentary. The pastor is not a religious politician. The pastor is not called to be the Sunday morning comedian. According to Hebrews 13:17, your pastor will stand and give an account to God for how he cared for your soul. If he is made to feel that he cannot preach to the choir and that all of his attention must be directed and devoted to the unbeliever while preaching to a predominately Christian audience – that would be unprofitable for the entire church. How will the church grow and mature in the faith if the pastor is not preaching specifically to the people within the church?
Pastors Confront Sin
Paul’s final words to young Timothy were pointed and reassuring at the same time. As Timothy was laboring within the Ephesian context of ministry, it was a difficult setting in a difficult city full of difficult people. Paul sent Timothy these words:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,  and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
It is not the job of your pastor to make you feel good every Sunday. It’s not your pastor’s duty to make you laugh out loud in every sermon. The duty of your pastor is to preach God’s Word to you, and if in his preaching you are not made to feel uncomfortable at some point due to your sin, he isn’t doing his job. The process of reproving people of sin and placing a spotlight upon error is never an easy job for a pastor nor is it a pleasing process for the church, but it’s absolutely essential to the health and vitality of the church as a whole. The church that’s left to consume sin and sit under preaching that’s theology-lite and lacking a confrontation of sin will lead people to become moralistic and happy, but they will not be holy. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his well known book, Preaching and Preachers, writes, “The business of the preacher is not to medicate symptoms, it is to treat the disease.” 
Pastors Lead People to Sanctification
The pastor’s main job and duty is centered upon caring for sheep. In short, the pastor is to spend the majority of his time with the sheep, leading the sheep, feeding the sheep, and protecting the sheep. The pastor is called to a sheep ministry – not a goat ministry, therefore his sermons should be directed to the sheep – not the goats. Although it is the duty of the pastor to do the work of an evangelist, that work is primarily done outside of the church worship setting. His primary objective on the Lord’s day in his preaching is to lead the people toward holiness. Andrew Bonar once said, “A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hands of God.” 
Paul’s words to the church at Galatia in his letter speak volumes of truth regarding the pastor’s desire to see the church growing in holiness. He writes, “my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Galatians 4:19)! The goal of every pastor should be to see Christ formed in the lives of his people. That’s his heart, his prayer, and his intent in preaching.
Consider the danger of a sin bloated church. When a church consists of people who are not pursuing sanctification, it dishonors Christ. For a pastor to direct all of his time and attention to the lost in his preaching is to abandon his post as a pastor. Psalm 23 is a wonderful picture of the shepherding role of God and it’s literally the backbone of what pastoral ministry looks like within the church. The shepherd leads and guides, but he also has a staff for protection and correction. The pastor that does not lead the church to sanctification has missed the point of pastoral ministry.
The next time you hear your pastor apologize for preaching to the choir, take time to thank him for preaching to the choir. Take time to thank him for caring for your soul. Take time to express your appreciation for a corrective application to his preaching. It’s good for you, for the church, and for your pastor that he labors in his preaching with joy. You may not think you need it, but your pastor is called to preach to the choir. You need it. The church needs it.
Hebrews 13:17 – Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 145.
- Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne (Carlisle, PA.: The Banner 1 of Truth Trust, 2004), 282.
This year I have set in motion some resolutions that need to be revisited in my spiritual life. Feel free to join me in this set of spiritual resolutions for the glory of God!1. Reread the Bible in 2008 (more than one time).2. Reread the Abstract of Principles – The oldest confessional document of the Southern Baptist Convention.3. Reread Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan.4. Reread Preaching and Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.5. Revisit Greek and Hebrew memory cards in order to sharpen my vocabulary.Although this may seem like a short list, it is added to the pile of other “to do” things of 2008. It seems that all Seminary students compile quite a listing of things to read and to accomplish once they graduate – and I am not an exception to that rule. It is my prayer that 2008 will be a year of wonderful spiritual advancement in my life and ministry for the glory of God!Rev. Josh Buice
For children, graduating from kindergarten can be a real big deal. The child has a little ceremony, and their parents, like proud peacocks, surround them with cameras and take a multitude of pictures in order to document the entire milestone event! The most difficult time for the child is when they realize that there is more to this “school” thing than coloring books and playgrounds. When the child realizes that real books will replace the coloring books, and test time will replace playground time – it can be a real shock!The Christian goes through a similar experience following salvation. For instance, the Christian goes through a transformation process at the moment of salvation. Often times, the Christian is presented before the church as a candidate for membership until they are baptized and fulfill any membership requirements. Following this announcement, people file down the aisles and begin to shake the new convert’s hand welcoming him or her into the family of God, and even telling the new Christian how much they have been praying for him or her through the years. Then all at once, the swarm of people are gone, the lights are being turned off, the sanctuary is empty, and the Christian walks out the door of the church building into a world that hates God, hates the Church, and hates the Word of God. What now? Will the Christian be able to survive in that type of environment of hostility and temptation on the mere experience of salvation itself? In the words of the King James version – “God Forbid!” There is more to the Christian life than the initial faith experience of salvation.In 2 Peter 1, Peter addresses the same group of people he addressed in his first epistle. However, in this epistle, the Apostle warns of the attack that will come from within the church rather than from outside of the church as it did in the previous letter. The attack Peter warns about is the attack of damnable heresies and false teachers who spread their heresies. Therefore, Peter starts off by describing the salvation of the true believer and their initial faith experience, then he turns to a seven part listing of sanctification that must take place in the believer’s life in order to be a mature Christian who is ready for the coming attacks. In other words – it is time to grow up Christian – it is time to graduate from the “kindergarten-Christianity” and move on to a more mature Christian faith!Today’s Tragedy: ImmaturityOne of the greatest tragedies today is the fact that many older saints in the church claim to have been saved 30 or even 40 years ago, but they have never graduated from the “kindergarten” level of Christianity. Many of these saints are supposed to be the backbone of the church. We would expect them to be leaders and examples in their Christian lives, but all too often they are lacking in the basic building blocks of the Christian life and are among the most immature saints in the church! What a tragedy!Peter’s Advice: Grow-Up Christian!Peter instructs his readers to “add to” their faith supply seven important virtues of the Christian faith. These seven things are essentials to becoming a mature Christian who possesses assurance and victory in their Christian life.1. Virtue = Moral excellence. This can be known as Christian strength or vitality. According to MacArthur, “It was such a lofty term that it was used for moral heroism, viewed as the divinely endowed ability to excel in heroic, courageous deeds. It came to encompass the most outstanding quality in someone’s life, or the proper and excellent fulfillment of a task or duty (MacArthur – 2 Peter & Jude p.40).”2. Knowledge = Basic knowledge of doctrine and duty. Many times Christians lack knowledge because of a lazy attitude toward studies of Holy Scripture. When the preacher uses a word like “election” or “hypostatic union of Christ” the Christian may not understand, but rather than searching out the subject, they quit and never discover the meanings of such words and phrases. This attitude leaves the Christian in a state of anemic Christianity. Peter says – “add to” your initial faith experience – knowledge!3. Temperance = Self control. How often do Christians lack self-control? Peter says, “add to” your faith – self control.4. Patience = Patience / endurance. The Christian must be willing to endure through trails, temptations, and the learning curve that comes with Christianity. Peter says, “add to” your initial faith experience – patience.5. Godliness = Reverence for God. If anyone should have a true reverence for God it is the child of God! However, the lack of reverence has spilled over from society into the Church. The heart of the matter centers on Godliness. Without Godliness – none of these other attributes will fall into place. Therefore, for the Christian to grow properly – a proper reverence for God must be in place. Peter says, “add to” your faith – Godliness.6. Brotherly Kindness = Kindness toward your fellow brother and sister in Christ. Unfortunately, many churches are full of people who are mad at one another and these individuals treat each other with a serious lack of respect. This attitude is not becoming of a Christian. Therefore, Peter says, “add to” your faith – brotherly kindness.7. Charity = Love. Peter says that the Christian should possess love toward others. The Christian should show love toward fellow Christians and the others within the world who are outside of the family of God. Love is essential! Peter says, “add to” your faith – love.It is time the Christians of our day take to heart the message of 2 Peter 1:5-11. A closer look at these verses will reveal that the mature Christian will possess assurance of salvation. However, the one who does not “add to” their faith – will be as one who is blind and cannot see far off – and has forgotten they were purged from their old sins.Fellow Christian – it is time to graduate from the entry level of Christianity. It is time to move past the “kindergarten” level into a more mature faith. Will it be easy? No! Peter uses the word “diligence” two times in this passage. Therefore, press on Christian – be diligent – never give up. May we seek to obey these words from Peter in order to become better Christians for our Lord!For the glory of our God!Rev. Josh Buice