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.