Preaching to the Choir

Ephesians 2:11-22
Chances are, you know what it means to “preach to the choir.”

Preachers say that from time to time. It’s when they’re teaching something familiar to the church. “I know I’m preaching to the choir,” she’ll say. She doesn’t want you to think she thinks this is anything new. How can a pastor spend all week preparing for a sermon and come up with old news? Well, it’s good news, not new news.

I’m sure Jesus repeated himself a few times. We know the apostles did in Acts. It’s only new news if it’s new to you. If it is, you’re probably not in the choir yet. And that’s okay. If I use the preaching-to-the-choir bit, I follow up with a reminder: The choir needs Jesus, too!

Let’s not forget there’s always more to learn as we walk with God. Even the familiar lessons bring us closer to rediscovering the image of God within us.

So, we learn together.

When Paul defended his ministry in Acts 26, someone told him, “Too much study is driving you mad (Acts 26:24)! The writer of Ecclesiastes warns us that “there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). There is a danger of study, we see.

Beware if your love of God doesn’t precede your desire to learn the Bible. We can learn things about God for reasons that have nothing to do with our edification. For example, don’t take pride in reciting Bible verses while moonlighting as a gossip. 

Of course, none of that means we shouldn’t study or read more. Psalm 1 calls us blessed if we delight in the law and meditate on it day and night. Psalm 119–all 176 verses!–too, is an affirmation of knowing God’s wisdom. The new believer doesn’t read and learn to prepare for Bible quizzes. He does so to grow in grace and wisdom. When the preacher preaches to the choir, they need to know they should be growing in grace and wisdom, too. Maybe even more so. They’ve got new people to teach, guide and mentor!

Here’s where this is coming from. I love the book of Ephesians. It is the church’s great reminder of the cosmic love God implanted within us. That love saved us and called us.

The writer of Ephesians, traditionally considered to be the apostle Paul, says that Christ is our peace. That is, God didn’t save some people. God saved us all with the peace of Christ. Where there was once a barrier between us, the peace of Jesus has removed it. And here is the line that relates to what we’re reflecting on today: So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near (2:17).

Everyone needed to learn about God’s peace. Even the choir. Today, you and I, no matter how long we’ve been walking with God, need instruction and wisdom. May we never think we’re too advanced to not be inspired by God’s word.
Stay blessed…john

Back to Sunday School

Hebrews 6:1-12
I once asked someone to attend a new Bible study we were starting. Our church had wanted to make room for a new group of people to connect on Sunday mornings. When I asked this one saint, his response caught me off guard. I’m used to people telling me about their busy schedules. It’s hard to get the kids up that early. My favorite is, “Really, Pastor, Sunday is my day.”

Okay, Lord of the Sabbath.

Why didn’t this church member want to take the chance to learn the Bible? Simple. “I did Sunday School when I was younger,” he said. It wasn’t that he thought Sunday School was just for kids. I’ve heard that before. In his mind, he already graduated.

Time didn’t allow for us to go too much further in our conversation. I’d love to know what he thought Sunday School was. Did he think there was one Sunday School program to rule them all? That every time a class got together, they were reading and learning the same thing?

I don’t recall what the new class was going to focus on learning. Jesus, probably. My impression, though, was if it wasn’t the NFL, he wouldn’t be there.

Now, I do want to use that example in another way. What if he had been looking for a new group to join? Could it be, if he thought Sunday School was all the same review of Bible basics, that didn’t intrigue him because he had a firm grasp of such concepts?

If so, I wouldn’t blame him. Not every opportunity is for everyone.

I’m not sure I want to say that we’re too focused on the basics. But I do want to reflect on something we read in Hebrews 6.

The writer of Hebrews is seeking to encourage a group of Christians from falling away. In chapter 6, that includes the call to “go on toward perfection.” We do that by “leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ.” That sounds strange. Why would we want to move on from basic teachings about Jesus?

For the Hebrews audience, there seems to have been an emphasis on how Jesus connected to Judaism. For the congregation to move forward, they were going to need to look beyond that basic material. They didn’t need to forget it or lose it or even neglect it. But it was time to grow. Being in Christ meant so much more than they realized. Letting their faith mature would be part of the encouragement they needed. 

It’s like Math.

No, we may never need all we learned about advanced math, for example. But the processes we learn in mathematics help us learn to learn. We might not know what we could learn if we stuck with one plus one.

How God will encourage us won’t be obvious until we set out on an intentional walk with the Lord. We have a lifetime to grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus. But there needs to be a willingness to grow. There are always new levels of understanding and faithfulness. So, join a new Sunday School class or read a book. Whatever you do, keep growing!

Stay blessed…john