Jesus Came to Seek and Save…the Choir?

There are some idiomatic expressions we simply need to strike from the collective Christianese lexicon.

One such expression is preaching to the choir.

Have you ever thought about the message that is communicated with the expression preaching to the choir? The phrase is usually used in a context that means whoever you’re talking to already understands your argument, so there’s no need for you to continue it. Example: One stay-at-home mother says to another stay-at-home mother: “I just hate that people think we are lazy, or don’t do anything all day long.”  Odds are, the second mother already feels the same way, so she might respond that the first mother is preaching to the choir, communicating in essence: We believe the same way; no need to spell it out to each other.

That’s an innocuous enough context, but the expression itself has Christian roots. The implication is that the gospel needs to be preached out there, out in the street, where the sinners are, out in the world, where all those—gasp—secular people are. The members of the choir know the gospel. They even preach it themselves. It’s old news. Nothing to see or learn here. They’ve got it down pat. Stop preaching to the choir. The choir gets it.

But does the choir get it? I can’t remember the last time I was in a church service containing a choir-ful of perfect parish members. I think that’s because the last time was never. Choir members are sinners. Choir members have forgotten the message of the gospel. Choir members live in the secular world. Or, possibly worse, some choir members live immersed in Christian-only bubbles, where certain sins get disguised so well by an appearance of Christian behavior that they aren’t even recognized any longer as sin. Choir members have lied. Choir members have deceived. Choir members have gossiped, have coveted, have envied, have boasted, have adulterated, have—in short—sinned.

Choir members need the gospel just as badly as the secular world needs it. Let’s stop using this phrase to communicate implicit untruths about the church and Christianity.

I Had the Time of My Life

When I was a teenager navigating life and youth group, I had multiple volunteer youth workers tell me one of two things: Either I was currently living the best time of my life (so I needed to enjoy it), or I would very soon be living the best time of my life (once I got to college).

Either way, both messages were clear: Enjoy the present; enjoy your youth; the future is bleak.

I struggled with these messages because life as a teenager was already bleak. In retrospect, of course, it wasn’t. I had a home, loving parents, a roof over my head, and a meal at virtually any time of day I wanted. I lacked nothing, essentially.

But hindsight is 20/20, and I was a teenager. I had teenage crises. Conflicts with friends were disasters. Breakups were apocalyptic. Acne was life-stopping. Fashion, trends, and fitting in were all important. Life was hectic, hormones raged, emotions were fragile. And that’s from a white, middle-class perspective.

I never dealt with poverty; with divorce; with addiction; with teen pregnancy; with bullying (cyber or otherwise); with death or separation from family members; with hunger; with learning disabilities; with psychological disorders; with racial biases; with sexual orientation questions; or with the numerous other actually tragic circumstances that some teenagers unfortunately encounter.

As an adult pushing toward my thirties, I realize now that those volunteer youth workers had no idea what they were talking about. They were still kids themselves, who hadn’t turned thirty yet, who had just emerged from the last vestiges of adolescent co-dependence into adulthood, and who had become disillusioned by the real world of bill-paying and working and providing for themselves. But I didn’t know that as a teenager, so their statements carried supreme wisdom accompanied by ultimate doom and hopelessness.

Many youth workers are young, fresh out of college, and still figuring out the nuances of adult life. Among ourselves, we know that. But our teens do not. They see us as authority figures on life and faith. They have no idea what personal and professional disappointments or failures or setbacks we’ve faced. Let’s not project our own shortcomings and insecurities onto our teenagers. No matter what has been true for us, shouldn’t we always—if for no other reason than because of the faith we profess and teach—communicate a message of hope to the teenagers we lead?


Did your teens have to miss NYC 2011 because of cost? Or maybe you were able to make the trip but unable to purchase all the accompanying product? Either way, we want to reward a lucky youth minister working with a small budget. Today’s giveaway is A World Unbroken: Group Experience. The group experience contains everything you need to put the words and lessons from NYC 2011 into action. Take your teens through this 180-day journey. Warning: Not for commitmentphobes.


MLB’s Mike Matheny: Servant Leadership

The church is a common context in which to hear the term servant leadership. Pastors are told all the time how important it is to their ministries to be servants first, to lead by serving, and to remain humble in their leadership positions. We hear this so often in the church we’re probably numb to the idea.

Somewhere you might not expect to hear the concept of servant leadership discussed is Major League Baseball. Most of what we hear out of that world revolves around selfishness and greed. Winning and money are the two all-important end goals for most of the people who make their living in Major League Baseball.

But Mike Matheny, the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, has adopted a servant-leadership model in his clubhouse rule. Check out this article about him. It’s an interesting perspective you don’t often see coming out of the world of professional sports.

Did you read it? So what do you think? If Major League Baseball can do it, surely the church can view it in a new light to keep an old concept from getting tired. Right?