By Joel A. Hess –
Most churches have that cute, little sign planted near the exit of their parking lot that tells parishioners, “You are now entering the mission field.” This reminder is founded on the faulty premise that the driver was not previously in the mission field as she sat in church, as if she has it all together. She’s saved. Now she needs to get more Christians, like Amway or any pyramid scheme business.
It’s tempting for pastors like myself to look down on preaching to the choir. They already “know it,” right? They need some tasks to complete. And what better task than to tell the done deal saved folk to go tell others or give them some other good works to do? The mission field is out there, right? Not in here!
Perhaps since the industrial revolution we have become attracted to assembly line processes. So we think of the Christian as if they are on an assembly line. First, they are saved. Then they are given tasks to do. Then they die or Jesus comes again. Lutherans, St. Paul, and the historic church reject the “once saved always saved” teaching, yet sometimes we preach like it’s true!
Yet, sitting in our choir of saved people is a young lady who had sex with her boyfriend and now deeply regrets it, wondering if she’s forgiven or still saved.
Next to her sings an old man who struggles with doubts about the resurrection and truly worries whether he will see his wife again.
A teenager is scared about his feeling of attraction toward the same sex, and a twice-divorced dad still wrestles with his regret of cheating on his wife and losing his kids.
The choir needs the simple infant Gospel just as much as the proclaimed atheist! Oh, for sure, they are saved, justified, born again. But they need to be saved again! No, not rebaptized or altar called, or treated as if they are unbelievers, but called to repentance and given forgiveness. They can’t live without it, really. The goal of every single sermon should not be to get people to go evangelize, but to evangelize those sitting right there—to kill those demons haunting the believer, to drown that old Adam, and to raise the dead and strengthen the Spirit.
Until our flesh is buried, even the strongest choir member needs to be continually evangelized. Until every doubt and sin lies 6 feet under, every Christian needs to be slain and raised regularly by the Good News of Jesus.
Of course, pastors should encourage the choir to share the good news, to do good works, to love their neighbor as themselves, but not at the expense of preaching Christ and Him crucified. God’s mission doesn’t end with us when we are claimed in Baptism. We aren’t once saved always saved. We are, however, once saved, always being saved!
Quite frankly, the body of Christ does their best at sharing the Gospel with their neighbors when they are regularly having the Gospel shared with them! We don’t tell others the Good News because we are told to; we tell it because we can’t shut up about it! The choir sings best when it’s excited about what it’s singing!