No. 591



Every once in a while, when I am really animated and talking with someone about a subject I really believe in, this person will stop me and say, "You are preaching to the choir."

In our church services, almost every Sunday during the pastor's sermon, he will turn around and direct his comments to members of the choir sitting behind him. This is the normal and most applicable use of the term, and I'm sure you have heard this saying before, but here is the good news. You don't have to be a preacher to preach to the choir. There is much broader meaning, and if you will invest a few minutes of your time, I would like to share some positive thoughts along these lines.

In a sense, regardless of the subject, we are preaching to the choir when we are talking with others who believe almost or exactly as we do. This is not all bad. In fact, it's vital for success. If the cause is right and just, and will have a real impact on our society, the fires of enthusiasm will grow dim or even go out if left unfanned for a long period of time. Why do you think churches and other organizations hold regular meetings each week? It's so those who share a common goal will stay on the same page.

The Bible admonishes us to "Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together," and one of the reasons is to keep the fires of enthusiasm for our faith burning brightly. One of the best examples I have ever heard along these lines is about the pastor who went to see a member that had not been in church for several weeks. After chatting for a few minutes, and this member giving every excuse he could think of for not attending, the pastor walked over to the open fireplace and pulled a hot coal off by itself. Pretty soon it began to go out. After a few more minutes, this member said, "I'll be there Sunday."

But back to the subject, are you preaching to the choir? If all we do is talk with those who think exactly as we do, we are not making much progress. I'm pleased to say that the vast majority of letters, phone calls and e-mails, in relation to this column are very positive and complimentary, but occasionally someone will really take me to the woodshed and rake me over the coals. To be sure, I do make mistakes, and when I learn about them I apologize and do my best to set the record straight.

There are times however, when it's just a difference of opinion. If I feel I am right, I don't mind taking a stand for what I believe in and will state this in very clear terms. In cases like this, I usually say, "We can just agree to disagree, but I will always respect you and your right to think and believe as you choose." I'm not sure that I have ever changed anyone's mind, but at least we have the opportunity to have an honest dialogue. In these cases, I am not preaching to the choir, and that's the whole point.

To my way of thinking, in each case where there is a difference of opinion, the guiding principle should always be, is it the truth? While it's not always easy, we should be willing to throw our most cherished beliefs and opinions into the trash can, if we can find something that is closer to the truth. Over time, truth is the only thing that will stand. Those in our society who are dishonest, unethical and immoral may think they are getting away with something, but when they least suspect it and can ill afford it, the truth will come to light.

When it comes to preaching to the choir, we should strive to make sure our cause is just and right and will stand the test of time. We should always strive to be kind to those who may disagree with us, because if we are right, we don't need to do anything that would create a barrier that would prevent us having fellowship in the future. As I have said many times before, I am far from perfect, but I do love people and I love our country. ---

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")