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On “Preaching to the Choir”

While at a recent meeting, I agreed with somebody on a point and said, “You’re preaching to the choir.” She challenged me to find out what exactly that means and its origins.

Knowing what it means is easy: By preaching to the choir, you’re espousing some belief that your audience agrees with, so there won’t be any debate.

But where did it come from? According to,  the church choir stands behind the preacher singing hymns that express the church’s belief. When the preacher delivers a sermon, he’s hoping to reach the nonbelievers in the congregation, so he wouldn’t turn around and deliver the sermon to the choir.

It also seemed to have evolved from a similar saying, “preaching to the converted.” Nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote, “Dr. M’Cosh is preaching not only to a person already converted, but to an actual missionary of the same doctrine.” cites the Lima (Ohio) News in 1973 as the first recorded use of preaching to the choir: “He said he felt like the minister who was preaching to the choir. That is, to the people who always come to church, but not the ones who need it most.”

Until next time! Use the right words!


December 8, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

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