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How to use the word 'amen' wisely.
I love saying ‘amen’. What a fabulous word!
Recently converted, I observed how my brothers and sisters in the Lord said ‘amen’ as our pastor stressed certain points of his sermon.
Fast forward a few months and I found myself doing exactly the same.
- Pastor: Jesus is the Lord.
- Us: Amen!
- Pastor: Jesus has saved us by grace.
- Us: Amen!
- Pastor: Glory to God in the highest.
- Us: Amen!
I couldn’t stop saying ‘amen’! I was having a ball...
Nevertheless, when I went to hear Gloria Copeland (the other half of Kenneth Copeland) preach in Belfast back in April 2005, I was unable to utter a single ‘amen’. She gave us seven or eight principles from Deuteronomy about how to get rich.
Even though I was still a young believer, I knew something wasn’t right. I couldn’t say ‘amen’ even though all of those around me were amening everything Mrs. Copeland said.
Little by little I began to learn that you can’t say ‘amen’ to everything.
Now, what does the word ‘amen’ mean? The Heidelberg Catechism tells us that ‘amen’ signifies that “this is certain and true”. In other words, if I say ‘amen’ to any given statement, it means I assent to what is being said. Therefore, if something is not certain nor true, I should not respond by saying ‘amen’.
Another thing I’ve learnt over the years is that the word ‘amen’ has almost become a meaningless evangelical tradition. Many folk say ‘amen’ without ever thinking about what they are affirming. Here are some examples from my early preaching life:
- In a meeting I was explaining what Pantheism is all about. Whilst I taught the congregation saying: “Trees are god; rivers are god; everything is god!” one man in the assembly shouted out ‘amen’! I had to stop the message and inform the man that we can’t say ‘amen’ to such false statements. God isn’t a tree. He’s not a river. There is a qualitative distinction between the Creator and creation.
- In another meeting I once asked the church: “What is a Gentile?” Some responded by saying ‘amen’. So I pointed out that I hadn’t affirmed anything at all. I had merely asked a question.
These two real life examples show how we can say ‘amen’ so lightly without mentally processing what’s being taught. If we abuse the word ‘amen’, it turns into another “vain repetition” that characterizes the Gentiles who don’t know God (Matthew 6:7).
Nevertheless, in spite of a widespread abuse of the ‘amen’, I still think the term is quite useful. Here’s why:
1.- It helps us to interact with the sermon
Preaching isn’t monologue. There’s interaction in the sermon. When we say ‘amen’ we become active listeners. It proves we are using our minds, analyzing what the pastor is teaching us.
Sadly, the sacred art of listening to sermons has all but disappeared in our days. Instead of following the preacher’s line of thought, most people are just waiting for him to raise his voice or to share some word of testimony before uttering ‘amen’.
But we preachers are guilty here too. Isn’t it true that we tend to preach in such a fashion nowadays? Our preaching-style is off-balance if we aim at sensationalism rather than the Word of truth.
2.- It encourages the preacher
Hearing the odd ‘amen’ also does the preacher good. When he sees how the congregation is drinking in the message, it gives him a dose of joy. At the end of the day, what preacher goes into the pulpit to waste an hour of his time?
We preach because doctrine matters. We are persuaded that the welfare of the church depends upon the Word expounded. Consequently, when we see how our brethren rejoice in the Word, it lifts our spirits.
3.- It helps us to discern the spirits
Using ‘amen’ also helps us to test the spirits to see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). There are false teachers everywhere. When some visiting preacher shows up in our city, we have to be sure that what he preaches is from the Lord.
We can’t accept the spiritual authority of some speaker just because he’s appeared on some religious poster or has 10,000 followers on Facebook. He has to preach the Word of God, the Scriptures. Just because Gloria Copeland is a multi-millionaire and well-known throughout the States doesn’t mean that she preaches according to the Bible.
So, brethren, let’s use the word ‘amen’ sensibly and maturely. Don’t say ‘amen’ because somebody has lifted their voice. Say ‘amen’ because that person is preaching the blessed, inspired, infallible and inerrant Word of God faithfully.