It is a most remarkable word. In fact, it’s called the best known word in human speech. It was transliterated directly from Hebrew to New Testament Greek. It then made its way to Latin and, eventually, to English and numerous other languages. This simple little two syllable word, practically speaking, is universal. Speak it virtually anywhere on earth and hearers will know what you mean.
What is this ubiquitous utterance? Let me give you a few hints:
- It was passed along from the Jewish synagogues to Christian worship.
- It was spoken by worshippers to indicate a desire to make the substance of a prayer or Scripture reading his own.
- It was spoken by Jesus, often in tandem, to underscore the veracity of a statement to follow.
- It was used to express solemn ratification or hearty approval.
- It is an expression of absolute trust and complete confidence.
Well, no doubt, you have guessed it by now. The word is: Amen!
While this word has a rich spiritual heritage and significance, it is, in many places an endangered species. I recently read a tongue-in-cheek article suggesting ways to “get rid of a preacher.” Number one on the list: Sit up front, smile, and say, “Amen!” every time he says something true and good. How would this result in the preacher’s demise? Simple: He will preach himself to death! Actually, I do know preachers who’ve been so startled by an “Amen!” they forgot their point.
The prolific practice of saying “Amen!” is vanishing. It should, however, be restored. Please don’t misunderstand. This is no fishing expedition designed to elicit compliments or agreement. Most ministers I know receive ample appreciation for their efforts in the pulpit. I’m grateful for the encouragement; but, this is not the point. In fact, the minister who seeks to please men rather than God is treading on thin ice! (See: 2 Timothy 4:1-5.)
The point is simple: “Amen’s” need to be spoken wherever Christians assemble to worship, because it is a Bible-based practice. This is powerfully demonstrated in both the Old and New Testament. While it is not always the case, it is often associated with holy convocations or corporate worship. One dramatic example is in Moses’ solemn instructions concerning the dedication of the people of God upon entering the Promised Land. (See: Deuteronomy 27.) Moses actually instructed the people to respond “Amen!” to every single warning uttered by the Levites!
In addition to the foregoing rationale, there are many practical benefits to restoring this practice. A couple of these are:
#1) The individual worshipper is benefited…
First, by publicly claiming the truth of God’s word as his/her own. The root word “Amen” is often translated, “So be it.” By saying “Amen,” worshippers personally affirm the truth being taught. Second, the individual is benefited by proclaiming the truth to others. The verbal affirmation of truth is a ratification of the message. No doubt, there have been occasions in which visitors have wondered if anyone besides the preacher believes the message being proclaimed. By expressing “Amen” worshippers are participants in the preaching, not just spectators!
#2) The corporate worship experience is enhanced…
“Amen’s!” enable us to fulfill a key purpose of our assembling, which is the “strengthening of the church” (1 Corinthians 14:26). What a powerful statement of faith it is when the church voices a hearty “Amen!” following a prayer! What an incredible impact the “Amen’s” have in the lives of our young people as the truth of God’s word is reinforced by a chorus of “Amen’s!” What an unquantifiable confirmation it is for those who are seeking the Lord to hear “Amen’s” reverberating throughout the auditorium when the pure Gospel of Christ is preached!
So, if saying “Amen!” is a vanishing practice where you regularly worship, why not do your part to reverse the trend? It really is a practice which should be restored. “Amen?”
© Bill Williams
November 28, 2005