Take Two

Let’s try again. Maybe yesterday’s post was buried in all the sports stuff there at the beginning.

I’m sincerely seeking some comments and a conversation here on why we don’t say “Amen” more in our Christian assemblies. Is this a Church of Christ thing? Or is this a white suburban thing? Is it something we used to do all the time and don’t anymore? Or have we never been a people to verbally participate as a congregation in the things that are said from the front?

What’s the deal?

If you participate verbally in the assemblies, why? If you don’t, why not? Do you feel like that’s an individual thing or a congregational thing? If you want to say “Amen” but don’t, why? How do you feel when others around you say “Amen” during a prayer or sermon or after a song or Scripture reading?

I’m really interested in our assemblies being participation events instead of spectator events. So we’re doing much more as a congregation together. That’s why we invite the whole church to jump up on the stage and surround a person being baptized and read the Colossians 3 blessing together. That’s why we’re trying to involve the congregation more in our baby blessings, affirming to the parents and the new child that we take the role of helping pass the faith on to this new child seriously. I’d like to see us, together as a congregation, affirm to new members our love and support to them when they place membership. We’re working in that direction right now. I certainly see our communion time together becoming more and more interactive and participatory. That will probably take a lot more time and teaching.

But let’s start the conversation with this simple little curiosity. Why don’t we say “Amen?”

Click the red “comments” line in the upper right hand corner of this post and let’s go.

 Peace,

Allan

5 Comments

  1. Caleb Courtney

    Its definitely not a suburban thing. In the booming metropolis of Brownwood/Early we do not often hear the “Amen.” When I preached for the Chandler Road Church of Christ in Muskogee, OK for 4 months they were not “ameners” either. Except for one man, who anytime he liked something would vociferously shout, “Aa-men”, this was such a break from the norm that it often startled me and threw me off track. But I loved it. I couldn’t help but say thank you in the middle of my sermon everytime he said it. It was so encouraging for me as the speaker to know SOMEONE out there was listening and the words that I had prepared, prayed over, and committed to memory were resonating with, at least in his view, the word of God.

    I think we don’t say amen because we are church of Christ. While we are experiencing a form of “global warming” in the way in which we worship it is a slow thaw. It has just been in my lifetime that we began clapping after baptisms. Until recently, standing for the invitation song was as participatory as our worship has been.

    We also (speaking in generalization) don’t want to look like we are trying to look like we are religious. We as a brotherhood have eschewed outward signs of our faith, especially in the assembly. Its the reason we are so hesitant to raise our hands in song or during a prayer, despite biblical example. Its why we balk at clapping.

    It may be a “white” thing. (speaking culturally rather than racially) Listen to Arnelious Crenshaw’s sermons online sometime http://www.40thavechurchofchrist.com/40AudioSermons/page2.html
    They certainly respond with: “amens,” “that’s right,” and “yes sir!”

    I am sorry for the long reply but I appreciate and say Amen to your thoughts and longings for a more involved people; not just in worship, but in every facet of our daily walk. I pray this conversation will be fruitful. I don’t thing were bound by the amen, but with so much precedence, both scriptural and historical, why not?

    Last thing: would the second attempt equate to you going for a “two point conversion?” 😉

  2. Jesse

    Just one person’s observation – I think we hold back in worship b/c we’re afraid to embrace emotion in worship, and also afraid of what others will think / say / do / react, etc. At least, that has by MY struggle. After getting over a lot of that (more to go still), my question is: how can we NOT be emotional, at least a little, about salvation, grace, heaven, God, eternity, etc.? If heaven is going to be devoid of emotion and feelings, like joy, happiness, peace, gladness, then why would anyone want to be there? When it clicked in my heart, when it pierced my soul a few years ago that my salvation is totally, TOTALLY, because of Jesus, it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks…and I cried like a baby…for hours. How else should we react to God’s grace?

    And it’s also a matter of practice, or lack of. We’re not in the habit of engaging in worship, so it’s a little weird to fully engage…at least at first. I verbalize “Amen” regularly, and am so encouraged when I hear others verbalizing it as well. Same for raising a hand in song or prayer, kneeling, or any other thing we do to give ourselves over in worship to God.

    More recently, I’ve been convicted to kneel more often, during prayer, and especially for communion time. This is easier now, since we have little more pew room in the new worship center. At any rate, the first time or two…admittedly, a bit awkward. Now, no more. I am COMPELLED to kneel before God at such sacred times. It has become, FOR ME, the right thing to do on several occasions. It’s the little bit I can offer back to Him…a broken Spirit and my heart.

    It’s very encouraging to see others engage in worship in similar ways, and I cannot tell you how many times others have come to me to say they are encouraged by watching me / us / our row worship fully, or how many times I’ve told others the same. It’s a mutual thing. And it even carries me through the week. My mind is filled with visual and mental images of several of my brothers and sisters engaged in fervent worship, and these images recall to my mind periodically throughout the week. They encourage me well past Sunday.

    Mission Sunday this year was such an example. I was completely engrossed in worship, and stood up spontanesously for Shine, Jesus Shine. The words “flood the nations with grace and mercy” spoke so clearly, that day, to our focus on missions, and carried even more meaning as the Singles prepared for our mission trip to Honduras. A thought flew threw my mind the moment I stood up…”oh no, WHAT did I just do??”. Mason, God bless my best friend, stood up with me so I wouldn’t be standing alone. I noticed a handful of others stand as well, and was told several of the Singles stood up in the rows behind us. After that moment though, I really wasn’t paying attention, b/c the Spirit was at work and I was worshipping.

    By the end of the song, I was overwhelmed with encouragement at what our mission really is and needs to be. I was shaking a bit, mostly from the power of the worship, and honestly, a bit too out of concern over the kind of reaction having stood up would stir. You probably remember that day too…the Spirit blew us all out of the water. You called it “That thing God does”, or something like that.

    I cannot tell you how many people came up after worship and said how encouraged they were to see people (those of us standing) fully engaged in worship, and that it edified them too. There was a clear and strong sense of others wishing and deeply desiring to embrace such freedom in worship as well, but a hesitance…I would guess out of embarrassment, perhaps, or fear of judgment.

    The range of people that actually took time to express these thoughts was surprisingly broad…young to old, an elder’s wife, newer members…several with teary eyes…and not one criticism. Not one. I had built the concern and fear up in my own head, and quite frankly believe such doubts and reservation are from satan. He wants to hold us back and bind us up from open expression of worship to God. And we’re wrong to judge each other over it.

    One last thing. I hear a lot about “balance”, in presenting Gospel information. That we need to have a “balanced” Gospel, and balanced preaching and teaching, and properly associate works and righteous living with the Christian life. While we absolutely have a call to righteousness, the Gospel is in fact very imbalanced. The scales tilt overwhelmingly in OUR favor. Jesus did all the work, and we get all the benefit, simply for putting our faith in him. In HIM. That’s not a very balanced scale. Thank God for mercy and grace, instead of justice and balance.

    Sorry for the long post. I do so long for more engaging worship, and have a strong sense that many are ready to “bust out” in worship. I absolutely do NOT hold myself up as an example…I simply share the deep needs of my own heart and spirit in this area, as I sense many harbor the same needs. I am so encouraged by some of the “more mature” folks as well, who are also reaching to another level of worship. God bless them, for they encourage many others, and help open the doors to the Spirit’s work in our assemblies.

  3. Rob's Dad

    Caleb – great description with the slow thaw. It reminds me of the pictures that show glaciers shrinking – it’s hard to tell except over a long period of time.

    Jesse – i agree with your point about being hard to engage at first. In worship or in class, I’ve got something to say but I still get shake voice so it sounds funny. Not a problem in business but a problem in church.

    Allan – it’s not just the fields that are white. When you present a sermon, do you ask yourself “What information do I need to convey?” or do you work from a “What question do I want my audience to ask?”. This might offer some insight on what type of response you get. When you design a survey, the level of passion in a response (either loved it or hated it)can often tell you more than the other numbers. I look forward to hearing more from you on this topic – wish I was in town tonight to hear you expand on it.

  4. Your Daughter's "Old" Youth Minister

    Allan-

    I feel like this is a sensetive question. While I share your desire for people to be more participatory, and less spectator, I feel like there is a level of critical thinking that comes in listeinig to the proclimation of the Word. Your preaching is good. Your preaching challenges us and forces us to think on a more intelligent level.

    For myself, when I listen to you preach I find myself pondering things you’ve previously said in order to process. That often causes me to miss the very next thing you say…and that might be where you’re looking for the “Amen” but I’m still on the previous thing in my mind. It could be that people are just processing in their minds, and miss the opportune moment to say “Amen.”

    I also agree with what Caleb said about the fear of “outward” expression of our public assembly. You and I have talked about this before. Raising hands, standing, sitting, kneeling, closed eyes, clapping, and amens are all outward expressions of worship. We, as a brotherhood (also speaking in generalities), have very much discouraged any kind of visual (or audible) expression of worship that might have been interpreted as “showy.” My mom used to tell me not to be showy, and that people who raised their hands or said amen were showing off…or trying to get attention. It wasn’t until I broke through that mind set, and tried it myself, that I experienced a way of worship that drew me closer to God. Am I participating when I say (and do) those things? Yes. Am I showing off when I say (and do) those things? Absolutely not! Are people who don’t raise their hands or aren’t saying amen not participating? Absolutely not!

    People worship and respond in different ways. Some people come to hear the reading of the Word. Some people come to sing. Other people come for communion, while others come for the sermon. We all connect with something different, and we all participate in different ways. I know that I am pretty loud with my amens during the sermon, my wife on the other hand is barely audible with her amen…but she says it. She often says it more often than I do, but unless you’re sitting next to her, you might not even hear it.

    The truth of the matter is that there is no way to know how the Word is convicting someone unless they tell you. Unless they say “Amen” or email you on Monday morning, you and I will never know how the Word or a prayer or the singing impacted someone.

    I’ve always viewed the “Amen” or “Preach on” or “That’s right” as an affirmation of truth. It’s like when you talk to a friend about politics, or sports, and you share an observation with that friend and their response is, “Yes! Absolutely! I feel the same way!” Saying amen throughout the assembly is our way of saying, “Yes! Absolutely! I feel the same way!” When I hear truth in preaching, in prayer, in scripture, or in song…I try to affirm that truth with an “amen” or “that’s right.”

    I think we all know the real issue here though…you’re not a Cowboys fan. People don’t like to encourage, and agree with people who don’t support their local sports team. So, stop hating on the Cowboys and more people will amen your sermons. 🙂

    PREACH ON BROTHER!

  5. Your daughter's "NEW" youth minister

    Why don’t we “Amen” more in church? It’s probably the same reason we don’t clap more in church. The same reason we don’t stand up sporadically when we sing, and the same reason we don’t often raise our hands. We were taught not too. I suppose it may be a church of Christ thing and not other churches, however, I do not have much experience outside the church of Christ to base this on adequately.

    I can remember as a kid being taught that we are supposed to sit quietly in church and “listen” to the preacher. Never once do I remember anything about “dialoging” with the preacher and to do so or even make a sound would be disrespectful. I remember once there was a new member at church. He was an “amener” (my word). He was the only man that ever said “Amen” and he did so several times throughout the preaching each week. I remember looking for him each week and sometimes even giggling because it was different; people just didn’t do that in church. Funny though, it began to be contagious and after a while a few others would also join in with agreement.

    I think in the church of Christ many of us were trained not to do these things because to feel in worship, to show emotion, was just that “a show”. Anything outside of sitting in a pew, facing straight forward, and being quiet was seen as disruptive and not “reverent”. Church often took on the feel of a funeral and not a time of praise to our God the Creator. To speak out during the sermon would be disruptive. I once had a man (recently) tell me that “there should be no joy in worship.” Really? Is this really the attitude that our God wants us to have towards Him? That we should be sad, quiet, and boring? I think not. I read the book of Revelation and only hear of praise and worship for our God.

    It’s this whole idea that I come to church to be fed. A mindset that says, “Worship should be for me, just the way I want it”. Fortunately, through study, growth and allowing the Spirit to work in my life, I have recognized that worship is a participatory thing we do, and that we do it together. I sadly admit, I used to find myself looking down on people who spoke out with “amen”, or raised their hands, or sung on praise teams, referring to all the above as doing it to show off. Wow, was I wrong and I repent of that judgmental mindset of my past. How could I ever know and understand their heart and why they are serving in that capacity? But actively participating in worship, allowing our emotion to be a part of our worship, is what God wants. God wants us to give Him our hearts and minds. Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus speaking these words didn’t say love God with your soul and mind, which would mean no emotion. He said heart, not your literal beating heart, but with your heart of emotions. If I love God, my heart response is that I am going to worship Him and to do this I must give Him and show Him my emotions. So making a quick circle, do we not say “amen” more because we are afraid to let our emotions out in our worship because to do so would be a show? Because to say amen would break the traditions of what we have been taught.

    Wow….Didn’t mean to write so much. So to sum all of it up and back to the topic at hand. We don’t “Amen” because it’s not a normal thing. It’s uncomfortable. And not what we are used to. I see nothing wrong with it at all and do on occasion verbalize my agreement with what is being said and find myself doing so more and more as my relationship with Christ grows stronger. The format of our worship has always been a very formal thing that requires a person to sit and listen, rather and participate, other than being led in song, and act on our emotions.

    To your preaching Allan, I say “AMEN”. Keep up the good work.

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