The Final Amen…for now

Thank you for your kind comments and provocative insights regarding our discussion on the “amen” in our Christian assemblies. I’ll address here a couple of the things raised by your comments and then we can be done with this discussion for now. Unless you have something to add.

Please keep in mind, I’m not speaking exclusively about our sermon time together. I’m talking about verbally affirming the songs we sing, the prayers we lift, the Scriptures we read and recite, and what’s said around the table. Lance writes,

 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.”

Caleb says,

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?

Besides publicly affirming the truth of the message in our Scriptures and songs, encouraging one another, and being actively engaged in what’s happening during an assembly, our verbal participation also strengthens our bonds of unity. I find that when someone next to me says “amen” or “yes” it causes me to pay more attention to the prayer being said or the song being sung. (Why did he say “amen” to that?) But it also gives me great insights into that person who said it. (Why did HE say “amen” to that?) I’ll never forget one of the 24 Hours of Prayer three weeks ago I shared with Quincy and Manuel. The three of us were literally and verbally participating in each other’s prayers. When one of us was praying, so were the other two with continuous affirmations of “Yes, Lord” and “Amen” and “Yes, Father” and “That’s right” and “Please, God.” It was an hour of that homothumadon — in one accord, with one voice, as one man — we see throughout the book of Acts. We’ve all experienced something like that in these small groups. The unity. The focus. The single-minded fidelity to the worship at hand and our brothers and sisters in the room with us. When that kind of thing begins to happen in larger settings, it can change a church.

Some of your comments addresed the culture in a lot of our churches that hinders the kind of open expressions we find throughout our Holy Scriptures. Broadly speaking, Churches of Christ have cultivated a mindset and worldview that favors sitting still and being quiet and staring straight ahead. Here’s Caleb,

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. Until recently, standing for the invitation song was as participatory as our worship has been.
Here’s Jesse,

It’s 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.

Chris writes,

It is 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. 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.

And Lance,

There’s a fear of “outward” expression in our public assemblies. Raising hands, standing, sitting, kneeling, closed eyes, clapping, and amens are all outward expressions of worship. We, as a brotherhood (speaking in generalities), have very much discouraged any kind of visual or audible expressions 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

Unfortunately, this culture in our faith tradition has much more to do with the Enlightenment way of thinking than it does with Scripture’s way of thinking. We come at our faith and, as a result, our assembly times together in a very rational way. We want an equation.  We need a formula. We want some rules and regulations. We want everything explained to us until it makes sense. And the mystery gets edged out. There’s no room for gray areas. No place for ambiguity. Everything’s black and white. Everything’s either right or wrong. It all has to be controlled. And that means controlling what we do and how we do it together on Sunday mornings.

It’s mostly an over reaction or over correction to the anxious bench of 150 years ago and the waiting and wailing for the Spirit. Emotion became a bad thing. Knowledge and intellect became the good thing. We taught that emotions had very little, if any, place in our religion and in our churches. Emotion is shallow. It’s false. Emotion deceives us. It’s not real. Some of your comments reflected this history of ours. Caleb,

We 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.

And Jesse,

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.? 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?

 

One quick thing about emotion and then I’m done for the day. I think for decades and decades we’ve believed and taught that if we can get their head, we’ll get their heart. If we can just explain it to people and write it down in five little steps and show the gospel to them with logic and rational, if we can get people to understand it with their heads, then their hearts will follow. Praise God, sometimes that works. But that’s certainly not the way it’s presented in Scripture.

 

The truth is, if I can get your heart, I know your head will follow. God always goes first after our hearts. If a person’s heart has been captured by God, his head will also be right there. And so will the rest of his body and his billfold and his time and his energy and his focus.

 

And you and I know tons of people who have God in their heads, but their hearts are cold as stone.

 

Peace,

 

Allan

2 Comments

  1. Jamie

    Dear Allan,
    Ever since I became a member even before I feel the need to say AMEN and tell him thank you and praise his name and I also pray when I go out to eat and people look and I sometime underneath my breath say ” have you found GOD” and WHy are you looking? But it is my time and my minute with my friend and savior! JAmie

  2. Rob's Dad

    To quote the great Hank Stram “Just keep matriculating the ball down the field Leonard”. Tough week yet a good one discussion-wise. i think i need to buy you a DP when i get back in town.

    #48

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