“Amen, and Amen”

The Sunday Sample, Episode 31

How often do you say the word, “Amen” in a church service? Not as a response to a prayer or statement from another person, but as a filler word? It’s probably more often than you think. I do it more than what I would like to admit. The frequency has declined, but it still happens from time to time. Why does it matter?
It matters because the word, “Amen” is a Bible word rich in spiritual meaning. To use it loosely empties it of its potential power, and compromises its God-given purpose.
 
I would like to create some momentum amongst those of us who lead worship in eradicating the word “Amen” from any context in which it lacks meaningHow will we do this? Let me take you through five points inspired by the book, “participating in worship” by Craig Douglas Ericsson

“Amen” comes from the Hebrew verb ‘mn. When we say “Amen” we are saying a Hebrew word that has been used for millennia. It means: surely, truth, most certainly, so be it, to be faithful, reliable, steadfast, established, firm.

2. Origin of usage

The word, “Amen” was used in synagogues and the Temple. Since then it has become common in both Christian and Muslim circles. It has been adopted as a transliteration by many languages.

3. Biblical usage

The Hebrew version of the word is found in 25 verses of the Old Testament. The Greek version of “Amen” is found in 104 verses of the New Testament, translated in a variety of ways (Amen, truly, very). It is most common in the Gospels, with Matthew (31), and John (50) containing by far the most.
 
“In Biblical usage, ‘Amen’ is a formula that is spoken by the congregation at the end of the liturgy (e.g. 1 Chronicles 16:36) or at the end of the doxology (e.g. Romans 1:25).” Erickson
 
In the New Testament “Amen” is used as an indicator that something important is about to be said. Jesus said “Amen, Amen” (translated as “Verily, verily,” or “truly, truly”) before some of his most important pronouncements.

4. Historical usage

Most commonly, “Amen” is used after someone has prayed, and the congregation signals its agreement with what has been said. Augustine wrote, “to say ‘Amen’ is to subscribe.”
 
  • Agreement: a congregation might say “Amen” spontaneously in agreement with a speaker. In saying “Amen” we, as the body of Christ, are giving collective spiritual agreement to the truth of what has been said. There is much power in this corporate assent. Jerome recorded that the Amen of his congregation was “like thunder shaking the empty temples of the idols”!
  • Unity: “Amen can express unanimity of belief. This is the predominant sense at the conclusion of the creeds.
  • Sealing: “Amen” is appropriate when someone is baptised or married. For example, “I am now able to baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit and you will be added to Christ’s church. AMEN”

5. Modern usage

In the congregations I serve, “Amen” is most commonly used in corporate settings in the following ways:
  1. As a corporate response to someone leading a prayer
  2. As a spontaneous personal response to something said in the church service, most often the sermon.
  3. As a corporate response to a Bible reading. As in, “… and the church said – AMEN.”
  4. As a seal on baptism (as above in point 4).
  5. As a way for a speaker to get a response to his or her point. As in, “If you want to be confident of your salvation, you must make every effort. Amen?”
  6. As a filler between songs, at the end of speaking slots. Too often the word is used to mask insecurity in the speaker or worship leader or fill a moment of silence.

Two Recommendations

Using the word, “Amen” in our times of corporate worship is thoroughly biblical and helpful. However, we might want to rethink the habits, traditions and customs we have adopted. Let us consider whether the way we use the word, “Amen” is serving a useful spiritual purpose.
  1. Stop using the word, “Amen” as a filler in corporate worship. Instead, allow silence. Or say something more meaningful about what has just been said or sung, and what is about to be said or sung. The key to improving is to be better prepared and consider in advance what to say, for example, at the end of a song.
  2. Continue using the word, “Amen” in all other corporate worship circumstances.
Augustine wrote, to say 'Amen' is to subscribe. Click To Tweet

Questions

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you think it’s worth trying to eradicate the use of the word, “Amen” as a filler? Am I being too fussy? What have you done to reduce the use of filler words?
 
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Thank you so much for reading, listening and watching. I hope that the next time you gather with your friends to worship God, you will have a cracking time of corporate worship.
 
We can all say, “AMEN” to that!
 
God bless, Malcolm
¹ “Participating in Worship: history, theory, and practice”, Craig Douglas Erickson, Westminster/John Knox press, 1989, pp61-64

“How to teach a new song”

The Sunday Sample: Episode 30

Psalm 33:3, “Sing to him a new song; play skilfully, and shout for joy.”

What is the best way to teach a new song? We look at a four-step process:

  1. Go through words
  2. Play audio track
  3. Sing along to backing track
  4. Sing with own instruments

Please share your ideas here by leaving a comment.

And please pass this on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“How to be kind to kinaesthetic learners”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 102

We look at how to help not only those with a preference to auditory or visual learning, but those whose preferred learning style is kinaesthetic. Are they the most neglected of all?

The value of this approach is that it increases:

  1. Attention
  2. Contribution
  3. Stickiness

Helpful scriptures: John 6.9; 12-13; Matthew 16.5-12

I hope you find these thoughts helpful. What have I missed? What else is important?

Please leave a comment and pass the link on to one other person ….

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“How to structure a class”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 101

I reveal the template I use to prepare most of my teaching classes. We discuss the significance of our learning objective, and how to think through what each class will need in terms of resources and variety of teaching methods.

I hope you find these thoughts helpful. What have I missed? What else is important?

Please leave a comment and pass the link on to one other person ….

God bless, Malcolm

“Two tips for first-time preachers”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 99

In some ways there’s no significant difference between your first sermon and your thousandth. However, we all have to start somewhere.  An entire book could be written on this topic. But, I will focus on presentation issues rather than preparation.

  1. Practice. Rehearse your first sentence and your conclusion. Starting clearly and confidently will help you settle into your preaching. It will also help your audience relax. I assume they know you are inexperienced. They will be excited for you, and nervous with you. Beginning confidently will help everyone. Ending confidently with a reiteration of your main point will make sure that everyone has something valuable to take away. Even if you have drifted during the body of your lesson, at least they will have heard your main point clearly.
  2. Minimum Tech. Keep your use of technology to the minimum. I am a fan of slides, video, audio, props, role play, audience interaction and more. However, these all take time to learn. My advice is to use a paper Bible (not electronic) and print your sermon on paper (not using an iPad or laptop). If you do use slides, keep them uncluttered. Minimum wording, pictures are preferable.
I hope you find these two thoughts helpful. What have I missed? What else is important?
Please leave a comment and pass the link on to one other person ….
God bless, Malcolm

“Three-word slogans”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 98

I’ve been frustrated with my own difficulty in summarising the speaking parts of the service. More words can make things more unclear.

How would you summarise these parts of the service in three words?

* Welcome
* Prayer
* Communion
* HOPE talk
* Sermon
* Close

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
Please leave a comment, and pass it on …

Thanks again for listening. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

“How to Find Your Sermon Structure”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 97

How do we discover the structure for a sermon? One that already exists within the passage? I revise and demonstrate a technique I first developed in 2013 using Acts chapter 1.

Please leave a comment. We learn best when we learn in community.

Pass the link on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“How to re-enact a scene”

Tuesday Teaching Tip, Episode 96

Bethany and her mother inspired me to record this teaching tip on how to re-enact a story. Such a technique can illustrate a point far better than words alone (Luke 20.24, Romans 6.23)

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

Please leave a comment, and pass it on …

Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

“ARE YOU A HERO OR A GUIDE?”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 95

You are not the hero, you are the guide. If you position yourself as the hero, you distance yourself from your listeners. We are a window, not the picture.

Leave a comment.
And please pass this on…
God bless, Malcolm