When Did “Amen” Become a Question?

I’VE BEEN ONE—AND THE ROLE of a pastor is not an easy one. So I’m reluctant to question those already carrying a full load. I also consciously try to stay on the positive side of the line in life—so I’m hoping the following observation will be seen as “constructive criticism.”

The word amen is good Bible word. It can be translated from the original languages into such English declarations as “verily,” “so be it,” “truly,” or even the colloquial “preach it, brother!”

Some churches are filled with frequent amens as the Word is preached. Some are silent as a tomb. Now, charge me perhaps with stirring up a tempest in a teacup, but I truly believe the good word amen should be a spontaneous, unsolicited, and heartfelt declaration—and not a preacher’s question in an effort to go fishing for audience response that otherwise might not be forthcoming.

Hypothetical example: “I believe it’s high time we do more than just believe,” the parson states with conviction. “We need to start doing what we believe!” Then he quickly adds the question, “Amen?” Or, “Can you say ‘Amen’ to that?”

In other words, “Would somebody out there please speak up and agree?”

This trend seems especially to have taken hold in evangelistic preaching and among some who preach on TV. I recently watched a young TV evangelist pacing the stage like a caged lion with the caffeine jitters, imploring the “brothers and sisters” with a steady repetition of the question “Amen?” at the end of seemingly every other sentence.

But my own view of it is that if the preacher’s words are powerful and true and Spirit-generated enough, the amens will become spontaneous and not uncommon, with no need to plead or beg for them.

Verily and so be it.


4 responses to this post.

  1. I agree that Amen is not a Biblical question. I am a preacher, and my congregation is quiet. You can’t get a peep out of them unless you do ask. Sometimes, they’re so gone, and the truth hits me so fresh that I Amen myself.

    So, I agree that it’s not Biblically historical for Amen to be used that way, but I don’t think it’s against the Bible to use the language that way either.

    Maybe Amen is just another one of those traditions that we need to take back to it’s origen, and use more modern language to say what we really mean. What would be wrong with just asking, “True?” Or how about if we get them to do that old saying by Phil Hartman impersonating Ed McMahan, “You are correct, sir!”


  2. Thanks for the comment, Steve. I agree that the rhetorical use of “Amen” is likely not wrong biblically (unless it becomes one of those “vain repetitions” the Bible speaks of), but I’d still rather hear it offered freely from the pews rather than requested from the pulpit.

    God’s best to you in your work! And by the way, I’ve enjoyed browsing your website. Maybe soon I’ll listen to some of your online sermons. If so, perhaps I’ll have to email you an Amen!


  3. Posted by Bill Brace on November 27, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    And another Amen!


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