A Corporate Amen

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Another thing that is common in CREC churches is the corporate amen. There are other verbal responses that our congregations give, but amen is the most common. For other examples, after the Scripture reading, the reader says something like “The Word of the Lord,” and the congregation responds with “Thanks be to God.” And at the call to worship, the minister will begin with a greeting that varies, depending on the church year, and the congregation responds together.

But the most common response is amen. This is something our congregations say when welcoming a new member. They are asked if they receive the new members into the congregation, and they are asked if they renew their membership vows as they do. Amen is the response. Something similar happens when a child is baptized. The congregation is asked if they promise to assist the parents in the Christian nurture of the child, and they respond with amen. And, of course, the most common use of amen is at the conclusion of psalms and hymns, when everyone says amen together.

In Scripture, amen serves with the force of an oath. It is a solemn and robust affirmation of the truth of what has just been said. The force of it should be understood as something like “absolutely yes,” or “may it ever be.” It serves as a fitting conclusion. “The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen” (2 Jn. 13). It serves as an anchor point for praise given to God. “To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 5:11). It is an appropriate response when the people have offered up a blessing of God. “And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground” (Neh. 8:6).

We can see the importance of the word in how Paul uses it to describe the Lord Jesus Himself. “For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20).

In the New Testament, we see the expectation that this will be a customary part of the worship service. “Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?” (1 Cor. 14:16). Consequently, we want to provide numerous opportunities where worshipers can learn how to say amen, and do so with understanding.

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