"Amen" is a wonderful word from the Bible that you hear frequently in church. It is a Hebrew word that means something is true and certain. It can also be translated, "so be it." People usually end their prayers with "Amen." In many churches, including my own, Christians will respond with a hearty "Amen" when they hear something in a sermon or song that they appreciate.
In some of the country churches I attended as a young person, they had an "Amen corner." That was an area of the church near the front, where the deacons and other church leaders sat who often said "Amen."
I like it when people say "Amen" to my sermon. It gets me fired up. But even a good word like "Amen" can be used at the wrong time.
Dr. William Mueller, a native of Germany, was a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He was a dynamic teacher, but he did not like students to say "Amen." One day they were saying "amen" to his teaching, and he stopped. He said, "You students! Everything I say, you say, ‘Amen.’ Sometimes I think some of you would say ‘amen’ if you had a good bowel movement." Three students called out a hearty, "Amen!"
One Sunday we had a guest in the church I pastor in Georgia, who took saying "Amen" to a whole new level. Every sentence that I said, he answered with a loud "Amen." It crossed the line from being helpful to being distracting. I thought about stopping my sermon and asking him, "Are you preaching this sermon or am I preaching?" But being the polite, humble person that I am, I tried to ignore him and talk faster to leave him behind. But the faster I got, the more he said "Amen."
Then it happened.
I was preaching about the powerful Old Testament prophet Amos, who pronounced judgment on those who were satisfied in their religion but their lives were not changed. I came to Amos 4:1, where the prophet warned the wealthy women of Bashan, an area known for its big fat cows, that they would be judged for oppressing the poor. I quoted the verse, which says, "Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy, and say to your husbands, ‘Bring us some drinks!’" Then I explained to the congregation that he was calling the women big fat cows. Right at that moment, our gregarious guest shouted out, "AMEN!"
You should have seen the looks this guy got from the women of our congregation. I mean, if looks could kill...
Which reminds me of another scripture: "There is a time for everything...a time to be silent and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7).
(Copyright 2012 by Bob Rogers. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read this column each Friday in the Herald. Visit my blog at www.bobrogers.me.)