It may be rare in some churches, but in my church the word “amen” can still be heard at times other than at the end of a prayer. Not everyone says it and those who say it do not always say it loudly, but it is said. It is a term of agreement that is spoken by those who concur with what is being proclaimed. I’ve heard that saying amen to a preacher is like saying “sic ’em” to a bulldog. That analogy may not be the best because I’ve said “sic ’em” to a bulldog before and it only made him lick himself. Hearing an amen, however, does encourage preachers more than most people realize.
But sometimes I would like a little more encouragement, a little more enthusiasm, a little more “umph.” Sometimes I would like a chest bump.
I’m not talking all the time or from everybody. Facing a gauntlet of chest bumps after each major point would cause more sternum damage than I am willing to take. Chest bumps are like pictures of someone else’s children: better in small doses.
I would have to be particular about who to chest bump, of course. Women would not be eligible for obvious reasons. Older folks would also be automatically disqualified; breaking a church member’s hip because I chest bumped them over a pew is never a good move. The ideal candidate would be a young adult male who is either my approximate height or who possesses better than average jumping ability. There are two problems with this: 1) I’m 6’7”, so hardly anyone is my height and 2) We are Baptists which means we like to eat which means the average vertical leap for adult men is about the same as a pregnant snail.
It looks like chest bumps are out.
If that won’t work, then how about a bell like the ones they have at certain restaurants such as Long John Silver’s or Taco Bell? There could be one at each exit of the sanctuary with a sign that says something like, “If the sermon went well, ring the bell.” The people who heard the sermon could give feedback simply by reaching up and pulling a rope. Pretty easy, right?
But what if….?
What if the bell didn’t ring?
What if it sat silently unused week after week?
What if it proved that no one listened or liked what they keep hearing?
The answer: that would be okay.
Sure, it might sting some. How could it not? It feels good to have what you do be appreciated by those you love. Whether a person is 1 or 100, positive feedback boosts self-esteem even in small doses.
The thing is, when I preach there is only one who I have been instructed to please. His name is God and he is not a church member, he is the Almighty. He doesn’t sit in a pew, he sits upon his throne. He is the object of the sermon, the one who is being worshipped, the one who deserves all praise.
I have an audience of One.
This is true for all of us. No matter what we do, where we are, who we are, or what we have done there is only one we should be concerned with pleasing. God. No one else.
If my preaching pleases God and no one else–that is fine. If our decisions please God, yet we are rejected by those we love–that is fine. If we get criticized and cut down again and again yet are living our lives in a way that pleases God–so be it.
We exist for God and his glory.
When the amens are unspoken, the chest bumps stop coming, and the bells remain silent let us continue seeking to please our audience of One.