I'm Tired of Cheap Amens

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I'm tired of cheap amens. Before going further, I ought to issue a disclaimer. This is a post I've been chewing on for over two years. In other words, it wasn't written in response to anything recent.

But I'm tired of cheap amens. I'm tired of preachers preaching to the choir. I'm tired of preaching that isn't challenging, that isn't convicting, that isn't at times controversial if only because it's truthful. I'm tired of boldness and bravado when nothing is really on the line.

I'm tired of a sermon on, say, the essentiality of baptism, being presented to a church of 80 souls, all of whom already agree with the preacher on the subject, and then someone later congratulating the preacher on having the courage to "preach the truth." That's not courage. It's not courageous to tell 80 people something you know they (likely) already agree with you on.

I'm tired of Bible classes where we come together every week to mutually affirm what we already agree with. I'm tired of spiritual instruction that amounts to spoon-fed warm milk, especially to people for whom this has been a regular diet for years.

I'm tired of reading books that don't seem to move beyond the issues faced by the faithful 50-60 years ago. Mark my words; the fights of yesteryear will not be the fights of tomorrow.

I don't have an agenda. I'm not bitter. I do not intend arrogance here, and I repent if this is tantamount to such. But I'm tired of cheap amens.

I am not a fan of drama or controversy, especially drama or controversy for drama's or controversy's sake. I don't like pot-stirrers. I have no patience for them. They are the church people most likely to experience plain, unmitigated rudeness from me. Those who enjoy sowing discord among brethren are among the things God hates (Prov. 6:19).

But sometimes controversy is how we grow. Engaging respectfully with difficult ideas is how we mature. Taking honest, painful glimpses into the mirror is how we improve. In fact, across the whole of one's spiritual life, it is often tough conversations and candid moments of truth that lead our spiritual health to trend higher. No pain, no gain.

There are times when sermons, classes, books, and the like need to offer a healing, comforting word. At other times, the fundamentals need reinforcement. Sometimes we can get sloppy in the elementary things. But let us not make these our primary focus. Let us return to a time when labels like "bold" and "courageous" and "fearless" were reserved for those preachers and teachers and lessons that were willing to risk fallout for the sake of the glory of Christ and radical obedience to his will.

I especially want to issue a special plea to older preachers and teachers, those seasoned from a lifetime of truth-telling. We need you. We need your voice now more than ever. Young guys like me sometimes speak before we think; at times, our well-intentioned truth-telling comes out garbled.

But such is unlikely for you. Your time spent in communing with the Lord and pondering the challenges of the church can be measured in decades, not years or months. Your audience gives your greater credibility because of a reputation built throughout many years of faithful service and exemplary character. We need you to speak up, to challenge, to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. We need you to hold our collective feet to the fire. We need you to eschew cheap amens and espouse and exemplify great risk for the sake of the Gospel.

For the rest of us, the next time we say "Amen," I hope it's an occasion when a difficult truth has been sounded to a room full of itching ears. To be sure, there are other occasions when amen is appropriate. But never is it more necessary than when we have been justly wounded by a faithful friend (Prov. 27:6).

Father, make us a people who gladly speak and receive the truth in love, even when speaking it fills us with anxiety and receiving it is like a knife to the heart. Actually, ESPECIALLY in those moments, make us such people. Make us bold; banish false courage from among us. In Jesus' Name.