Amen: Unwritten Rule of Preachers and Writing

Pentecostal preachers speak quite often, yet most are not writers (authoring few articles and very few books). Why? Part of the reason may be what I call the Amen Rule:

Most preachers write only what they plan to say aloud, because anything else is not likely to get much of an amen.

Whenever a preacher speaks those anointed thoughts that the Lord has granted, there is the potential for some instant gratification in the form of an amen. Publishing thoughts only in written form would at best offer only delayed gratification.

Of course, by the word amen we refer by metonymy to all the varied types of responses that people have for good preaching. There is the literal amen. There are also other verbal responses, such as "preach it!" or "that's the truth!" or "that's right!" etc. Then there are many different praise-type responses, such as clapping, standing, waving, leaping, dancing, running, spinning, etc. Let's not leave out responses like weeping, bowing down, kneeling, laughing, nodding, pointing, tapping one's neighbor, smiling, etc. In this article whenever we refer to the amen, we mean all the kinds of responses that people often give to good preaching.

When speaking, the Pentecostal preacher can tell at a moment's notice whether someone out there agrees, or is being touched, blessed, amused, stirred, or impressed. The reverse is also true; he can tell right away when no one cares, or when they are offended, or they disagree, etc. The potential for instant feedback provides a quick, reliable reward for being "on the mark" and (hopefully) also a tolerable means to bow out gracefully whenever he has "missed the mark."

In a litany of ways, both preaching and writing are risky. Every time one does what the Scripture calls "the foolishness of preaching," the speaker runs the risk of being seen as foolish. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as having said, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." The same is true of writing. Both are ways to either impact others or embarrass oneself. There are some other considerations. Here are just a few things to think about:

Between written word and spoken sound, which is the more permanent means of preserving our words, whether they be awesome inspiration and edifying encouragement, or embarrassing mistakes and displays of ignorance?

  • In former times, writing (books and/or articles) was the more permanent record of one's words (a lasting memorial to one's thoughts, regardless of whether they were worthy of preservation), while preaching was a more transient, dynamic opportunity to either indelibly burn the memorable words of successful preaching into the hearts of the hearers, or else simply say quite forgettable words of unsuccessful preaching, that would hopefully slip into the oblivion of the mundane moments in the past.
  • However, that has changed somewhat. Technology is making it easier than ever to store verbal preaching for playback later (audio and/or video), and the Internet has become a cyberspace memory bank that remembers and plays back both the good, the bad, and the ugly of preaching. For what it's worth, bear in mind that while the publishing industry usually culls out poor writing, the Internet only culls out the mundane preaching between two extremes. People usually don't post preaching on the Internet unless its very good or very bad. Unlike printed publishing, where only the better books and articles see the light of day, the world of cyberspace is happy to immortalize mistakes on YouTube, etc. Whether we like it or not, some preachers' most embarrassing moments are likely to be digitized and downloaded.
  • Because the written word used to be the best long-term way to preserve the worthy, anointed thoughts inspired to man by God, that's why we have the Bible in written form, not just as oral tradition handed down verbally from generation to generation.
  • However, just because modern technology has yielded better methods for the storage and retrieval (playback) of verbal delivery, that does not mean that stored speech is automatically viewed with as much respect as the written word can garner. Did you ever notice how often preachers can get away with poor grammar while speaking (and have scrawled notes full of misspelled words), while those who are writers know that their book or article will mean people expect their best spelling and grammar? People still expect more from writing, and they still tend to give more credence and respect to the written word.

This preacher of the gospel and Apostolic author (of gospel-related books and articles) encourages all Apostolic-Pentecostal preachers to consider doing more writing. Do your best, get help from good proofreaders, and then present your articles here and elsewhere, and send your books to publishers or publish them yourself. Options for self publishing abound, and it is a great way to enhance your ministry and reputation, in addition to enhancing the lives of others and reaching lost souls with the only saving message of gospel truth. To that we hope you say, "Amen."