Saturday, March 14, 2009

What About Those Who Don't Speak in Tongues?

Many folk at my church, and at other Pentecostal churches, have not spoken in tongues... yet. I say that because it is my desire that every one of them would. It is not something that can be forced or enforced, but I believe each Christian who hasn't spoken in tongues, yet, would be blessed, and more biblical, if he or she did.

Jude, in his brief epistle, says that we build up our faith by praying in the Spirit. The Apostle Paul said in his letter to the Romans that the Spirit is able to pray that which we can't find the words to utter. Clearly, the Bible highlights the benefits of tongues (incomprehensible speech from the Spirit) to the believer. I see no possible downside to speaking with other tongues when the scriptures testify to the upside.

Of course, what really matters is what Jesus wants for us. He told the first believers to wait until they were baptized in the Spirit before going off and trying to do church and fulfill the Great Commission. They waited, were baptized in the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues as a result, and then proceeded to go and turn the world upside down. Why would anyone expect a different pattern for those who came after them?

Evangelism and church planting took off globally when Pentecostals began to follow that pattern early in the last century. More has been accomplished toward fulfilling the Great Commission by tongue talking charismatics in the last 100 years than has been accomplished by the cessationist church for the entirety of its 17 centuries of history. Honestly, this is the definition of a no-brainer!

Unfortunately, there is a disconcerting trend among Pentecostals today reversing that direction. In the Assemblies of God, less than a third of church membership speaks in tongues. That does not portend well for that group. If we do not produce the church Jesus wants (see above), if we don't follow the orders Jesus gave, how in the world will we get the "well done" rather than the "go away?"

We need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues; however, if someone has not yet received it, he or she should not be treated badly or ostracized-- he or she is family in God! That one should merely be encouraged to continue waiting. The only division this experience needs to cause within the family of God occurs when someone tries to prevent folk from speaking in tongues. Trying to force it is probably just as bad!