I grew up in an evangelical Christian home. I’m Mennonite by culture, but it wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I attended a Mennonite church. As a child, my parents attended a Baptist church and then an Evangelical Free denomination church. I didn’t (and still don’t) know the real differences between the denominations. I suppose there are small doctrinal differences but one similarity that draws all the evangelical denominations together is their suspicion and distrust of charismatic Pentecostals.
If I pinpoint the specific problem, it’s the division over speaking in tongues.
My first experience of hearing tongues being spoken was in a conservative church setting; I was around 12 years. Someone stood up and started speaking gibberish. I don’t know what was more startling – the fact that someone would interrupt the solemn reverence in our stoic worship, or how quickly the ushers got to her and helped her to the back. Later I asked my parents what that was about and I could tell from their comments and reactions that it was bad – very bad. The ‘d’ word* may or may not have been said.
In recent years, I’ve defected from the evangelical camp to the charismatic camp and I’ve re-evaluated the predisposition that tongues is bad and have concluded instead that tongues is a [good] gift of the Spirit.
I do take issue though with the mindset, which seemed to perpetuate from charismatic denominations that says unless you speak in tongues, you are not filled with the Holy Spirit. It’s true that there are more manifestations of the Holy Spirit in a charismatic church where you do hear people speaking in tongues but they do not own the corner on Holy Spirit Street.
When I have questions about any issue, I look to see what the Bible says. I learned that when tongues is mentioned there is always a manifestation of the Spirit, but the opposite is not always true, or at least the Bible doesn’t expressly mention it. It does not say, for example, that when the Spirit came upon David, he spoke in tongues. He may or may not have spoken in tongues but it would be errant to suggest that it must be the case.
What I see in evangelical denominations is a fractious attitude that rejects the manifestations of the Spirit because of [some] mishandling of the gifts by the charismatic denominations.
As I understand Scripture, there are two main uses for this gift:
1. to prophesy to another person in a language they understand but that you have not learned for the purpose of encouragement and evangelism – edifies someone else
2. to pray and speak to God in private worship – edifies yourself
Not every Christians will find themselves in a situation where the first use is necessary, however the second use should be desired by all Christians to be built in the faith and to live naturally in the supernatural, just as Jesus did.
Hear me on this: I am NOT saying that speaking in tongues is the only sign that a believer is filled with the Holy Spirit. I am also not saying that a believer who doesn’t speak in tongues is less [of anything] than a believer who has tongues but scripture does tell us it is a gift and we should desire it (I Corinthians 12:31).
I’ve taken a bigger bite than I could swallow in this post and instead of choking myself this conversation will be continued on Tuesday’s post.
In the meantime, share your experiences with the gift. Do you have the gift? If not, do you desire the gift? Does the gift confuse you? If yes, do you use the gift? How?