I am the pastor of a church that does not stress speaking in tongues. However, I have tried my best to make a climate of Christian fellowship and worship that will accommodate both those who speak in tongues and those who do not. My intention was to open the doors of Christian sharing to everyone who loves the Lord Jesus as Saviour.
Having had about a dozen persons in the congregation who speak in tongues, I have come to some hard conclusions after a year of effort. These conclusions have been heart-breaking to me; I expected much more from those who speak in tongues than their lives have shown. Here are the reasons for my disappointment:
1. These persons arrived on the scene with smiles and hand shakes and praises to the Lord. They carried their Bibles and became a part of the congregation’s program and fellowship. However, after some months it was obvious that they had a spiritual superiority complex, and it became obnoxious. Professing to be filled with the Spirit of humility and holiness, these persons expressed the opposite. The subtle but real spiritual conceit became more and more apparent until the words “Spirit-filled” came to have a regrettable taint.
Other pastors with whom I have talked have had similar experiences. There is often a “know-it-all” attitude among those who speak in tongues that exactly contradicts what they profess in testimony. They definitely give the impression that those who do not speak in tongues have not “arrived” spiritually, do not have the sensitivity to interpret the Scriptures, do not have prayer power that can bring results.
2. These persons are insensitive to the concept of Christian discipline. In many of them, habits of worldliness remain while the tongues-speaking flourishes. Furthermore, these people do not allow themselves to be directed toward discipline; they feel that they have achieved spiritual maturity when they come into tongues, and they tend to look down upon those who do not speak in tongues, even those who are living a more holy, dedicated life in Christ. The blind spot concerning discipline is appalling. Speaking in tongues should certainly be accompanied by holiness in everyday living, but often it is not.
3. They are unteachable. Again the spiritual superiority complex rears its ugly head. The tongues-speakers apparently believe that they know it all, that they are to be the teachers of all God’s children, that on every topic of the Christian faith the truth resides in them. No matter what theme of Christian living was being discussed in Bible study it had to go under the scrutiny of their microscope for their final conclusion.
Again, in comparing experiences with other pastors, I have found this attitude to be common. It damages the genuine speaking-in-tongues movement and hinders those pastors who would like to maintain a climate of charity among all Christians.
4. These persons tend to split churches rather than to bring unity to the overall body of Christ. First Corinthians 12 emphasizes the unity of the body, and that which brings division is not to be tolerated, as Paul makes clear throughout the entire letter. If those who speak in tongues would only understand this biblical emphasis! They claim to have such a high regard for the body of Christ, and yet they often pull the limbs of the body and cause it much hurt. The unity and oneness they espouse must be based solely on their perspectives and practices, their own interpretation of the Scriptures. No latitude is allowed for differing opinions from other believers.
5. These people become church hoppers. They stay in one congregation for a while and then move on to another one. They do not develop a sense of faithfulness to any one congregation. Furthermore, they do not hesitate to take other persons from the congregation with them when they go on to another church. And after they have left, they criticize with barbed speech persons in the previous church. Does this further the unity of the body of Christ? Does this exemplify the love and holiness of the Spirit?
I tried. I honestly tried my best to open the doors of Christian fellowship to those who speak in tongues as well as to those who do not. I tried to provide a pastoral base of cordiality and understanding in open remarks from the pulpit.
But I have been disappointed. I have been turned against by the very ones I defended. Why? I am convinced that they did not have the Holy Spirit. They were possessed with a counterfeit, a fake. They were living on an ego trip, a manufactured religious “high.” The daily lives of these people just did not match their witness, and so they hurt me, the congregation, and their own testimony as well as the cause of Jesus Christ.
I had hoped that those who had received the gift of speaking in tongues would be a real blessing to our congregation. I had prayed that we would be one together for the furtherance of the Kingdom, that more souls would be saved and the church built up in the power of the Lord to do great things to his honor. I had hoped and prayed and had exhorted all the people to find their unity in Him and so find miracles in the church’s witness.
But it all came to naught. The tongues-speakers have left and are attending another church. For another year? Perhaps. Then they will move on to another congregation and try to play their same religious games with another group of people. Perhaps they will be turned away at the very outset; suspicion is running high in many places because of experiences like those I have described.
Many within the tongues movement have much to learn about humility in the Lord, Christian discipline, the holy life in everyday experience, and simple ethics in relations with others. They have a great need to get a better perspective on speaking in tongues, to give it its proper place among the other gifts of the Spirit, the other graces of the Spirit. It is my prayer that what I have said here will move some to examine themselves, for the sake of the unity of the body of Christ.
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