Guidelines for Understanding the Gift of Tongues
This is taken from Dave Housholder's Alpha conference talk. You can use this as a reference if people have questions about speaking in tongues on the Weekend Away.
Tongues is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to:
A. Demonstrate to unbelievers the reality of God’s power – Acts 2
B. Express oneself to God – 1 Cor. 14:2. It is a valid form of prayer.
C. To speak to believers from God. A form of prophecy in a language the speaker does not fully understand.
It can be prayer or prophecy. Tongues are like an elevator going up or going down.
Going up – prayer goes up to God
Coming down - God is making a comment to his people
If that message is in tongues it needs to be interpreted. So when you encounter tongues, ask yourself if this is the elevator going up or going down.
Often people move over into tongues while praying, because the feeling you have toward God is not expressible in English. This can be misunderstood. Let me untie some of the knots for you about speaking in tongues.
#1 – Do I have to speak in tongues?
No – many who work in Alpha in leadership on all levels and lead conferences, are people who don’t speak in tongues. That’s O.K.
#2 – Isn’t this just for “super Christians?”
No – the people in the Bible who spoke in tongues were usually beginners. If it is a beginners gift – then it is not just for an elite group.
#3 – What if I "lose control?"
You can turn the gift of tongues on and off anytime you want. Remember that a fruit of the Spirit is self-control.
#4 – Are “being filled with the Holy Spirit” and “speaking in tongues” the same thing?
No. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a wonderful blessing and gift from God for all believers. Speaking in tongues is a manifestation of a gift. The Bible tells us that speaking in tongues builds up and edifies one’s faith.
#5 – Shouldn’t God decide whether or not I should speak in tongues?
We are not told to sit back and wait with our faith. God invites us to ask, seek, and knock for the gifts that He has designed for us. These are all active verbs. Eagerly seek after the greater gifts. He wants a relationship with us. He wants us to lean into that relationship. The Lord wants us to engage Him.
#6 – Is it Presbyterian? Reformed? Lutheran? Catholic? Methodist?…A cult?
The gifts of the Spirit are not denominationally challenged or limited. They are in the Bible. This is O.K. Cults work by manipulation and sleep deprivation. We aren’t into that.
#7 – Can there be an over emphasis on tongues?
Yes, groups can stress one gift over others. The key is to be open to whatever gift the “Great Physician” prescribes for you.
#8 - “Why would I want to do that?"
Romans 8:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit comes in our weakness – when we do not know what to pray or how we ought to pray for something. The Spirit can pray through us and intercedes on our behalf. When we feel limited by our few words of praise or if we have no words to express our needs, it is wonderful to know that the Spirit takes our deepest needs and presents them before the Father. This is the purpose of ALL gifts – to glorify God and to build up His people.