Christianity Today has an article about the decline of ‘speaking in tongues’ amongst the Assemblies of God. It is an interesting article that emphasizes, amongst other factors, that pastors preaching/teaching less about the phenomenon as well as the Sunday morning gatherings going from “for the church” to seeker-sensitive have caused more and more AOG pastors and congregates to undervalue or abandon the practice. To read the article go here.

As one with Pentecostal roots I think this statistic can mean one of two things: (1) The AOG is becoming mainstream evangelical while discarding distinctives or (2) the AOG is learning how to use spiritual gifts in a more appropriate way when it comes to doing so amongst one another juxtaposed with doing so in the midst of unbelievers. I personally lean toward the latter view. The AOG can continue to emphasize the spiritual gifts–even some mainstream evangelical churches are not shying away from this, including recent sermons given at Mars Hill in Seattle and my own home congregation here in Portland, Imago Dei–while teaching how these gifts can be used appropriately . For some reason Pentecostal-Charismatic assemblies have ignored the Apostle Paul’s teaching regarding speaking in tongues and I applaud those within the AOG and other Pentecostal-Charismatic churches that have decided that the spiritual gifts will still be emphasized but within the structure assumed by the Apostle as he wrote here:

Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues,unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.

But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue. (1 Cor. 14:1-19, NIV)

As far as I understand this passage the Apostle encourages speaking in tongues, but in a private matter. It is better to use prophecy in the presence of both other Christians and unbelievers because no one but God can understand what is meant when someone speaks in tongues. As I have promised before I will address the Apostle’s charismatic thought. Until then all I have to say is I think I affirm the direction the AOG is going. Glossolalia as a “distinctive” from other Christians sounds no better than the Corinthian church whose pride was wrapped up in this gift. The Apostle Paul reminded them that he uses the gift more than they did not to make them try to use it more but to shame them by showing them they are not as great as they might think themselves to be.

To read my view on speaking in tongues in the Luke-Acts narrative go here.