Today we worshiped with a church here in Portland named “The Well“. It is an urban congregation that meets in the old Mt. Olivet building which was prominent during the civil rights movement. For an assembly in Portland it is racially diverse with soulful music. Everyone was very friendly and the pastor who gave the homily was a good teacher. At the end of the service everyone took communion, which is something I have come to see as an essential aspect of corporate worship. All in all it was a wonderful experience and I was impressed with what seemed to be a very healthy, holistic, and loving group of Christians.
Then something very interesting took place at the end. For some this may unnerving but I found it to be amazing. An elder came to the platform an reminded everyone of a time when the church had studied 1 Corinthians and how they went through the section where the Apostle Paul addresses how the gift of tongues should function in public worship. He went on to say that a woman who had joined him on the platform felt that she had the gift and that she had a message for the church. He noted that a few people had expressed the belief that they may have the gift of interpretation so they were prepared to see if the Spirit would lead them.
At this juncture the woman asked everyone to close her eyes and she began to speak in tongues. I should note that this is not your typical charismatic church. It seemed to be a new thing for them. Nevertheless everyone seemed very receptive and as one who is familiar with the gift I must say it sounded beautiful and sincere. When she was finished a lady came forth to give an interpretation that seemed fitting. The Spirit was surely involved.
What I found most impressive is how orderly and respectful it was. Whenever I have seen these gifts in public it seems a tad disorderly to the point I think Paul would be as frustrated as he was with the ecstatic Corinthians. It may have been the first time I have seen it done in a way that Paul would gave applauded.
When I was at Imago Dei an elder named Gary Friesen taught on the passage in 1 Corinthians that was exegetically sound but I never was under the impression that the church would actually be welcoming to a public display of these gifts. I respect the leadership of The Well because (1) they were open to the Spirit using the giftedness of the members, (2) unlike my previous experiences it was actually “decently and in order”, and (3) unlike others who are “open” to these expressions this church actually cultivated their use.
What has your experience been with the gift? Have you ever seen it used? Have you ever seen it used in a way that could still be considered “decently and in order”?
Brian, sounds like a good church. I have seen both and I have experienced both as well.
Brother, there’s not enough room here to share my experience with the gift! Amen at The Well!!! It is very encouraging to see the gift of the Spirit (in this instance, tongues) used in such a biblical fashion. But the abuse you mentioned which seems so prevelant does so much demage because other church gathers (or individuals) may look on and say, “I want nothing to do with that”, and unfortunately the baby and bathwater go out the window together.
Praise God for the openness of this church and the move of the Spirit.
As an avid through and through Pentecostal, I’ve had much the similar experience you have had with the gift of tongues. Though, it may seem disorderly, I do strongly believe the Spirit (in a lot of cases) is involved, though of course, many peoples flesh and ecstatic emotions get to them.
I love how they portrayed and exercised the practice of the Gift of Tongues. Praise God!
I personally know beyond a shadow of a doubt (due to a revelation from the Lord, not a feeling so much, though I don’t disregard that kind of experience) I’m called to plant a church one day that is emerging, but one also that partakes every week at the end of the service in the eucharistic meal. So I also highly appreciate the partaking of the eucharist.
All in all, this church sounds lovely!
You’re more than a blessing man; thanks for writing faithfully, it’s a discipline I’m trying to partake in once I move my blog over to WordPress.
Grace and peace,
I lived thru the whole charismatic renewal as mostly an Anglican, and mostly in the UK, but also in the US sometimes. However I am now a cessationist, and don’t see it to be biblically correct. At best it is psychological. But I don’t wish to argue. Just giving my experience and belief now.
I’m torn on the issue. My entire adult Christian life has been filled with entire congregations speaking in tongues during times of praise and worship. My study of 1Corinthians 12-14 led me to believe that this was not the decent and orderly manifestation of tongues that Paul called for. But then I started to question whether or not this would be considered decent and orderly if such a time is specifically set aside for just such practice since it wouldn’t be disruptive to any other part of the service. Right now I’m okay with it as long as it’s done within such a context. I personally keep my tongue talking low when I don’t have an interpretation for the simple reason that my desire is for the entire body to be edified, not just me. I’m thoroughly convinced that uninterpreted tongues in the midst of preaching is selfish and undesirable though since the congregation is listening and expecting to be fed.
And I have seen tongues (= unknown language) spoken and interpreted during a sermon and during times praise and worship. I have also seen known languages unknown to the speaker spoken in the midst of native speakers of the language. And as I just stated above, I’ve seen tongues abused during a sermon. In fact, one young lady preached a message in my church so peppered with tongues that I honestly couldn’t understand anything she said. It was disturbing.
I was raised in the A/G and public speaking in tongues, with and without interpretation was the norm. It will probably always be a little strange for me to participate in a service where there is no speaking in tongues.
I have been attending a baptist church for the past few years and have no intentions of leaving. I have come to the understanding that it is better for tongues to be used in one’s personal spiritual life, and not in public meetings, and so I am comfortable without it in a service now.
I have seen many instances where the gift was used in an appropriate matter, if one accepts that it is appropriate for public use. I would contend that everyone should speak in tongues, though in private and in prayer.
I used to believe and practise as you describe, but the old charismatic renewal simply died for me – as an Anglican priest & presbyter, now in these days, I practise more contemplative prayer. Though I also have found the real need for simple and verbal prayer on my knees, also! But strangely, the prayer of tongues has departed? Oh yes, I can no doubt “do it”, but it seems as nothing now. I wonder about that whole era sometimes. Remember I am 60, and have seen my share of it.
Also the Jungian ideas have really initiated this area in the Anglican and Catholic Churches. That has been a real negative overall for me.
Thanks for sharing this account. A very debated issue, no doubt. I suppose I have always seen tongues as more ‘spontaneous’. But I definitely believe it is good to have elders involved in administrating the gift of tongues and interpretation, as your example shows.
As to some thoughts on the whole congregation speaking in tongues, my reading of 1 Cor 14 is that, first of all, the gift of prophecy and tongues seem to be the most readily available gifts to the whole body. And I think Acts 2 also makes this clear in that in the new covenant we not only have the priesthood of all believers, but also the prophethood of all believers. Male-female, young-old. No barriers for the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ (a Jewish intertestamental term). It would be a mark of the ‘last days’, which is the whole Messianic age – that all of God’s people would be empowered by the Spirit of prophecy. And interesting, those at Pentecost did not prophesy literally, but they spoke in tongues. But Peter’s quoting of Joel connects prophecy to the event. So I am convinced that prophecy and tongues seem to be the most readily available to the whole body.
Secondly, I think we need to recognise the difference between a public message in tongues and private tongues. Many Christians who walk into a Pentecostal or charismatic gathering might hear a large portion of the assembly participating in ‘singing in tongues’. Because tongues are being spoken (or sung), but no interpretation was given with all of those varying tongues, some feel that this is unbiblical.
In 1 Cor 14:2-5, we see that Paul is teaching that one who speaks in a tongue is speaking to God (vs2) and builds up him/herself (vs4). But, in vs5, we see Paul encourages interpretation, and with such, tongues begins to function like prophecy, meaning it edifies the whole body rather than solely the person speaking. Still, this distinction between private prayer and a public message I believe does not come until we read on into vs27-28 – 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.
Here, Paul remarks that, if there is no one to interpret the tongue, then the person keeps ‘silent’, meaning they do not share with the gathered church but rather the person is to pray to himself and to God. This is why one may walk into a Pentecostal or charismatic assembly and hear multiple people speaking in tongues yet no interpretation is being given. The people are not giving a message in tongues, but they are praying in their spirits to God. They are not ‘praying in their head’, but there is a verbal utterance of prayer, just as if in a time of worship we spoke out a prayer of praise to God, but it was quite obvious we were not intending the whole congregation to hear our prayer (but still it came forth verbally, as does many prayers). But again, the people singing/speaking in tongues are not trying to communicate a message to the whole assembly. And so I believe this is an acceptable practise.
It is quite like in my church. There are about 12 different nationalities, and thus that many, or more, languages regularly spoken. If person A and person B are having a conversation in French, and I simply happen to hear that conversation, I would be very unreasonable to look at them and claim, ‘Ok, give me a translation so I can understand.’ They weren’t talking to me. I have no business being given an translation. But, if person A does not speak English, and the two were having a conversation in French that I needed to understand, then person B, who spoke English, would then turn to me with the translation for my benefit. I needed to know what had been said between the two in French. In the first case, I overheard the conversation, but it was not mine to know. In the second, I needed to know.
I think it is similar with tongues. Many times we might be in a prayerful spiritual language uttering things to God that is between the person(s) and God. It might have some decibel level. But these people are not talking to me (or to the congregation). So I don’t get upset and demand an interpretation. But, when the decibel level rises for all to definitely hear, or they come forward and share with the elders that they have a message in tongues to give (like Brian’s example), then the interpretation is needed, because it was for the whole congregation.
So when Paul says this in 1 Cor 14:28 – But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. – The silence is not a ‘zip your lips’, for why would he say ‘and speak to himself and to God’. I expect there was an allowance for utterance, but just in a way that is not disturbing all around. But if the whole congregation takes time to sing and pray with their spirits, no one is looking around saying, ‘Ok, interpret those 70 messages in tongues.’ It is usually quite obvious that this is between the people and God, not a message for everyone.
Those are some thoughts I have had.
Interesting stuff. The pentecostal church I was brought up used tongues but never as a whole congregation together and only during prayer/worship periods of the service – there was no interrupting the preacher! Moreover, only three times in any one service was tongues given and interpreted. I thought then and still do that this is in good accord with Paul’s injunctions to things decently and orderly. To be honest, I’ve never experienced any pentecostal services as Nick has described them. I wonder if there’s a cultural element to that? I.e., being British means that even as pentecostals, we’re more reserved than you yanks. 😛
Robert: It does seem like a very good church. We may settle there but we are going to visit a couple more places first to make sure we know this is where we should be.
Derek: I really appreciated seeing it used in a way that felt very, well, biblical. It is a wonderful gift and very edifying. I could tell my wife was deeply touched by the move of the Spirit. She says that is the most she has felt the Spirit since we moved here to Portland.
Daniel: I think we need more churches like this one that balance a healthy freedom of expression with order and sacrament. I hope to hear great things in the future as you seek to plant such a church.
Robert: I can see where it would be easy to be skeptical. I respect your position but I could never be a cessationist. I think it limits the body of Christ if we deny the possible gifting of others.
Nick: I have not pondered whether a group experience of tongues would be orderly if prepared for. It is possible. I’d have to think on it more. I’d have to think on it the context of Paul’s criticisms. One problem I’d have with it is that it doesn’t settle the problem of a lack of interpretation.
Nathan: When you say “everyone should speak in tongues” how to you see this fitting in with Paul saying that even though he would wish the same thing he knows the Spirit gifts everyone differently?
Scott: I think your exegesis is sound. For the most part as long as we know it is not leading to a public message we should keep it quieter. This doesn’t mean it can’t be heard by anyone but it shouldn’t be disruptive to others. If it is going to get loud it needs to get interpreted!
Jonathan: I have no doubt there are significant cultural differences. We here in the States often see no difference between how we act in worship gatherings and how we act at sporting events! Imagine in a CoE church worshiped like they root for Manchester United! That is how many Americans approach it.
Yes, I am a cessationist now by theological position, but of course God is sovereign. It has been not only a time of skepticism, but also seeing the loss of what was the once the charismatic movement (70’s/80’s). I saw both the R. Catholic charismatic renew and the Anglican, basically die before my eyes! Not to mention many people who are simply now not following Christ anymore. I know one personal friend that is now quite involved in the mythicist position, that was once a quite red hot “charismatic”. I know that we have moved into the place of a real and certain apostasy, but one cannot but wonder what has happened to the so-called “glow” of the Holy Spirit? At least in the churches I have seen. But again, God is God, and He can do what He wants and pleases! But right now, I see the sober place of the cessationist position.
And yes, being an older Anglo-Irish (born in Dublin), and educated in England, I am I guess somewhat reserved, and more mental? lol But I have and do read Fee, a good exegete certainly.
Of course there are cycles and seasons. Even nature tells us. So through the Welsh revival, Hebrides, and general charismatic renewal in the UK, there was a lot that happened. Maybe renewal and revival are not happening, but I know plenty, I mean plenty, of churches continuing on in the things of the Spirit, and even Anglicans-New Wine groups.
I can appreciate what you are saying, but in the end it must be a biblical and theological point. With all that postmodernity has brought to the culture, and now even the church (emergent, etc.). I am not of the position that the Church is in renewal. In fact, I see grave apostasy, even greater!
I know I mentioned this before, but please don’t view the works of God through a small percentage of the church in the UK (or the west as a whole). The majority of the church is pursuing Jesus and moving forward.
Sorry mate, but I don’t believe what you believe. I have seen my share of life too, in and out of the Church also. Not to mention a culture that went from some aspect of the Judeo-Christian witness, to both modernism, and now postmodernism. The Church is moving toward apostasy, surely! And we must see that, in this late hour (Note, 2 Tim. 2:19-chap. 3 / Jude / 2 Peter). And even the church at Laodicea – the apostate church, Rev.3:14-22. In reality, every Church age has lived in the light of this truth, but now even more ours!
I can only encourage you to visit what God is doing in places outside of the west. Well, God is doing plenty in the west. But I cannot begin to tell you what we have seen and tasted in China, India, Africa, and Central-South America.
It is one thing to be a cessationist but are you equating the continuationist position with apostasy? If so, on what grounds? What would be heretical about believing the Spirit does something in the church that was done in the church at her inception? It is one thing to say another position is wrong because of points a, b, and c…but “apostasy”?
My point is to the West, the place where there has been a Judeo-Christian life and witness for centuries. But, it is now in most definite decline and even apostacy! That is a simple fact! When the West goes down, it will lead to great tribulation, and finally the Eschatological end, and central will be the Middle East and modern Israel. (Zech. 14 / Rev. 1:7)
Zechariah 14 and Rev 1 say that?!
There are certainly groups of continuationalist Christians (so-called) that are engaged in the real drift and apostasy of the Church. But, I am not saying all Christians who believe such are involved. But biblical error, is biblical error. Note there are certain groups of continuationalist people that deny the Trinity of God. This is very serious error! And then there are the real wack job’s, I don’t need to mention names. You no doubt know them.
I am in full agreement that there are some continuationist that have gone into deep heresy. I am sure this may be true of some cessationist as well. What I was asking to be clarified is whether or not you though the continuationist position in and of itself was heretical? It is one thing to say you disagree on this or that (e.g. I think “believer’s baptism” is a more faithful reading of the biblical texts that children’s baptism, but I wouldn’t call someone with a differing view a “heretics” while I would call a JW or an Arian who denies the deity of Christ a heretic. In other words “error” seems to have degrees of difference before becoming heresy.) but another to say someone is in heresy.
We’re open to the display of the gifts. “Tongues” are a regular feature but done as we pray. The gifts of prophecy, discernment, and faith continue to be regular features as well.
But I too like the approach of “The Well.”
If you look at the context of Zech 14, with a futuristic view of Revelation, the Book of Daniel, etc. I am historic pre-mill, with a progressive dispensational overview. See even many of the Ante-Nicene Christian chiliasts, who have written on the Antichrist, the Book of Daniel etc. Irenaeus, Justin, etc.
How did you connect it to the fall of the west though?
I am not just not sure, myself, of the modern continuationalist position? Is that fair? Note the Text in Revelation..22:18, just for the Book of Revelation? Or does it have to do with the now Canon of the Scripture? I am now just not sure? And with the loss of what I have seen in the older charismatic movement, and even up to today… Yes, I am not sure? So I have taken the cessationist position theologically and biblically.
I think Rev. 22.18 refers to the Book of Revelation. These types of warnings appear in other apocalyptic texts as well. Even then, the gifts are not adding to the canon. Word of wisdom, prophecy, or the interpretation of tongues are not understood to be the “Constitution” of the church no more than the weekly homily that edifies.
I am 60, almost 61. I have seen the Western culture slowly but surely going in spiritual decline. Plus I lived and taught in Israel in the late 90’s, and I also fought in Gulf War 1, and other stuff in and around the whole area. So, yes, I am a “Biblical” Zionist.
You have your belief certainly, and I have mine. But, it is always Christ! Note, Eph. 2:18, here is where the Spirit leads…to both the Father and the Son! (John 14:26, etc.) I am not anti-gifts, or against the people that believe what you believe. I am just centered on Christ and the Triune God! Fair?
Sounds fair to me!
Good mate.. Let us exalt Christ together! Thanks too to hear a few of my thoughts.
“Nathan: When you say “everyone should speak in tongues” how to you see this fitting in with Paul saying that even though he would wish the same thing he knows the Spirit gifts everyone differently?”
I wish it for personal edification. In light of this, the strength of his exhortation for prophecy, over and above tongues, is compelling. This has been my spiritual challenge for the past several years, and I am still learning.
Posts like this add to my journey. It is good for me to read the positions of those who disagree with my theology.
Just a friendly question, but do you see prophecy happening “outside” of the Text?
I’m not sure how to read your question. If you mean do I believe that there is prophecy for today, then yes. I believe the age of prophets prior to the Messiah is over, but I suppose there are more than one type of prophecy. The whole concept of a prophet and prophecy is a bit arcane and hard to figure out in a modern society.
There was a good blog post about this recently, but I can’t remember where it is now.
Here it is:
When did God’s eschatological kingdom plan of making all things new get locked into how the western world is doing?
My view on the West really looks back all the way to Western Philosophy, Plato, etc. We in the West have certainly been affected by Western Philosophy! And it is here that the West reasons and functions, at least in my opinion. It is here too that I would see St. Paul the Roman Citizen, Greco-Roman, Hellenized Jew…Gal. 4:4. Note the Book of Hebrews also.
But I’m not sure how this all connects into your thoughts with regards to ‘when the west goes down, it will lead to great tribulation and the eschatological end’. I mean, I could argue that the eschaton seems to be a glorious event when a mature and prepared bride marries Jesus. But even if you disagree with this thesis, I am not sure what biblical evidence has led you to where you stand. I understand making general statements about tribulation and apostasy that dispensationalists make. But was confused on the specific statements about the fall of the west leading to all of these things.
Of course my position is a conclusion and presupposition based upon the logic of the central place of the Judeo-Christian Revelation. And once again, in the Salvation History of God. The world has become a smaller place in the 21st century. And those that cannot see also the central place of Modern Israel, and all those that hate her (Radical Islam, and even secular people & groups now). I see of course that Modern Israel is simply central in the lasting place of “Biblical” Israel, and thus part of the Eschatological end of man and humanity on this planet. (Rom. 9-11) Thus the OT Scripture to the New! (Rev. 1:7…”And all tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him.”
Brian, please let me know when we have hijacked too much. 🙂
Isn’t the goal to stay here – the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven; the new earth; the renewed creation?
By the way, I had started a series on tongues. Maybe one day I will finish it. Feel free to check out part 1 and part 2.
When I say “end”, of course I am talking about this “fallen, sinful” aspect. Yes, the eschaton will be part of the renewed creation, and finally the New Heavens and New Earth. But note it is both the New Jerusalem connected to the earthly Jerusalem…Zech 14:4-21 / Rev.21. To my understanding, as like Irenaeus the Millennial and the Eternal State will be forever connected.
No worries, comment away. You are asking Robert the questions I was going to ask. If I can I will check your series on tongues.
Guys, I am just an old Anglo-Irishman, Anglican, a churchman.. but always seeking a ‘Biblical theology’. And any can see I am very eclectic!
Brain – that sounds sort of like what I would imagine an experience to be, although like others here, I have seen it only as a disorderly thing, lacking with the biblical mandate of the interpretation. I am not a cessationist, but I do believe in testing everything that is said by Scripture. Could you tell us what was said?
It was an edifying message for those who were feeling depressed and defeated encouraging them to know God is with them. It actually paralleled the sermon given earlier in the morning.
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