Some thoughts on speaking in tongues

Illustrative - Center of Fait Emanuel of Assemblies of God in Cancun, Mexico (Photo: Rayttc/Wikimedia Commons)

Two years ago I wrote a blog entitled “Who Exactly ARE the Israeli Messianic Jews” in which I lamented the divisions within the Body of Messiah here in Israel which is causing a lot of problems, including by making it difficult if not impossible for us to speak with a united voice which our own government and some of the big Christian Zionist ministries and para-church organizations who have operations here would have no choice but to pay attention to.

At the time I wrote that article, I was under the impression that one of the thorniest points of division among us was/is the disagreement between pastors and congregations over whether we should “act Jewish” by, among other things, keeping kosher, wearing traditional Jewish clothing like kippot and by studying the Talmud and other Rabbinic writings. As it turns out, that point of disagreement isn’t the one that causes the most friction here.

I have heard of pastors and congregations who declare (some openly and even in writing, others by inference) that a “true Believer” in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will axiomatically engage in the practice commonly known as “speaking in tongues,” while there are others who teach that this practice is (pardon my slight over-simplification here) a gift that some Believers have and some don’t.

This is as astounding to me as it is heartbreaking.

The attitude of these Charismatic leaders towards speaking in tongues is not only not supported by Scripture, it is flatly repudiated by Scripture. It is also, I would beg to point out, comparable to the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church which has been saying for hundreds of years that any “true Believers” in the Bible will venerate, if not worship, Jesus’ mother Mary.

Both Mary and speaking in tongues are mentioned in the Bible, and as such, they are both deserving of attention and respect. We Protestants, in an effort to differentiate ourselves from the RCC, have gone too far in ignoring Mary, but this is a topic for another blog.

Getting back to speaking in tongues, it is a great blessing to many people and it is something which no one should denigrate. Anyone who has this gift should be very grateful for it.

But building your entire theology around it, to the point of treating those who don’t have this gift as somehow defective or immature or second-class or, worst of all, not really saved?


Brothers and sisters, how could we have come to this?

I think part of the reason for this is that a certain percentage of the congregations in Israel are not really organic to Israel, but rather they are simply local franchises of megachurches and/or para-church organizations in the US and Europe. As such, they are not at liberty to do otherwise than to hold the same positions as their mother organizations. That’s a problem in almost every small country and even in some big countries where the Body of Messiah is largely a product of the efforts of Western missionaries who brought their own denominational biases with them when they came and set up local congregations.

But there is going to come a point where this issue gets resolved. The Body of Christ in the Land of Israel is too strategically important to be nothing more than a localized battleground for the Western megachurches and para-church organizations which sponsor local fellowships here.

In this blog, I am repeating my call for the pastors and elders and leadership of the Body of Christ in Israel to have a meeting (it will probably have to be more than one meeting) and hash this stuff out. Please. Our numbers are growing rapidly. God is obviously on the move. We need you to step up and take things to the next level, because although we’re getting bigger in numbers, we’re still a tiny percentage of this country’s population, but we have a VERY important job to do and a VERY short amount of time to do it.

Please, please please, get busy sorting it out.