Speaking in tongues in the worship service

During the revival, speaking in tongues was a common phenomena during the meetings, whether for prayer or worship services. There would be loud speaking in tongues with tears and crying. People were convicted and overwhelmed by the Spirit and speaking loudly in tongues, sometimes with interpretation, but most times without.

My understanding about tongues and its use in church gradually shifted with exposure to different churches: Anglican charismatic, Methodist charismatic, Baptist charismatic, Love Singapore meetings and even mega church Pentecostal services. This coupled with theological training on the interpretation of scriptures formed and shaped a nuanced understanding of the usage of tongues in the church. However I found it difficult to put it in words or to explain them simply. Until I came across this video in Adrian Warnock’s blog by Terry Virgo the founder of a network of 600 churches in 50 nations called Newfrontiers. They are Reformed Charismatic and Evangelical small churches. He spoke about the use of speaking in tongues in the church service, and it resonated with me.

5e. Free to worship from Terry Virgo on Vimeo.

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  • Timely reminder that we are all built different but coming together for fellowship – some acceptance and sensitivity will always be in demand. Are some holier than others?

  • Hi Blogpastor,

    I love Newfrontiers and Terry. I think they are some of the more balanced charismatics out there – along with Vineyard.

    I used to hold to a pretty similar view to Terry’s – tongues in private but not altogether in the congregation because of what Paul said. As you mentioned, such a view is not really common. Most Charismatics do it all together in the congregation (main service, not prayer meeting) – actually, in New Creation you don’t hear tongues spoken as a congregation – at least, it’s never (or seldom) encouraged. Of course the typical charismatic justification for the whole congregation speaking in tongues is there’s a difference between private/devotional tongues and the gift of tongues and private devotional tongues is OK if done all at once and without interpretation, but not the gift of tongues without interpretation. I’m not sure about this interpretation.

    But I think Paul mentions two things why this shouldn’t be done – it’s simply not loving because love considers others and speaking in tongues edifies oneself and not others (unless it’s interpreted). Prophecy, on the other hand, is loving because it edifies everyone (as everyone can understand and benefit) and not just oneself. The second thing is that unbelievers will think you’re out of your mind.

    I think the second point is a good reason not to encourage speaking in tongues corporately. The first, if kept strictly, would probably mean we should not even pray privately to God during corporate meetings because it edifies individuals and not others.

    Whatever the case, I only recently learned the benefit of really praying in tongues privately. You can pray so much more in private than at a church service. The emphasis, I think, should be on praying in tongues privately than in a service – unless it’s a corporate prayer meeting.

    And I think for the sake of unity, I would be willing to leave out tongues totally in big gatherings with other churches. That’s one thing I don’t like about the Love Singapore movement. When they tell the whole group of Christians coming together to pray in tongues for 2 or 3 minutes (at least what they used to do when Lawrence Khong was in charge the first 7 or however many years – now we don’t seem to have these meetings for normal Christians – not pastors – which is sad), I didn’t feel comfortable because I was thinking of other Christians who would be uncomfortable. There may be many non-charismatics or those who don’t agree with such practices, so it could be done away with. Unity is more important!

    • Stillhaventfound, As usual you put it so neatly. Except that what I experienced of the Love Singapore wasn’t like what you wrote. Maybe we were witnessing two different periods.

  • Tongues is one issue that christians argue about. I know of many christians who support the “gibberish” form of tongues and I have also christians told me that tongues is not biblical and that tongue-speakers would be condemned on the last day.

    In reality, christians have many different views regarding a lot of doctrines and beliefs. Below is a list of doctrine issues that christians have differing views on —

    validity of megachurches
    method of baptism
    baptism for salvation
    person of jesus
    trinity concept
    nature of heaven, hell, resurrection and ascension
    communion process
    salvation of non-christians
    version of bible to use
    interpretation of verses
    what is considered sinful
    use of rock music
    once saved always saved doctrine
    prosperity gospel
    number of books to be included in the bible


    I just hope christians can one day unite and speak the same things

    • Hi Madcat, thanks for visiting. Yes we Christians have many different views on peripheral matters and some not so peripheral matters. When it boils down to matters you are willing to die for, or sacrifice your family for in martyrdom, the number is vastly reduced. For instance, I wouldn’t want to die over the “correct” or “best” version of the Bible to use. Yes and its my hope and prayer too – a unity of Spirit and faith in the essentials in Christ.
      BTW you have a nice blog.

  • Thank you.

    Yea of course no one dies for “the best version of the bible” or “tongues”. But many christians I spoke to tell me that there are eternal consequences with regards to these issues.

    For example, some christians tell me that christians who believe in the “tongues” are going to suffer eternally while christians from the other camp say that THEY are blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is also an unforgivable sin in some forms interpretations.

    It gets kinda confusing for non-believers like me.


  • Hi Madcap, you have a lot of knowledge for a non-believer. You must live and work among many Christians. Yes what you said is true. I myself have heard those remarks which hark back to the 1970s. Surprised that the currency still has value! What can I say to a confused non-believer like you?

    Focus and stick to Jesus in the gospels, I suspect you will like Him better than the church!

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