If you are just joining this discussion, it is imperative that you read the following posts before proceeding here:

Tongue in cheek…or not?

Tongue in cheek…IMB

Tongue in cheek…CMA

To summarize, I am addressing the issue of tongues (the spiritual gift) and its use in modern Christianity. As I understand Scripture, tongues were not intended to remain beyond the apostolic age and the completion (perfection) of the canon of Scripture. I do not, however, attempt dogmatism (at this point in time) in reference to these issues; the last thing I want to do is entirely discredit something that God might be the cause of. Let’s continue.

If you have followed the blog, you will know that my family visited with Lifeland Community Church this past Sunday. Lifeland is somewhat associated (I don’t know exactly how closely) with the Assemblies of God (USA). I am not intending to be polemical against my friends, but I do have some concern with the positions of the AGs.

The AGs are very pro-tongues. They see them as valid for congregational worship and private prayer. Thankfully, they do not say that one must speak in tongues to be saved. However, everyone who is “filled with the Spirit” will evidence speaking in tongues:

There are those who give testimony to a dynamic and life-changing encounter with the Holy Spirit who have never spoken in tongues. Nevertheless it cannot be said that they are filled with the Spirit in the New Testament sense of the term. (link)

I suppose I must take this personally. You see, I have never spoken in tongues. I am certainly not the most spiritual person I know, but I would like to think I have reached a greater spiritual maturity than the one who has only come to knowledge of salvation for a few days or hours or minutes. Furthermore, there are farther-reaching ramifications of this statement. If it is true that tongues is a definite evidence of Spirit filling, then Billy Graham, Rick Warren, John Piper [I have since discovered that Piper is a Continuationist], Jonathan Edwards, Martin Luther, and certainly many others have never been filled with the Spirit (I cannot attest that every one of these individuals have not had or did not have such an experience, but to the best of my knowledge, they would have likely chronicled it to some extent).

The AGs do have their own little disclaimer that might explain why the aforementioned (including myself) have never experienced tongues:

The believer must (1) have a clear understanding of the biblical base for promised gifts; (2) be touched in his heart with a desire for the gifts to flow; (3) be willing to submit to the inner sense that the Spirit is seeking expression; and (4) offer to the Holy Spirit his heart, emotions, will, and voice by which those gifts may operate. The key is obedient availability coupled with a sincere desire to please God. (link)

However, does this mean that having a “clear understanding of the gifts” is foundational for being “filled with the Spirit”? I am quite sure that tongues is not mentioned nor implied in the Ephesians 5 reference to being filled with the Spirit. For a reminder:

…be filled with the Spirit. 19Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph. 5:18b-20, NIV)

There is a list of other questions that might be asked by the curious on the AG’s website. You can find those here: Other question

Finally, I will still say that tongues are a non-essential; especially if you do not require their practice as evidence of salvation. I can gladly fellowship with my AG brothers and sisters in Christ. I will not appreciate that they might judge me as never having been “filled with the Spirit,” but I would think that many AG believers would recognize the error in being dogmatic in that theology.

I have a few more posts I would like to make on this subject, although I am not sure where I would like to go next.

I use to criticize “church-hoppers,” and I am still not in favor of those who cannot make a commitment to a local church. I do not want to excuse my current situation, but after spending 6 years in vocational ministry, my family is taking the time to simply visit for a month or two with varied styles of churches to see what they are doing. Today was no different.

This morning, we hit the 10:30 service at North Cincinnati Community Church. Although a “community church” by name, they are affiliated with the Presbyterian Church in America (as opposed to the liberal extreme: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)). They had a nice facility, and the people were very friendly. Overall, it was a good experience. The pastor, Walter Wood, was a little more “dry” than what I am used to. I would liked to have seen more energy in their services. Despite these small criticisms, one cannot deny the church must be doing something right. Not yet into its teenage years (the church is 12 years old), they have grown to likely more than 600 in weekend attendance (this is a guess). They are in process of laying out a vision plan for the coming years, as well. Of course, with my background, I want to examine the musical program, and I was pleased. Despite not having a staff person dedicated to it (although their plan is to add such), the music was very organized, tasteful, and well done. It was a decent blend of modern and ancient in a contemporary style.

At 4:30 today (actually we were about 7 minutes late), we visited with Lifeland Community Church. Although, I intend to use the “community” term if God permits me to plant a church, I will have to admit that you never know what you’re going to get when you walk into a “community church.” Lifeland is pastored by Chad Fagerland. We had dinner with the Fagerlands this past Friday night. Chad is a tremendous and genuine guy, and I really hope God continues to use him at Lifeland. The worship could not have been more different than this morning. Lifeland will celebrate its one-year birthday next weekend, so it is considerably smaller than North Cincinnati (between 30 and 40 in attendance today). They are in a borrowed facility, but they deal with it well. We sat in chairs around square tables that had candles burning in the center. There was some florescent lighting used during the teaching, but the lights were dimmed for the worship response. Incidentally, they begin with a discussion/interaction time, followed by the pastoral teaching on the theme (“character” in the life of Daniel was today’s theme). After the teaching, the community is invited to respond in worship. This worship is accompanied by music, but you are free to go to 3-4 worship alters for prayer and/or communion. It was an experiential time. I was completely comfortable with the entire service, although the worship experience was different than most. In closing, we were led in the Apostle’s Creed and a benediction of blessing spoken over us by the pastor.

It has been a good day, and it has been good to spend these moments with these two churches. I am not sure that I could make either my home. I would certainly differ with North Cincinnati on the issue of baptism. I would hold to a “Believer’s baptism” rather than infant baptism. This, for me, is a non-essential. It would not cause me to break fellowship with them, and I am content to agree to disagree. I don’t consider baptism necessary for salvation, and I can understand their argument. However, their argument lacks significant scriptural support and consistency.

Lifeland is affiliated with Assemblies of God. They would certainly hold to a different teaching on spiritual gifts than I would. Again, I would consider this a non-essential, and I would not break fellowship over it. If, they believe the extreme that the manifestation of tongues is essential for salvation, then it would no longer be a non-essential and would redefine the gospel. I will save more thoughts on this for another post, in another day.

The Church Report has published an article today titled “The Top 50 most influential Christians in America.”  This is certainly not an authoritative list, but it is interesting to note the presence and absence of a few people.  I will admit, there are a few names on the list that I would not have been able to identify who they are.  There are certainly a few names I would have expected to be on the list that weren’t.

Surprises:

That T.D. Jakes was #1.

That Andy Stanley (#13) was ranked higher than his father (#22).

Jay Alan Sekulow (#23), forgive my ignorance, but I’ve never heard of him.

Leonard Sweet (#32) made the list.

The Pope (Benedict XVI) ranked as low as #44.

C’mon, are you sure Sean Hannity (#40) and Dr. Phil (#50) belong on this list?

Who’s missing?

Mark Driscoll, founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seatle, author of Radical Reformission.  You can let him take Brian McLaren’s place (#42).

Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Jack Graham, President of the Southern Baptist Convention.

I am glad to see John Piper (#24) and Rob Bell (#25) on the list.

Who do you think is missing?