So for today I want to share some concluding reflections on the subject:
- The best resource on the topic is Craig Keener's Gift And Giver: The Holy Spirit For Today. This volume has a blend of autobiography and scholarship that makes for a compelling read.
- A second resource is Jack Hayford's The Beauty Of Spiritual Language. Hayford is a pastor, songwriter, and author from California whose approach to ministry and spirituality has influenced me greatly through the years. In addition to leading the Church On The Way in Van Nuys, California to an unprecendented season of growth, he also wrote the early contemporary Christian standard, Majesty -- #176 in your Methodist hymnal!
- Great biblical passages on the subject include Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 19:1-7, and I Corinthians 12-14. Note that the I Corinthian section has the "love" chapter -- #13 -- sandwiched in the middle of the discussions of spiritual gifts. That serves as a reminder that spiritual gifts -- especially the gift of tongues -- need to be used in a context of love, not superiority.
- I believe that God wants to give the gift of tongues to many people who do not realize it or accept it.
- Having said that, Scripture is also clear that the gift is not for everyone (I Corinthians 12:27-31).
- Part of the miracle of tongues includes the ability to hear and understand when someone else is praying in tongues. We see that reality in Acts 2. I have limited experience in that particular expression of the gift, and much more in the private prayer language to which I Corinthians 14:4 refers.
- A generation ago, the issue of praying in tongues was extremely divisive in churches. Much has changed -- and for the better. Good Shepherd is one of many, many churches today in which tongues is a unifier, not a divider -- even if there are many in the church who don't have this particular gift. We are blessed to be part of what some call the "Third Wave" of churches -- congregations that have expressive worship, enthusiastic praise, and allow room for the gifts to operate while not requiring them as a sign of spiritual maturity.