Teaching Is the Conservative Tongues

More conservative evangelicals often criticize Pentecostal traditions for their emphasis on speaking in tongues. They point out (rightly, I think) that too many churches have placed an outsize emphasis on the gift of tongues, removed it from its scriptural context, and used it as a spiritual status symbol.

Monolingual brothers and sisters, there is a speck in your eye, too! (Pardon the many planks in mine as I implore you to examine your works.)

Most evangelical churches today make a similar error, except the gift involved is not tongues but teaching. They place an outsize emphasis on teaching, giving it an enormous part in church gatherings. What’s worse is the millions of dollars spent to enhance this one gift in young men and women. I know of no one with a doctorate degree in speaking tongues – or mercy, or generosity for that matter.

Most churches also remove teaching and preaching from the scriptural context. In the book of Acts, preaching was a public act done for the sake of listening unbelievers, not a lecture delivered to disciples. Preaching was focused on the resurrection of Christ, not series on how to have a better marriage. The epistles command all believers to teach, admonish, exhort, and rebuke one another. Some have more grace in that area and should serve the body by using that gift, and the body should recognize and appreciate them. But that principle applies to all gifts.

Teaching is also the primary spiritual status symbol in most evangelical churches. Those with the gift of teaching are remunerated materially for using their gift, given special titles and authority, and generally praised and elevated above the rest of the body. This may not be true for every congregation where monologue teaching occurs, but it is an all-too-common tendency. In a sense, this error is worse than our Pentecostal friends’, because while they credit the Spirit with the power to speak in tongues, teaching-centric churches tend to credit the teacher’s hard work and experience with a nod to the Spirit for creating the teacher with such awesome potential.

If you believe that the practice of speaking in tongues is harmful to the church, then continue to dialog with Pentecostal believers about your concerns, but I hope you will humbly consider that the same temptation may have overtaken you as well.

Thanks to Eric Carpenter for the inspiration.

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