A practice that became popular in 1905, speaking in tongues (Glossolalia) is regarded as a badge of honor for Pentecostal churches – for them, the practice sets them apart from the rest of the Christian denominations, emphasizing its importance with regards to gaining spiritual freedom. Others are against it, though. So, which denominations speak in tongues? This post addresses this question.
Essentially, all the Christian denominations that have embraced Pentecostal theology speak in tongues. These denominations include the Church of God, Assemblies of God, Apostolic Churches, Vineyard Churches, and Foursquare churches. Away from the denominations, individuals from Baptist, Nazarene, and Methodist churches may also practice Glossolalia.
Overall, speaking in tongues is a touchy theological practice, with groups that support it and those that dissent from the practice and what it means. Keep reading to understand the practice of speaking in tongues, what it means, and what language they speak.
What does it mean to speak in tongues?
Speaking in tongues, also referred to as Glossolalia, is a Christian practice involving speaking in prayer, according to Pentecostal churches. Glossolalia is derived from the Greek words that mean ‘tongues,’ ‘languages,’ or ‘to speak.’ The Greek derivative of the practice’s name is why Pentecostal Christians deem it the prayer language.
In 1 Corinthians 2:4-10, it is indicated that speaking in tongues is among the supernatural gifts given to mankind by the Holy Spirit. Here it’s suggested that speaking in tongues is a unique gift that allows believers to utter wisdom and knowledge. And everyone who speaks in tongues receives a different gift – so, while others speak in tongues, others have the gift to interpret the languages spoken.
It’s worth noting that even though some people speak in tongues, they don’t speak in a new language but in a known language. Even so, many still believe that speaking in tongues means uttering words in some heavenly language. A Pentecostal denomination like Assemblies of God teaches about speaking in tongues, as they believe the first demonstration of this practice was during the Baptism of Christ.
On the contrary, the Southern Baptist Convention believes that no official SBC stance or view currently exists. According to teachings by the Southern Baptist churches, this gift ceased to exist when the Bible’s inspired writing was completed. However, some Baptist theologians like Wayne Grudem believe that speaking in tongues remains a gift to Christians that are still available today – but he reckons that a better translation of the New Testament would be needed for a better understanding of the whole concept.
Note that the whole idea of speaking in tongues was first experienced during the baptism of Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit, and so, the early Christians experienced this day as Pentecost. As suggested in Acts 2:1-4, the Holy Spirit Poured this gift to the disciples. The message of salvation in Christ was also shared by Peter when the Holy Spirit visited the home of Cornelius, after which he started speaking in tongues while praising God – Acts 10. Other Biblical suggestions of speaking in tongues are found in 1 Corinthians 13:8, Mark 16:17, and 1 Corinthians 14:5-29.
It is important to note that while speaking in tongues is considered a different form of communication or communion with God; it involves speaking in real languages. This is suggested in Acts 2:8-11 where the people baptized on the Day of the Pentecost spoke in their native languages. According to the New Testament, speaking in tongues may also involve speaking in a manner that is unintelligible to the speaker, and listeners find that the language sounds gibberish. However, it’s done; speaking in tongues is considered a way through which believers tell of the mighty works performed by God. And as implied here, speaking in tongues by people from different parts of the world allowed them to understand God’s work better.
Can anyone speak in tongues?
While every believer can technically speak in tongues, it is one of those things that not everyone is gifted in. Even so, if you belong to a Pentecostal church, you may be speaking since it’s part of the church. Not everyone belonging to the Pentecostal church speaks in a tongue, though.
Biblically, it is implied that everyone who identifies as a follower of Christ and has been baptized in the Holy Spirit can practice the gift subsequently. It is further implied that the gift to speak in tongues isn’t just for the ones gifted by the Holy Spirit but for all that have faith in Christ. 1 Corinthians 12 and Mark 16:17-18. So, anyone who believes in Jesus Christ and the gifts he bestows will enjoy them.
How can Christians recognize if someone is speaking in tongues? Is it a real language?
Often, someone claiming to speak in tongues will be easily identified because of how they speak and the words they speak. Someone speaking in tongues speaks in a known language, but there are numerous times when their words sound gibberish. The syllables and sounds used are often unintelligible, and spoken language often sounds and feels mysterious. This is believed to be because this language doesn’t adhere to any of the conventions of language on earth. According to the writings of Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 14, verses 2 and 9, it is implied that speaking in tongues is essentially a type of unintelligent speaking.
Put differently; many recognize this type of spiritual speaking when someone hears the phrase – it is not the kind of language that many understand, but they recognize it.
Does it mean that speaking in tongues language is a real language? All who believe in and speak in tongues recognize it as a real language even though it has never been used on earth. The people who speak it consider it a ‘heavenly language.’ But the rest of the hearers admit that they neither recognize nor understand the words spoken.
According to research by the University of Toronto’s Linguist William L. Samarin, Glossolalia is just gibberish and doesn’t have much semblance to human language – it often lacks the rhythm intonation and the use of pauses that would otherwise separate different syllable groups.
What Christian denominations can speak in tongues?
Pentecostal churches are the main group of Christians that firmly hold the practice of speaking in tongues. Note that Pentecostalism is one of the movements in Protestant Christianity dating back to early in the 20th century.
Despite starting early in the 1900s, the aspects of Pentecostalism came to life before then. It’s also worth noting that there isn’t a denomination called Pentecostal. Instead, there are Christians that prescribe Pentecostal Theology. At its core, Pentecostal churches are run under the Pentecostal theology, which features three main core convictions – speaking in tongues (as a sign of baptism through the Holy Spirit, Baptism (after conversion), and the belief that all spiritual gifts like speaking and interpreting tongues, or healing are all available to all believers.
Denominations that teach and encourage the practice of speaking in tongues
- Apostle Faith Mission Church of God
- Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ
- Apostolic Faith Church
- Assemblies of God
- Church of God in Christ
- Cleveland, Tennessee-based Church of God
- Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God
- Church of God, Mountain Assembly
- Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith
- Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ
- Church of the Living God
- Congregational Holiness Church
- Church of God Prophesy
- Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God
- Elim Fellowship
- International Pentecostal Holiness Church
- Fellowship of Christian Assemblies
- Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers
- International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
- Independent Assemblies of God
- Open Bible Churches
- United Holy Church of America
- United Pentecostal Church International
- Fire Baptized Holiness Church
- Pentecostal Church of God
- Vineyard Churches International
- Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church
- Oneness Churches
As mentioned above, some individuals that belong to the mainstream Protestant churches also speak in tongues. The most common are Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalian, and Methodist churches.
Other religions that practice glossolalia include shamanism, Japan’s God Light Association, and paganism.
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