Five months ago, my family was looking for a church. Having visited many churches at that point, we decided to go back and revisit a few of them. We set a deadline for ourselves. We would choose a church by Memorial Day weekend. As it turns out, we were out of town that weekend, but the drive time provided just what we needed to weigh our various worship experiences. We decided on a local Pentecostal church, not because it is Pentecostal, but because it is a warm, welcoming, worshiping church. It embodied most, if not all, of the things for which we were looking, and we sensed the Spirit nudging us in that direction.
In a way, starting at our new church has been a kind of return to our roots for me and my wife. We both began our Christian walks in Pentacostal churches, though not the same denomination. Though we loved the Baptist church we were a part of for the last 9 years, there have always been aspects of our background that we missed. But the one thing I did not miss was the one thing that makes Pentecostals pentecostal: the doctrine that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of being baptized in, or filled with, the Holy Spirit, a theology I have not been able to reconcile with my own study of scripture. And, though I believe in the empowerment of the Spirit for life and service, my personal experience has been one of receiving supernatural spiritual gifts other than tongues (1 Cor. 12:8-10). So, having come out of a Pentecostal denomination, I was unsure of how I would feel associating with one again. Growing up, I sometimes witnessed an unhealthy focus on tongues, rather than on Jesus, as if somehow a person’s whole Christian life hinged on whether they could speak in tongues or not. This was the folly of the Judaizers, and something I would very much like my family to avoid. The good news is that, after 4 months at our new church, the focus has been on Jesus, solid teaching and balanced living. There are people there who speak in tongues–and I love that that’s part of our mix! But the thrust of ministry there is calling people to Jesus, not to tongues-speaking.
The truth is that I don’t have a problem with speaking in tongues. My issue is with teaching that either insists upon it or dismisses it altogether. I believe it is healthy for every Christian congregation to have tongue-speakers as part of their fellowship (indeed, people representing every spiritual gift). But it is not central to my understanding of the Christian life. My question has been how central it is in the life our church.
As someone who does not have and may not get the gift of tongues, would I be able to serve in the church and use the gifts I do have? Would it be possible to seek ordination in the future without 100% agreement with the denomination’s statement of faith?
Christians who carefully study scripture may find themselves at times disagreeing with their denomination/church/pastor about some point of biblical doctrine. In the Body of Christ, there are many diverse perspectives about what the Bible teaches but there is just one Faith. Our doctrinal and (non-) denominational distinctives define us in important ways, as do our individual and family distinctives. But our differences and disagreements should not lead us to disregard the essential tenets of the Faith. Neither should they cause us to disown our Christian brothers and sisters. We remain together with them in Christ Jesus. He is the peace that binds us (Eph. 2:14; 4:3).
Listen to my podcast on this topic: About Spiritual Gifts