A brief journey describing the contemporary practice of speaking in tongues and how influential this doctrine is throughout the world.
The modern Christian rite of speaking in tongues is largely attributed to the Pentecostal movement. One of the cornerstones of this movement happened in 1906 in Los Angeles which is now referred to as the Azusa Street Revival. There are close antecedents to Azusa Street that contributed to the explosion of tongues in 1906, but Azusa brought to the public conscience what was already occurring in many grass-roots Christian religious groups across the United States. Any passionate reader of the Bible and most Christian movements that claim adherence to the most purist form of Christianity will likely try to reproduce the miraculous events outlined in the Book of Acts. The late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States fostered strong sentiments in this area among a broad spectrum of the Protestant faith.
Speaking in tongues is an inherent part of the Pentecostal and Charismatic identities. This practice is one of the key features that distinguish them apart from other Christian movements.
How widespread is the Renewalist movement?
The statistical combination of Charismatic, Pentecostal, and other groups heavily influenced by them (known together as Renewalists) throughout the world is estimated at 8% of the world’s population. One quarter of all Christians are Renewalist influenced.1.
The child-prodigy of the Pentecostal influence, the Charismatic movement, happened later. It was the culmination of the unsuccessful attempt to synergize Pentecostal ideology within the traditional structures of established churches such as the Episcopalian, Methodist, Catholic and many other mainline churches. This rejection led to many of those people imbued with Pentecostal type experiences to form their own independent churches. These congregations became labelled as Charismatic churches. Their exponential growth has now outnumbered the Pentecostal movement.
Renewalists are the fastest growing sect of Christianity throughout the world. Renewalism is not restricted to any geographical location, race, or socioeconomic group.
This rapid growth of Christian mysticism along with its distinctive theology of speaking in tongues makes a historical study imperative.
What is speaking in tongues in most churches today? What does the modern speaking in tongues phenomenon look and sound like?
Here are some videos:
This following is a portion of a speech along with a pronouncement of tongues given by Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke at a large indoor gathering. His Christ for the Nations website claims over 55 million documented decisions for Christ under his ministry, which is largely aimed at the African continent.
Kenneth Hagin, a mid-1900s Pentecostal preacher who had a large following, has a full length YouTube video practicing this rite. This is a typical example of speaking in tongues, though it is not always done in a Sunday service. It is found more frequently in weekday services, prayer sessions, pastoral settings, and special events. Notice the excitement, enthusiasm and positive feedback from the audience.
The tongues sequence can be found at the 7:00 minute mark.
Children speaking in tongues
The emphasis within some Renewalist groups is so strong that their children learn this practice at an early age. The following is a YouTube video that shows young children practicing this rite in an unidentified religious setting.
A previous video shown here was removed from YouTube but this one shows the same concept.
How do Renewalists describe their experience?
Some Renewalists may call it a heavenly language that only the individual, God and special interpreter understands. Others may say it is a private prayer language. Some shrug their shoulders and say it is simply a God thing that defies explanation. A popular definition is the language of adoration. Another expression is to be singing in the spirit. This is when a number of people sing together harmonically in tongues. A handful may say that it is the spontaneous ability to speak a foreign language. Renewalists do not believe that they are speaking gibberish nor speaking in a language of ecstasy. Ecstatic utterances hardly involve any mental faculties whereas the Renewalist believes it is a deliberate outcome of a controlled mind.
Renewalism and Catholicism
The following link will take you to a video on the effect of Renewalism within the Catholic faith:
What does this all mean?
There are more examples that can be found at YouTube in respect to tongues speaking, but the majority demonstrate extreme forms. These are not representative of the tongues-speaking movement as a whole.
These videos demonstrate the contemporary practice, but do not answer the antecedents to these events. There are historical influences, movements, and peoples that have shaped today’s definition which is quite different from its earliest historical beginnings.
What were those antecedents? And why is that people are practising a rite different from the origins? These are two questions that the Gift of Tongues Project seeks to answer in deep and documented manner.
The Gift of Tongues project is full of valuable information, including source works, English translations, commentaries and analysis of this doctrine over a two thousand year period. Click on the following link, The Gift of Tongues Project for more information.