For some Christians, speaking in tongues is an important part of their spiritual life, infusing their practices of prayer and worship. Some denominations encourage the practice. Others discourage it. Still others emphasize that each person has the freedom to decide if they will pursue and practice speaking in tongues.
All denominations that embrace Pentecostal theology speak in tongues, including the Assemblies of God, the Church of Christ, Foursquare churches, Apostolic churches, and Vineyard churches. Individuals who speak in tongues can be found in many other denominations like Baptist, Methodist, and Nazarene.
Some Christians have never heard another person speak in tongues. Others have only seen clips of people doing it on television or online, which sometimes depict extreme or unusual examples. So what does it even mean when someone is speaking in tongues — is it an actual language or an unknown one? Keep reading to learn more. Also, scroll down to see a list of over 25 denominations that speak in tongues.
What kind of churches speak in tongues?
Pentecostal churches speak in tongues. Pentecostalism is a movement within Protestant Christianity that started in the early 20th century, though aspects of it are found earlier than that.
There isn’t a denomination named “Pentecostal” today, but there are many that subscribe to Pentecostal theology. Pentecostal theology is comprised of these core convictions,
- Baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs after conversion. In Pentecostal theology, baptism in the Holy Spirit involves a subsequent act of God on a Christian that follows conversion. In non-Pentecostal traditions, baptism in the Holy Spirit occurs at the time of conversion.
- Speaking in tongues is the sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Speaking in tongues is the evidence of post-conversion Spirit-baptism, according to Pentecostal theology. If a person hasn’t spoken in tongues, they have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Non-Pentecostal traditions teach that baptism in the Holy Spirit has other evidence.
- All spiritual gifts are available to Christians today. All gifts mentioned in the New Testament, including speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, miracles, and healing are in operation today. In non-Pentecostal teaching, certain gifts, like speaking tongues, were only for the first-century church.
What denominations teach and encourage speaking in tongues?
- Apostolic Faith Church
- Apostolic Faith Mission Church of God
- Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God
- Assemblies of God
- Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ
- Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ
- Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)
- Church of God in Christ
- Church of God, Mountain Assembly
- Church of God of Prophecy
- Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith
- Church of the Living God
- Congregational Holiness Church
- Elim Fellowship
- Fellowship of Christian Assemblies
- Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God
- Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers
- Independent Assemblies of God
- International Church of the Foursquare Gospel
- International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies
- International Pentecostal Holiness Church
- Open Bible Churches
- Pentecostal Assemblies of the World
- Pentecostal Church of God
- Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church
- United Holy Church of America
- United Pentecostal Church International
- Vineyard Churches international
Some non-denominational churches have Pentecostal theology. Some individuals in traditional denominations like Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, and others, also speak in tongues. (Also see Do All Denominations Go to Heaven?)
What does it mean when someone “speaking in tongues”?
In the New Testament, speaking in tongues refers speaking in real languages or speaking in a way that is unintelligible to the speaker, which may sound like gibberish to hearers.
Speaking in tongues involves communicating in a real language. On the day of Pentecost, people spoke in tongues a result of being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:8-11 reads,
“And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians — we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (ESV)emphasis added
In this example, speaking in tongues helped people from different parts of the world understand the work of God.
Baptist theologian Wayne Grudem, who believes speaking in tongues is a gift that is available to Christians today, suggests that the New Testament text could be better translated in places to avoid confusion,
“English translations have continued to use the phrase ‘speaking in tongues,’ which is an expression not otherwise used in ordinary English and which gives the impression of a strange experience, something completely foreign to ordinary human life.
But if English translations were to use the expression ‘speaking in languages,’ it would not seem nearly as strange, and would give the reader a sense much closer to what first century Greek speaking readers would have heard in the phrase when they read it in Acts or 1 Corinthians.”emphasis added
Speaking in tongues involved talking in sounds and syllables that were unintelligible. There is a lot of mystery surrounding this form of speaking in tongues because it doesn’t adhere to the conventions of any language of Earth. The Apostle Paul wrote about this kind of unintelligible speaking in 1 Corinthians 14:2 and 9,
“For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.” (ESV)
“So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air.” (ESV)emphasis added
This is the form of speaking in tongues that often comes to mind when one hears the phrase.
Is speaking in tongues a real language?
People who speak in tongues believe it’s a real language, even if it’s not a language that has ever been used on Earth, but a so-called “heavenly language.” In this form of speaking in tongues, people admit that they don’t know what they are saying.
However, the New Testament teaches that some people have the gift of interpreting tongues. The Apostle Paul taught that some people have the gift of interpreting tongues. In 1 Corinthians 14:27, he writes, states,
“If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret.” (ESV)
Speaking in tongues remains a mystery to some Christians and yet is a routine practice to others.
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