A Durham, N.C., megachurch pastor recently asserted that he would not forbid people from speaking in tongues and to do so is a sin.
"You're never going to hear me either publicly or privately tell somebody that they should not be speaking in tongues in their private prayer times," The Summit Church Pastor J. D. Greear stated on Sunday to his congregation, noting that the Apostle Paul was clear on this. "That's not going to be forbidden at our church."
Greear made the statement as he was ending a message series focused on the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts such as prophesying and speaking in tongues, which he defined as a form of prayer and praise in a language that is unknown to the speaker that is spoken to God.
During the series, Greear noted that his denomination – the Southern Baptist Convention – has in many ways restricted speaking in tongues and believes "they are wrong and they are in sin for doing that."
The SBC does not have an official stance on the issue of charismatic gifts. At the same time, the denomination says that "probably most believe that the gift of tongues as described in the Bible ceased upon the completion of the Bible" and that only a very small minority might accept it as valid.
Greear described his church as "charismatics with a seatbelt" – that is, they honor and want to receive spiritual gifts but cautiously.
Addressing those who may be uncomfortable with spiritual gifts, he posed, "Do you believe that God is alive and that He supernaturally moves on the earth, that He works through His church, that He puts thoughts in your mind?"
While he desires for his church, which draws some 6,500 weekly attendees, to become more Spirit-filled where people use their gifts to contribute to the church and the community, he noted that they will not be a church where people smack each other and fall to the ground or where congregants holler out prayers in tongues in the middle of worship.
Spiritual gifts, he preached, must be used to edify or benefit others.
"If you're speaking a language no one understands, you're not benefitting anybody," he pointed out.
"If you speak in tongues ... pray for interpretation," he advised, saying it would be a "whole lot more edifying" if they heard it in English.
The purpose of the gift of tongues, the Durham pastor stressed, is not to make you feel close to God, though that might be a side effect.
"It's not a private prayer language where the Spirit makes you feel close to God. You've got the blood of Jesus for that," he underscored. "You don't need anything else."
Rather, the gift is "a sign of the new frontiers of the Gospel." It signifies the spread of the Gospel into non-Jewish peoples, he added.
Greear clarified that not all Christians speak in tongues. It's a gift that God doesn't give to everybody and it's something that can be desired but does not have to be sought after. "The Bible never tells you one time to seek for the gift of tongue," he said.