Back to Blog

Spiritual Gift of Tongues

Our next Gifted to Serve class is coming up on June 2 and you can sign up now at TMUMC.ORG/nextsteps. Don’t forget to take the Gifted to Serve Discovery before you go. The discovery will take 15 minutes and tells you your spiritual gift, ministry style, and helps you define your passions. In the class, we’ll help you combine all of that knowledge and help you find your spot to serve that will bring you joy.

Today, let’s talk about the most unique and misunderstood spiritual gift: speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.

For those of you who weren’t raised in a faith tradition that embraced speaking in tongues, this gift might make you uncomfortable. Maybe you picture a giant room of people speaking in a gibberish language that can’t be understood. But in the Methodist tradition, we view the spiritual gift of tongues a bit differently.

Also, it’s important to note that we believe the gift of tongues should never be used without an interpreter present, so we have combined them.

Here is how we define the gift of tongues:

Speaking in tongues is the gift of 1) the ability to communicate the gospel to other people in a foreign language without the benefit of having studies said language (see Acts 2:4) or 2) the ability to speak to God in a secret, unknown prayer language that can only be understood by a person possessing the gift of Interpretation.

The ability to speak in the language of another culture makes the gift of tongues valuable for spreading the gospel throughout the world, while the gift of speaking a secret prayer language offers the opportunity to build faithfulness within a community of faith.

Tongues is not an issue dealing with just foreign languages. It is about being able to communicate across a wide variety of cultural and generational barriers. Biblically, this gift is only to be used alongside the gift of interpretation of tongues.

A miraculous example of speaking in tongues in scripture is in Acts, chapter 2. It is Pentecost and the disciples are gathered along with people from different countries and languages. At one point it says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.”

Even in the midst of this, the group couldn’t believe what was happening. It even mentions, “Others sneered and said, ‘They are filled with new wine.’” The thought that they could all understand each other was so difficult to believe, they thought they must be drunk! I might have the same reaction. But Peter says, “Indeed you are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.”

And then he delivers a message from the Holy Spirit that all people in the room can clearly understand although they can’t speak the same language. I’ve never witnessed anything like that before, but it would blow my mind!

Tongues in Scripture:

While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. – Acts 10:44-46 (NRSV)


Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. – Romans 8:26-27 (NRSV)


If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. – 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NRSV)


Those who speak in a tongue build up themselves, but those who prophesy build up the church. Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. – 1 Corinthians 14:4-5 (NRSV)

If you have questions about spiritual gifts, where you can serve, or how your gift can be used outside of Trietsch, email Denise Robinson at

Posted by Alyssa Robinson at 12:22 PM
Share |

Download Our App

Download the TMUMC app to connect more deeply on Sunday mornings. Use the app to take worship notes, check the calendar, watch the latest sermons, give, read stories, and more.