The Gift of Speaking in Tongues in Church Settings

When the Holy Spirit prompts speaking in tongues in church settings, it offers a unique means of group communication with God that surpasses the limitations of normal human language.

This article explores the difference between speaking in tongues and prophecy, the impact of tongues on believers gathered, misuses of tongues, and their proper use with interpretation for edifying believers.

Edify Believers by Speaking in Tongues in Church Followed by Interpretation

By Don Bell | Reading Time: 6 Minutes

Concept Art for Speaking in Tongues in ChurchSpeaking in Tongues in Church for Edification
Source: © Fotografiche/

Tongues Compared to Prophecy

In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul compares speaking in tongues to prophecy saying, "He who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (1 Corinthians 14:2-3).

Therefore, speaking in tongues involves believers speaking mysteries to God, while prophecy involves God speaking messages to believers in their natural language.

Paul continues, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, UNLESS indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification" (1 Corinthians 14:4-5, emphasis added).

While a word of prophecy focuses on edifying the church, speaking in tongues focuses on edifying the speaker of the tongue UNLESS the tongue is interpreted. Then, its message is understood and can edify the church.

Why is the interpretation so important? 

Paul continues, "If the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?" (1 Corinthians 14:23).

In Greek, the term for "uninformed" is represented as ἰδιώτης (idiōtēs), implying a believer in Christ who lacks understanding and knowledge in the gift of tongues.

Our Christian friend who was unfamiliar with speaking in tongues spent her vacation with her family, and they happened to host a home prayer meeting one evening, where everyone prayed and sang in tongues.

Returning home, she expressed her disapproval to me, saying, "It wasn't God; it was just bedlam! It just sounded like gibberish!"

Despite my best attempts to explain and provide scriptural context, she still held strong feelings against tongues. I can only hope that over time, she will come to embrace the wonderful gift of speaking in tongues as described in God’s Word.

Paul continues, "But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you" (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).

The interpretation of an unknown tongue glorifies God and the greatness of His works; however, there are times when the interpreted message acts similar to prophecy by revealing the heart's cry of the uninformed, leading them to respond to God's call.

The Edifying Effect of Tongues in the Church

How can the gift of tongues help to edify and inspire others? When the gift of tongues is exercised in a group of believers combined with its interpretation, it can have a positive and unifying effect on everyone present.

The tongue and its interpretation are both inspired by the Holy Spirit, praising God's greatness, and declaring His love for His people, the church. Hearing these heartfelt words can strengthen people's faith and remind them of their commitment to live for Christ, fostering inspiration, and connection with God in worship.

The phrasing of the tongue's interpretation can often sound similar to King David's Psalms. That's because the same Spirit who inspired David's heart to write the Psalms now inspires the speaker of the tongues.

Misuse of Tongues in the Church

While Speaking Messages in Tongues

Continually build your faith through praying privately in tongues and stand ready to utilize the gifts of tongues AND interpretation of tongues, whenever the Holy Spirit prompts you to deliver an edifying message for the church.

How often have you sat in a believer's meeting when suddenly, someone shouts a message in tongues that's followed by an awkward silence that can seem endless?

Paul encourages, "Since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. Therefore let HIM who speaks in a tongue PRAY that HE may interpret" (1 Corinthains 14:12-13, emphasis added).

Always interpret the tongue in public gatherings of believers so everyone can be edified by the message.

While Ministering

When several people are gathered around someone, speaking loudly in tongues while ministering, it can potentially overshadow the individual who needs to hear revelation from God. It can also obstruct others from participating in the ministry.

Build up your faith through privately praying in tongues beforehand to be guided by the Holy Spirit and effectively meet the needs of others. If a tongue is spoken, to avoid any confusion, it's important to promptly interpret it and relay the Spirit-filled message of edification to the one seeking God's guidance.

While Receiving Ministry

During times of receiving body ministry, devout believers sometimes speak audibly in tongues, which can distract them from receiving God's answer. It's not the time for them to pray; it's their time to silently receive revelation from God and be open to counsel, words of prophecy, words of knowledge, and wisdom, and an interpreted message of tongues.

As emphasised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:33, God is not the author of confusion but of peace. Politely say, "Let's be quiet and listen to what God wants to say."

Also, believers shouting "Amen" or speaking in tongues in church during a prophetic word or a prayer can distract others nearby trying to receive God's guidance for their specific need. These disruptions can distract and leave them without beneficial advice, despite the Holy Spirit's presence.

Decently and in Order

Always strive for correctness, as any misuse of spiritual gifts can bring about disorder. As Paul stresses, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Corinthians 14:40). Therefore, when the Holy Spirit guides you to bring forth a message in tongues, make sure that you are prepared to offer its interpretation as well.

My article on the Gift of Interpretation of Tongues offers additional insights into speaking in tongues in church, covering the proper use of the gift of tongues in prayer groups and church settings.

Don Bell of Kingdom Anointing

By Don Bell, follower of the Christ.

Like This Page? Please Share It

QR CodeSCAN to access Kingdom Anointing on your CELLPHONE