Youth Convention and Speaking in Tongues

Youth convention was a powerful time and has become a monumental day for the history of our youth group.  Never, in my seven years as a youth pastor, have I experienced such a raw, intimate and Holy Spirit driven encounter with teens like I did this past weekend.

When we gathered together at the end of service, I shared my inner feelings and became completely transparent about my insecurities of youth ministry.  I was looking for answers to the stale and dead faith we see in our youth group and God spoke in my heart of the problem, WALLS!  The enemy has put up walls that keep our young people and our group as a whole from a deeper relationship with God.  And the problem was worse than we thought because we unknowingly were putting up walls by not praying, by living in fear, by not worshipping, not reading our Bibles and not keeping God first in our lives.  Yes, we contribute to the struggle because we lack obedience and devotion to God.

I was discouraged.  I was clueless.  I even told my assistant that I don’t have the answer and it scared me.

But then, we attended convention.  And throughout the 24 hours God was preparing us for what took place at the end of the last service.  We gathered and prayed and cried out to God in repentance and for His grace to revive us.  You, the students, began to pray and pour your heart out.  We had students come clean of sin and you all looked to God for answers.  I saw walls come down, like the wall of fear that keeps us from praying and confessing.  As we kept praying, we kept being more real, honest and transparent.  As we kept praying we got closer and closer and it was a beautiful experience.

Speaking in Tongues.  

For some of us, hearing Pastors and leaders speak in tongues was new.  When the District Youth Director, Pastor John, went to pray he didn’t speak any english.  The Pastor began to pray in tongues.  Personally, I broke through a wall and prayed my heart out and I too began to pray in tongues through the Holy Spirit. This was not my first time being overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and praying in tongues, but the temptation to worry what others may think around me was there, but I busted through because I wanted more of God.  Times like these raise curiosity and questions about the doctrine and teaching of the Holy Spirit and speaking tongues.  Here is two excerpts from the Assemblies of God on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all in the early Christian church. With it come the enduement of power for life and service, the bestowment of the gifts and their uses in the work of the ministry (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4,8; 1 Corinthians 12:1–31). This experience is distinct from and subsequent to the experience of the new birth (Acts 8:12–17; 10:44–46; 11:14–16; 15:7–9). With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37–39; Acts 4:8),a deepened reverence for God (Acts 2:43; Hebrews 12:28), an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work (Acts 2:42), and a more active love for Christ, for His Word, and for the lost (Mark 16:20).

The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance (Acts 2:4). The speaking in tongues in this instance is the same in essence as the gift of tongues (1Corinthians 12:4–10,28), but different in purpose and use.

Here are some questions I got on the way home…

What does it mean to be baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit?

  • When I taught on this subject a year ago at youth group I used the word submersed or consumed.  You could also say it is the Holy Spirit who dwells in you already, overwhelming or being released within you.  The experience is enriching and encouraging.  The Holy Spirit edifies, builds up the believer and empowers you for the work of making disciples.  Personally, I needed to be encouraged by God because of my insecurities and struggles with ministering to teens.  A lot of negative things have been taking place in teens I have been caring for so when I was praying and overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit during service I felt rejuvenated, confident and powered up to continue shepherding teens.  And Yes, I did pray in tongues.  I did not understand what I was saying, but I did see in my head the faces of teens that I shepherd. I believe, I was praying for a spiritual awakening and revival of our youth group and church school.

What does it mean to speak in tongues?  Why can’t I understand it?

  • First of all, speaking in tongues should not be our focus or goal.  Our focus and desire is more of God.  My focus is to be close and in-tune with God.  Overall, my focus is to be led by the Holy Spirit and to keep in step (Galatians 5) with the Holy Spirit because He helps me be a man of God and do the work of making disciples.    When I hear people say they want to speak in tongues I cringe inside because tongues is the evidence that you are experiencing a “release” of the Holy Spirit within you.  Speaking in tongues is sign of the Holy Spirit indwelling and giving you power.  We tend to make speaking in tongues about our image as a Christian.  “If I speak in tongues I will be seen as a strong Christian.”  This thinking is common and not right.  As you seek God with a repentant heart and live in obedience to Him, as you continue to pray and worship, as you continue to do the work of making disciples, I believe God will give you the gift of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit he promised to all of His people (Joel 2:28-29).
  • We can’t understand tongues because it is a heavenly language and the Holy Spirit is praying and speaking through you.  In Acts 2, something interesting took place.  The disciples were in prayer and began to speak in tongues, but when the people in the community heard them, they could understand them, because the disciples were speaking in the native tongues of the people listening that day.

Why didn’t I speak in tongues?  Am I less of a Christian?

  • Again, it’s not about speaking in tongues, it is about being consumed, immersed, overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit for a purpose, maybe to edify you, to encourage you, to take you to a deeper intimacy with God or to give you power to do the work of making disciples.  No one is  less of a Christian for not speaking in tongues because every true Christian has the Holy Spirit within them.  
  • We know that the disciples were praying and worshipping God for days before they were baptized in the Holy Spirit.  Often, the baptism is associated with a believer who is earnestly seeking after God through prayer, has a repentant heart and is doing the work of making disciples.
  • If you did not get baptized in the Holy Spirit it may not be the right time.  The Assemblies of God puts it this way…”God’s Timing May Differ from Ours. The Lord responds to believing prayer and praise, but for reasons best known to himself, His timing may not coincide with our wishes. Both in Scripture and in church history, outpourings of the Spirit sometimes occurred in unexpected places and at unexpected times. Consequently, seekers should not be discouraged or get under self-condemnation if the infilling of the Spirit does not take place when they expect. But during times of special spiritual visitation when others are being filled with the Spirit, conditions are optimum for the seeker.”
  • Luke 24: 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
  • Acts 1: On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
  • Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
  • Acts 2:1-4  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues  as the Spirit enabled them.

If we have the Holy Spirit in us at rebirth, from salvation on, why are we baptized or filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues?

  • The Baptism of the Holy Spirit plays a major role in launching the church of believers in the book of Acts.  The dramatic story is found in Acts chapter 2.  We know that the Holy Spirit does many things for us, in us and through us.  Let me refer you to the paragraph below and the attached link.  
  • “With the baptism in the Holy Spirit come such experiences as an overflowing fullness of the Spirit (John 7:37–39; Acts 4:8), a deepened reverence for God (Acts 2:43; Hebrews 12:28), an intensified consecration to God and dedication to His work (Acts 2:42), and a more active love for Christ, for His Word, and for the lost (Mark 16:20).” http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Position_Papers/pp_downloads/PP_Baptism_In_the_Holy_Spirit.pdf

This topic can get rather long.  Multiple books have been written on the baptism and the role of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.  I would like to refer you to the Assemblies of God linke above on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit where you can find numerous scriptures and answers to your questions.

In the meantime, if your desire is to serve God, make disciples, to do God’s will on earth and be dependent on the Holy Spirit, then let me recommend that you pray and seek God.  Ask God to give you the gift of the baptism of the Holy Spirit so you can be a powerful, disciple making maniac in your community.

Love,

Pastor Ryan

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