Speaking In Tongues – ABC’s Nightline Gives ‘Em Somethin’ To Talk about

It’s a subject that fascinates people everywhere. Even people in the media, like ABC’s Nightline, for instance.

Some say it’s of God while others say it’s demonic. A Nazarene preacher told me that, when he was in preparation to teach about the gifts of the Spirit, he was not sure how to handle the gift of tongues. “My denomination doesn’t believe in that…personally, I’m not so sure.”

A woman from a Church of Christ phoned me one day to say she wanted the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. We dropped everything to meet with her at mid-day. Though she didn’t speak in tongues – not yet anyway – she wrote later to say that she felt she’d had a double espresso and a B-12 shot.

Another woman, raised Baptist, recently requested to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. She had never heard it presented as the Spirit “coming upon” an individual as was the case with Jesus Himself. Again, though she said she didn’t pray in tongues and the Earth didn’t move, the level of her boldness has radically increased. She prays with a power and authority she never had before.


A recent ABC Nightline presentation was on the subject of Speaking in Tongues. I was actually impressed in that the practice wasn’t belittled, mocked or frowned-upon. The only comments they made regarding the spiritual gift itself was this less-than-derogatory remark: “The origin of the practice is believed to be the miracle of Pentecost — as told in the New Testament book of Acts — when Jesus’ apostles were said to be filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in languages foreign to themselves. And a gifted few are said to have done it in early Christian congregations. Saint Paul called it “speaking in the tongues of angels.” The practice is widely embraced by Pentecostals but looked at askance by many other Christian denominations. And to outsiders, it can seem downright freakish.”

Even the minister they chose to interview, a man who had been raised Amish, Pastor Gerry Stoltzfoos, was a good Christian representative – articulate, intelligent and handsome. The piece wasn’t presented as a snake-handling cult where the members had more tattoos than teeth. In fact, the people they interviewed were decent and normal-looking and acting (whatever “normal is these days).

One of the most intriguing aspects of the segment was when they introduced the viewers to the scientific work of Dr. Andrew Newberg of the University of Pennsylvania. The narrator said, “Newberg is determined to unravel the relationship between faith and science by studying what happens in the brain during the deepest moments of faith. He’s recently published a study looking at the brain activity of eight Americans who speak in tongues.”

“If we are really going to look at this powerful force in human history of religion and spirituality, I think we really have to take a look at how that affects our brain — what’s changing or turning on and off in our brain,” Newberg said.

Newberg was asked if he was skeptical about what he’d find when he decided to study the brain while a person spoke in tongues. He answered, “If… the question is, is this a real phenomenon? Is this really the voice of God speaking through them? That’s a much more problematic question, I think, and something that I’m not sure if we have specifically answered just by doing our study.”

Newberg performed CT scans in order to view what happens in the brain’s control center when one speaks in tongues. One study participant named Donna Morgan, said, “When I heard about the study, I already knew, in my spirit, that it was going to be proven that there was a part of our brain that we have no control [over],” she said, “that when the Holy Ghost is interceding for us we are out of control.”

Newberg had previously studied the brain scans of Buddhist monks meditating and Franciscan nuns praying. The results were quite different from what he observed in the brains of those speaking in tongues. The tongue-talker brains went quiet in the frontal lobe, the part of the brain right behind the forehead that’s considered the brain’s control center.

“When they are actually engaged in this whole very intense spiritual practice … their frontal lobes tend to go down in activity. … It is very consistent with the kind of experience they have, because they say that they’re not in charge. [They say] it’s the voice of God, it’s the spirit of God that is moving through them,” said Newberg.

“Whatever is coming out of their mouth is not what they are purposefully or willfully trying to do. And that’s in fairly stark contrast to the people who are — like the Buddhist and Franciscan nuns — in prayer, because they are very intensely focused and in those individuals the frontal lobes actually increase activity.”

Pastor Stoltzfoos himself did not hesitate in agreeing to participate in the study. “I don’t think faith has anything to be afraid of from science. Science validates faith, so bring it on, whatever the facts are, bring it on…you don’t really care what anybody else thinks. It is personal in the first place; it is something between you and God,” said Stoltzfoos. “…we don’t really care if it is validated or not, but it is fascinating when it is…”


I was pleased at the handling of the subject by the secular media. I couldn’t help but think of what the world was saying when the crowd came out of the Upper Room, speaking in tongues, and were heard in public for the first time. That night, via Nightline, millions heard the same thing.

Where tongue-talking is concerned, let us never forget that the ability to do so is not a badge of achievement and not anything for which one should get prideful. The Bible reveals that Jesus told His disciples, “…you shall receive POWER (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria and to the ends (the very bounds) of the earth,” (Acts 1:8 AMP). The Greek word for “power” Request prophetic word that was used here is the word “dunamis” from which the word “dynamite” is derived.

Power? Power to do what? To be His witnesses, the verse tell us. Witnesses comes from the Greek word “martus” from which we get our English word “martyr.” Though some Christians have, and will, literally lose their lives for their faith, ALL true believers are expected to set their lives aside for the sake of the Cause of Christ. We must decrease so that He might increase.

I’ve heard many non-Christian people talking about why they tried this religion or that one, Satanism or no religion at all. When you read between the lines, all they’re really looking for is power to live life successfully and power to stop winding up as so much collateral damage all the time, seemingly with no control over their own lives whatsoever. Christ offers that “DY-NO-MITE!” power to whosoever will come after Him.

I speak in tongues myself and do my best NOT to allow the enemy to use it as a means of division. I’m quite often alone when I do this and God is often gracious to provide an interpretation for these utterances. Many of these message I’ve written since 1999 have come as a result of the inspiration I received from God while praying in tongues. I believe that many Christians do not pray in tongues because of the spiritual environment in which they’ve been immersed. It’s the same reason we don’t see the same number of glorious healings as other parts of the world. On the Faith-O-Meter, we in the Western world are several quarts low! Some of us were raised hearing that all the spiritual gifts died-off with the death of the last apostle. Others were taught that tongues are demonic. Others can’t stand the thought of appearing foolish or maybe even being thought of as “drunk” as others might suppose. Still others are so concerned that it might merely be “them” talking and not God, that they won’t step out on the water and give it a try.

I’ve been told by some that, if a conference was going to have a “Charismatic flare” to it, we should make that known in our promotional material. Should one who speaks in tongues wear a bright orange T-shirt that “WARNS” others that he might experience a “Charismatic flare-up” at any moment? It may not be speaking in tongues. God may give him a Word of knowledge, a Word of Wisdom, a vision, a dream, a prophetic word, etc. Perhaps each church can have their ushers provide such individuals with an adhesive-backed lapel sticker with a big “C” on it.

Seriously, lest the gift of tongues become the basis for some ungodly caste system within the Church – those who DO vs. those who DON’T – let’s remember that, aside from the Gifts of the Spirit, it’s the FRUIT by which we will all be known (Gal 5:22). Now THAT is the gift the world needs to see manifested through us all – the evidence that God is with us!

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