Tongues - Making it Happen! by Malcolm Dow
"Today we have some Christian fellowships that teach people how to speak in tongues - one meaningless syllable at a time. When the learner is finally able to freely vocalize with a minimum of conscious effort, the ''gift" has been realized. Such an initiate will find himself or herself at home at almost any modern charismatic gathering. When the worship service reaches a peak of emotional intensity, the tongue has been conditioned to respond spontaneously." (from http://www.nccg.org/036Art-Charismata.html)
I love having the gift of tongues. It builds me up in the Lord, and has proved to be a very powerful tool in ministry to others. But after reading the above quote, and having just listened to Tom and Diane Hawkins teaching on the functioning of the mind and brain in the videos of their, "Restoring Shattered Lives" seminar, I began thinking of the role of conditioning in the case of 'learning' to speak in tongues.
I have met and ministered to many people who were so desperate to speak in tongues that it sometimes bordered on obsession. I struggled with this desire myself for many years. I have also witnessed and experienced myself the attempts of others to teach them how to do it - or to be 'released into the gift' as they would put it.
Just imagine someone who has a need to belong and be accepted as a 'real' Spirit-filled Christian going to yet another Charismatic or Pentecostal meeting, and being encouraged to just open your mouth and let it come out. But nothing happens. So then the evangelist/pastor/prophet/apostle/team member/concerned friend says, "Just make a noise, any noise - whatever comes into your mind. Don't worry about what it sounds like or what it means."
So, they make a noise, and are encouraged to keep doing that. It sounds silly, and they feel foolish, but they are encouraged to continue - "That's right, it's coming, keep going." Gradually it gets easier to do, and becomes more fluent.
Then they are told that they have the gift, and that they should use it as much as they can - that it will develop into a real language. Imagine the relief that comes from finally having 'broken through'. "I've been accepted! I have the gift! God loves me after all!" Not to mention the unconscious sense of relief of no longer having to prove oneself to the other church members, and no longer being badgered by this person telling me to make silly noises.
The prolonged trying in their own strength, and the final reward of euphoria and relief when it's over, sounds very much like a conditioning process to me. If not conditioning, which usually involves repeated attempts and rewards, then at least the realisation of the goal after so much longing will attach the feelings firmly to the memory of the experience. It is possible that any subsequent attempt to use the gift of tongues will be rewarded by this good feeling being up out of memory, and it will be interpreted as the presence of the Holy Spirit.
I am not saying that all who went through a process similar to the above have received a false gift. For some this may be a road to true release of the gift. I suspect this will depend on what is blocking them at first, and what their motives are for wanting tongues. But I have met so many who 'have the gift of tongues' and who use it to sow such confusion, and even destruction, in their lives and the lives of others, that I have to wonder at how they received their 'gift'.
I understand that the gift of tongues is meant to be foolish. How else can God keep our over-dominant intellect out of the loop while we allow our spirit to connect with his Spirit? But foolishness is not a test of its authenticity. Human manufactured foolishness is just that - foolishness.
My own experience was different. I went through the frustrating, desperate period with no success, and so I gave up and put the desire on the shelf. The Lord led me into gifts of teaching, healing, words of knowledge and prophecy. Years later, while assisting in prayer ministry to a very wounded person I suddenly noticed myself mumbling under my breath. I thought, "Is that me?" and stopped. I realised it was me, so I tried it again. The Lord had sneaked up on me! I still didn't feel free in the gift, but a healing-evangelist had been organised to come as part of the prayer ministry course we were involved in, so a few weeks later I joined in the prayer circle. He had us all kneel, and went around the circle praying for the release of each one. I was praying fluently in tongues before he even got around to me.
Interestingly, months before this incident, I had being playing the piano for the worship time in the course and found myself playing music I didn't know. The tunes were spontaneous and beautiful, way beyond my technical ability. At the end the course director looked at me and said, "I believe Malcolm received a new gift today." I had never played in the Spirit like that before, just the usual simple chord progression to accompany others singing in the Spirit. Any half-way competent musician can do that without needing a gift. This was different, people stopped singing to listen! It has happened many times since. I think of it as 'playing in tongues!'
The point to all of this is that if there is a technique involved, or any form of manipulation or coercion, no matter how innocent or well-intended, then be very careful that the Holy Spirit is really involved. I think he might let us get away with this now and then, out of his grace, but when it becomes the norm we are in big trouble.