The idolatry of the tongue

The tongue seems to be the idol of the evangelical church.  In conservative churches what matters is preaching the Word.  In charismatic churches what matters are worship, tongues and prophecy.  As a friend of mine remarked, everyone is speaking and no one is listening.

Maybe we never stop speaking because we are trying to persuade, trying to drive others.  Even ‘worship’ can cease to be the lifting our hearts to God.  It can become leading people into God’s presence; a subtle difference, but significant.  The leader’s focus moves from God who is to be worshiped, to the people who are to be driven.

Today in a readings (Reaching out – Henri Nouwen) I came upon this statement –“Without the solitude of heart we cannot experience the others as separate from ourselves but only as people who can be used for the fulfilment of our own, often hidden needs.”

‘We use people for the fulfilment of our own, often hidden needs.’  The need of the evangelical church is to be fruitful, especially in the area of winning people to Christ.  Every area of ministry must be justified in these terms.  Someone presenting a ministry of care for the needy, cannot justify it in terms of God’s value of the poor, or the Lord’s example of providing for the poor.  It must first be justified through evangelism.  We must be persuading people.

I was interested in my reaction to Nouwen’s statement.  I was pondering it, rolling it over in my mind, savouring it as a delicacy, and then ready to move on to the rest of the page.  I was giving in to the impulse it warns against, using the text to stimulate my thinking but not taking the time to go further in order to allow God to do His work in me.

Only as I STOP and ask God to help me think about the statement do I move on from there.  I begin to see that there is a next step:  What is the hidden need of my heart that I must speak?  What is the hidden need of the evangelical movement that makes us want to proclaim?  I don’t necessarily know the answer, but if I ask the Lord to show me, and give Him space to show me, He will. – Will you?

It is only when I pondered on a text that I give myself time to listen to my own experience.  As I listen to my experience, I realise that I did not come to Nouwen’s realisation through solitude.  I came to it through a time of thinking about how the secular world operated, and then realising that the secular world view had subtly taken me over.  It was a realisation of my wickedness.  So, for me the insight came through a time of thinking as against a time of solitude.  Of course one could argue they are the same thing, and then maybe I understand a bit about what Nouwen means by solitude.

The point is that whatever we understand as being the source, that is where we will try to develop.  If I read the quote and take hold of ‘solitude’ as being the key, then I set up a program of solitude in order to develop the right outcome. ‘Solitude’ becomes the new answer.  I am just as lost as I was before.  I merely have a new trumpet call, a new answer to the world’s problems to dogmatically proclaim.  If on the other hand I back off and give the Lord some space to meet with me through prayer, and reflect on what He has been showing me, then maybe He could show me His way forwards.  That is going to be different for different people.  So I bring people to Christ and not to answers.

One thought on “The idolatry of the tongue

  1. Dave Watkins says:

    Very true, does everything have to be justified by being evangelistic? The church seems to have many idols unfortunately of which this is one (marriage is another)

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