They Spoke with Other Tongues

A Skeptic Investigates This Life-Changing Gift
John Sherill

I read this book as part of preparation for a life group I was doing on the subject of speaking in tongues. I had heard good things about this book and was interested, and excited, to read it and see what kinds of historical evidence it brought for tongues in history. I got so much more out of the book as I read.

Sherill begins his book by talking about a time in his life when he had “acknowledge” of Jesus but didn’t really personally know Him. In the first chapter, “The Leap,” he talks about how he came into a personal relationship with Jesus. It was an incredible, formative experience for him. I see this as the set up for the rest of the book and the claims of the book about speaking in tongues.

In chapter 2, the author recounts an interview he had with a pastor who had the experience of speaking in tongues. Two people witnessing him speak in tongues told him he was speaking in a language unknown to him but known to them. The author and his wife further investigated by attending a Pentecostal church for a three-hour service in which they witnessed the gifts of speaking in tongues and interpretation in action. It was an experience they were not familiar with.

In chapter 3, the author describes how his curiosity is getting the best of him, so he and his wife visited an old friend from a college they respected. This professor had traveled the globe and reported on the Pentecostal movement. He gave them quite an impression. The author decided to start a file on “tongues stories.” To his surprise, a publisher gave him the opportunity to do the research you wanted to do on the subject but didn’t have time to pay the bills and research it. The publisher gave him the opportunity.

Chapter 4 tells the story of the beginning of speaking in tongues in the early 1900s. He makes history come alive in the way he tells it. Although I am very familiar with the history of the unaccustomed movement, it was interesting to hear it the way he describes it. He concludes the chapter by giving a first-hand account of a teenage girl God spoke through to a visiting Jewish man. It’s quite interesting story!

The author speaks in Chapter 5 about how in the beginning, walls went up between the intercostals and the denominations against them. It was obvious by the numbers that many were leaving these mainline denominations are going to Pentecostal groups. Instead of asking why, the denominations tried to destroy the time cost movements.

Chapter 6 continues the story of how closed doors became open to hear more about how the baptism in the Spirit was reaching intellectuals and high church officials and ministers of Episcopalian and Presbyterian people. Even the laypeople were affected. The experience of the Spirit had moved from the poor and needy to the influential and wealthy. The author received so many open invitations to interview people who had received this experience. This was in the beginning of the Charismatic movement, sometimes referred to as the second wave.

In chapter 7, the author has an amazing experience with the woman who spoke in tongues as part of her prayer language. It causes him to look at where speaking in tongues appears in Scripture and in human history. He documents his findings in this chapter. They happen in different denominations and movements, many times in revival settings, and in different countries.

Chapter 8 asks the question, “Why would anyone want to speak in tongues?” The author had a couple of questions still in his mind about speaking in tongues. He discovered a wide range of opinions on whether speaking in tongues was required to be baptized in the Spirit. He also found that there were different reasons Spirit-filled believers gave him for speaking in tongues.

Chapter 9 tells the story of how the author took his insights and tried to explain speaking in tongues by human means. He reviewed some of the evidence he had gathered, examples of people’s stories of how they were understood by other humans. He even took it before language experts. Finally, he was challenged by one of his friends to experience speaking in tongues for himself.

Before he decides to take this man up on his offer, Sherill wants to do a little more research in chapter 10. He searches the Bible for references to the Holy Spirit and finds Him in both the Old and New Testaments. He is especially interested in how the Spirit uses speaking in tongues. In chapter 11, the author talks about his personal experience of receiving the baptism in the Spirit in a special room to him.

Chapter 12 was the author’s explanation of speaking in tongues and how it applied to daily Christian living and ministry. He gives a great explanation of these applications. It’s interesting to hear how other people explain the baptism in the Spirit. The author gives advice to those who have been baptized in the Spirit and those who have not in chapter 13. I think he presents some great thoughts that I can agree with.

In the epilogue, the author shares an update after 40 years from the first edition of the book. He talks about the questions people have asked him and his wife over the last 40 years. The answers to these questions are inspiring and they have a full and interesting life in which the prayer language of speaking in tongues comes in perfect situations where it is needed.

This book is an interesting one because the author begins as an objective investigative reporter but becomes an insider as he experiences the baptism in the Spirit first-hand. His perspective is unique among the books I have read so far. He has an easy-to-read style and is a great storyteller. I recommend this book to anyone interested in hearing some of the history of Spirit baptism and personal stories the author includes as part of his research. It will help you see his process of moving from skeptical to experiencing it for himself.

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