Dear Max Lucado, I also speak in tongues.

I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was a student at Liberty University. As I sat confused, not knowing what to do, I began to pray that April day and entered into what many would call a private prayer language. Although the feeling it evoked was one of peace, I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t tell anyone about the surreal experience of speaking in tongues.

Maina Mwaura

As someone who grew up in the Southern Baptist culture, I understood that speaking in tongues was something that was not accepted. I also knew that it would exclude me from the seminary life I was to enter this fall. It is a secret which, until now, I have not been able to share freely. This is my “coming out” experience. I am a language speaker.

A few weeks ago, Max Lucado said he too had had an experience of speaking in tongues: “When I was 64, one morning in July, while I was praying, I began to pray in tongues.”

During a recent interview with the San Antonio pastor and best-selling author, he shared more of his story.

“When I was in college in East Texas, the Jesus Movement came to my college and they invited me to a Bible study, they even invited me to pray in a language that I don’t know. never studied. I didn’t know what that meant. I tried and nothing happened,” he recalls.

I had the privilege of interviewing Lucado half a dozen times and always found him warm and genuine. In fact, the last time I interviewed him about his latest book Help is here, I could tell that something was different about him. Unaware of his new experience with tongues, I simply attributed it to his freshness in explaining how the Holy Spirit guided his life.

“The Holy Spirit cannot be contained”, he said to me, “and so whoever thinks he can put the Spirit in a box and explain the Spirit in a book will not happen.”

Max Lucado

Lucado explained with great emphasis the need for the Spirit in our work as ministers and believers.

I’ve always admired Lucado, but the fact that he came forward and admitted that he too speaks in tongues did something to me that I can’t quite explain. It gave me the courage to type the words I am typing to you today. Speaking in tongues should not be despised or ridiculed. The Bible is clear that this is a gift that some believers will have and use.

I would go for nearly three decades hiding in fear that if I ever shared my experience (like Jerry Rankin, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board), I would be viewed with suspicion.

Plus I knew I was lying by not confessing the gift in countless interviews with the church and in the four years I served as a North American Mission Board missionary. In my heart, I knew telling the truth was the right thing to do, but I also knew it wasn’t the wisest thing to do, because it would probably have disqualified me from service.

Some of my friends I have talked to in secret have asked, “What does speaking in tongues do for you? To be fair, my private prayer language is just that. It is not something that can be dissected and studied when the Holy Spirit allows me to experience it. This is something Lucado explained as what the Holy Spirit does within him: “I think the Holy Spirit can have a calming influence on us. During my private prayer times, that is exactly what happens. There is a calming but reassuring presence that settles in me.

I have a feeling Lucado isn’t the only well-known religious leader who speaks in tongues. However, because of the fear of being marginalized, many choose not to admit that they are using this gift that God has given them.

Thinking back to my time in college, I am grateful that God allowed me to use the gift. If I could change one thing, it would have been to be able to do what I do today – tell others what the gift has done for me and the freedom it has given me.

Lucado offered an insightful analysis on this subject: “I live in fear of disappointing God. But I believe that the one who supports me, who saved me, supports me. And that is the role of the Holy Spirit.

Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the Atlanta metro area. A native of Orlando, Florida, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Liberty University and a Master of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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McKissic asks SBC to add language policy to statement of faith

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