If you’ve been around Australian churches for any time, you will have heard about the 17th-century prophecy concerning the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit. We sang about it with gusto in the Nineties until we realised the lyrics offended some of our indigenous friends. So, what is this prophecy and has it been interpreted correctly by today’s church?


It all began a little over 400 years ago (1605) when a Portuguese explorer, Pedro Ferdinand de Quirós, secured sponsorship from Pope Clement VIII and King Philip III of Spain to seek out the southern continent – Terra Australis Incognito (Unknown South Land).

According to historian Gunter Schneider, “It was felt that an undiscovered southern continent had to exist because the known land masses of the southern hemisphere were not sufficient to balance those of the northern half of the globe.” We are amused by this assessment today, but it was considered factual then.

De Quirós, a Catholic Jew, set sail from Peru to discover and create a holy settlement called The New Jerusalem so that the indigenous people “may have knowledge of the Gospel and be brought into Spiritual obedience.” Where and what he found has caused much debate.


In May 1606, de Quirós proclaimed: “Be witness the heavens and the earth, and the sea and all its inhabitants, and those who are present, that I, the Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quirós, in these parts which up to the present time have been unknown … [W]ith authority from the Supreme Roman Pontiff, Clement VIII, and by order of the King, Don Philip III, King of Spain … I take possession of all the … lands that I have newly discovered … and all this region of the south as far as the Pole, which from this time shall be called Austrialia del Espiritu Santo.” And no, I didn’t misspell Australia.

De Quirós named the land in honour of Philip III of Spain of the House of Hapsburgs, who ruled Spain then and was known as the House of Austria. The name did not come from Terra Australis Incognita. He likely named it such to ingratiate himself with the king in the hope of receiving money for future expeditions. Austrialia del Espiritu Santo translates as the Austrian Land of the Holy Spirit.

But de Quirós hadn’t discovered the southern continent, only the largest island in what is today known as Vanuatu.


Australian historian Manning Clark described de Quirós as “one of the flowers of the Catholic reformation, part of that movement of religious idealism and of missionary fervour which strengthened the church after the disasters of Luther and Calvin.” The Catholic Reformation was a counter-movement seeking to gain ground the Roman Church had lost to the Protestants.

De Quirós, with the backing of Pope Clement VIII, sought to bring the salvation offered by the Catholic Church to the pagans and convert them to Catholicism. He named a stream running into the island’s bay the river Jordan and declared the New Jerusalem would be built amid the coral reefs! His religious fervour caused great unrest amongst his crew.

The colony was soon abandoned due to the understandable hostility of the Ni-Vanuatu people, and on 8 June 1606, de Quirós set sail to return to Peru. He had travelled more than 38,000 kilometres, never to raise another expedition, and died in 1614 thinking he had stood on the land mass of the southern continent.


Much of what we’ve heard about Australia as the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit is a myth. While I don’t doubt de Quirós’ missionary zeal, he wasn’t a seer and didn’t make any prophetic declarations about our nation. The apostle Paul encourages us to “have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” We would do well to heed his advice.

We would also do well to remember that God’s Kingdom isn’t a geographical location. Jesus taught the very opposite. When the Pharisees asked him when the kingdom would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God is not coming with something observable; no one will say, ‘Look here!’ or ‘There!’ For you see, the kingdom of God is [within] you.” Consider those words in light of those that preach the Great Southland “prophecy.” They say revival will come to Australia because of a declaration of the Catholic missionary. Jesus told us not to say, ‘Look here or there.’ God’s kingdom is not a geographical location; it lies within the hearts and lives of all people who consent to God’s rule.

God’s kingdom attracts people “from every nation, all tribes and peoples and languages.” No ethnic group has a geographical advantage! God does not favour one nation over another. “For God so loved the world stands at the very heart of the gospel.


The world is outraged today when one country invades, annexes, or occupies another, and rightly so. And yet, this is what Christians and churches celebrate when they buy into the so-called Great Southland prophecy.

De Quirós declaration spoke of hitherto unknown parts that he possessed in the name of Jesus, St Francis and John of God, and all the professed members of their Orders. He also added “in the name of King Philip III” because he was paying the bills.

It must be remembered that people already owned and occupied these lands. It appears that little consideration was given to a statement made by Paul in Acts speaking of the human race, “[God] marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.” Colonisation ignored this truth and stole land from indigenous peoples. It was (and is) the ultimate affirmation of white supremacy.

While I acknowledge that our forebears did this, it does not absolve us of all responsibility. We must recognise past injustices, apologise, and work in unity with Indigenous people to find a shared future where everyone is respected.


Pedro Fernandez de Quirós was not a Prophet Over Australia. His declaration was a politically and institutionally driven grab for land already occupied. None of what he “prophesied” came to pass, much like many of today’s so-called prophecies. In recent times, modern “prophets” have proclaimed that Trump would regain the presidency (in 2020) and that COVID-19 would be over by Passover 2020. They were wrong on all counts and are a blight on a genuine and precious spiritual gift that is intended to strengthen, encourage and comfort God’s people.

The Scriptures encourage us to test prophecy, but so many of God’s people gullibly soak all this stuff up and confuse emotional hype for the presence of God.

It seems we contemporary Christians are addicted to the spectacular. Something exciting has always got to be “about to happen.” The ‘revival carrot’ is dangled in front of people to keep them engaged. This year’s vision (or conference) has got to be bigger and better than last year’s. “What’s next?” we ask instead of simply getting on with what God has already placed in our hands.

Compare this to the Scriptures’ teaching on simply committing ourselves to following and living like Jesus. Eugene Peterson calls the Christian life a long obedience in the same direction. Let’s get on with living authentically with Jesus and each other and stop buying into godless myths and old wives’ tales.

I have been following The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes’ investigation into the link between The Potter’s House Church and the Eastern Freeway truck crash which killed four police in 2020. “The truck driver, Mohinder Singh, claims he raised issues about his fatigue and delusions with his boss, Simiona Tuteru, also known as Simon, who laid hands on him and prayed before they agreed Singh would drive one last load.” Tuteru is a senior leader, former missionary, and pastor within the Potter’s House.

I watched the 60 Minutes investigation and read the follow-up articles in The Age this week. It brought back all kinds of feelings and memories of my experiences with this church several decades ago.

A Little History

The Potter’s House Christian Church (not to be confused with Bishop T.D. Jakes Church in Dallas) sprung up in the early 70s during the Jesus People movement, which saw thousands of hippies come to know Jesus.

Pastor Wayman Mitchell was a pastor who experienced hippies joining his church and welcomed them with open arms. The Potter’s House was born, a church focused on evangelism through movies, concerts, and coffee shops. Over the decades, they have established over 3000 churches in the US and 120 nations.

First Encounters

After two years of drifting from Jesus, I returned to my faith in 1979 and joined the local Assemblies of God (AOG) Church. I started sharing the gospel with my friends; many came to faith in Jesus.

My first encounter with Potter’s House was in the early 1980s when an American couple, Lynn & Linda Litton, came from Perth to establish a church in Geraldton. The new church began the aggressive evangelism that Potter’s House is known for and quickly gathered a core group of young people. I attended some of their movie and concert nights, but I didn’t resonate with the ultra-American aggressive approach of Lynn Litton. Neither did I appreciate his long, drawn-out altar calls that sought to drag as many people to Jesus as possible on every occasion.

Over the next few years, some people I had led to Jesus left the AOG church and started attending Potter’s House. I remember being very disheartened about this, but I also understood because there were some profound problems within the AOG church at the time.

Major Concerns

I was not surprised by any revelations about the Potter’s House on 60 Minutes. It showed me that little or nothing had changed in the church since my experiences forty years ago.

The church I remember was legalistic, controlling, aggressive, harsh, and judgmental. The leaders used fear tactics to control the members. For example, the AOG Church I attended had a weekly prayer meeting at 6 am. Because of my work as the breakfast announcer on Geraldton’s commercial radio station, I couldn’t usually attend the prayer meeting. But I did go when I was on holiday and in town. One morning, a young guy (I’ll call him Matt) came into our prayer meeting. He was breathless and agitated. He had slept in and was freaked out that he would miss the early prayer meeting at Potter’s House (our church was closer for him to get to). Matt begged our pastor to phone Lynn Litton and let him know he had been at a prayer meeting. There were consequences that he didn’t want to endure.

Fear Tactics

As highlighted by 60 Minutes, Potter’s House engages in fear tactics to attract new members and retain existing ones. In the early 80s, they repeatedly showed the dreadful “Christian” movies circulating then. Films like A Thief in the Night, A Distant Thunder, and Image of the Beast frightened a generation of young people, myself included. If you weren’t “saved”, this is what would happen to you, and it would all happen very soon. Of course, nothing happened, but we didn’t know that then. I now know that these films are based on a bogus interpretation of the Bible that a cult leader developed.

It doesn’t surprise me that Potter’s House still uses these same tactics on impressionable people. Fear is a powerful controlling agent that churches have used for centuries. Dangling people over hell and threatening them with demonic activity is not Jesus’ way. Attributing every human ailment to personal sin and demonic control is overly simplistic and downright dangerous.

Evangelism or Exasperation?

In Geraldton, Potter’s House started an aggressive campaign of street evangelism and a constant stream of so-called revival meetings featuring American preachers. The town was already experiencing an incredible move of God, and many people were coming to Christ, but the aggressive approach by Potter’s House people got the town offside. Admittedly, their tactics worked on some people, and a few people I knew became Christians and joined Potter’s House, but people were angry that they couldn’t walk through town without being accosted by some street preacher.

But There’s More!

Time and space don’t allow me to address all my experiences in detail, so here are a few other things I witnessed:

  • Potter’s House teaches insecure salvation.

You could quickly lose your salvation; you’d have to be saved again if you sinned. I have seen this more than once.

  • Potter’s House is judgmental of other Christians.

They used a term for those of us who attended other churches. We were “Lukeys”, slang for being a lukewarm Christian. We weren’t considered full-on for Jesus like the Potter’s House Christians. I now recognise this as the gnostic pride that it is.

  • Potter’s House exerts excessive levels of control.

Members of Potter’s House were discouraged from taking holidays (holidays were for lukeys) and told not to watch television or non-Christian movies or listen to secular music. All of these were “of the devil.” And they had to attend every service, prayer meeting, revival, and outreach night.

  • Potter’s House leaders need to be more trained.

Bible Colleges and formal training were the butts of jokes at Potter’s House. Seminaries were called cemeteries because your faith would die there. As a result, the pastors I knew about were untrained and ill-equipped.

  • Potter’s House echoes some of the practices found in cults.

While Potter’s House preaches the Christian gospel, many of their beliefs and practices should ring alarm bells. In my experience, there was an emphasis on getting to know unbelievers only to evangelise them. Those who left the church were shunned; families became divided and broken. Members were encouraged to only marry within the church. They were exclusive and tended to isolate their members by keeping them busy doing “the Lord’s work.”

I understand the appeal of churches like Potter’s House, especially for young people. They are zealous, radical, and uncompromising. Many of my friends were drawn to the church in the 80s, but they have all since left for the reasons I’ve stated above. Many returned to the Geraldton AOG church, which still thrives today under new leadership. Others are active in local churches in Australia and New Zealand.

I have written this blog as an encouragement to remain vigilant. Sometimes a church can look very appealing, but watch out for warning signs and listen to your intuition and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve always been fascinated by the supernatural.

When I was in my early teens, living in Perth, my parents developed a close friendship with a British couple. We’d catch up regularly, and invariably the conversation would move quickly to astrology and the occult. We’d talk for hours about astral walking, seances, and star signs. I read books on astrology and became quite an expert on the various star signs, the characteristics, cusps, and compatibilities.

One of my mates was a Christian. He and his family attended church weekly, and when I stayed with them, I would go too. It was a traditional church, and it struck me as dull and irrelevant. I certainly didn’t see or hear anything about supernatural things. I concluded that religion in general and Christianity in particular, held no interest for me. In any case, I was an atheist. My beliefs and practices with the supernatural world were separate from religion.

Things changed for me in my late teens. I graduated from high school, worked for a year, completed Radio Announcing School, and started my first job on a Top 40 commercial station in Western Australia. A good mate was hitchhiking around Australia, and he asked me to go with him. So, with a backpack and sleeping bag in place, off we set. You can watch the whole story here.

In Northern NSW, I hitched a ride in a truck heading to Sydney. The truck driver, Malcolm, told me he was a “born again Christian”. I had no idea what he meant, but I knew it wasn’t good! I was stuck in a truck for a day with a religious zealot! About two hours into the trip, we were involved in a head-on collision with another truck in which two guys died. Malcolm and I were rushed to the hospital, but remarkably neither of us was seriously injured. A few days later, Malcolm’s wife, Lynne, arrived to drive us to Sydney. I stayed with the family for a few weeks while I recovered.

Lynne and I hit it off big time, playing Scrabble, chatting, and drinking tea. Lynne was allergic to cigarette smoke, so I finally gave up smoking while I was staying with them. Invariably our conversations drifted into the realm of the supernatural. Lynne was a new Christian with all the zeal that one would expect from a recent convert. She spoke of the supernatural elements of Christianity. I was fascinated. I’d never heard of speaking in tongues. Lynne talked about God speaking to her, healing their marriage, and changing their lives. She said Jesus was a real person in the here and now – not just a historical figure. I was hooked.

After a few weeks, I asked if I could go to church with them. Of course, they said “yes”, so off we set. Bethel Foursquare Church was a small congregation with all the enthusiasm demonstrated by Malcolm, Lynne, and their sons. The service made a significant impact on me. When the invitation was given to commit my life to Jesus, I responded. When I was being prayed for, I felt like I was going to fall over. I thought, “I can’t fall over in church!” But later, I found out that it would have been okay. It was another manifestation of this supernatural God.

Malcolm passed away in 2000, and three years ago, Lynne was diagnosed with cancer. I went and visited her in Port Kembla on the NSW south coast. We spent three amazing days together talking about the past 40 years since that fateful truck accident. I recorded a brief video chat with Lynne that you can watch here.

So, it was the supernatural elements of Christianity that first attracted me to Jesus. And it’s been those things that have kept me on this journey for over four decades. Now I can hear some people saying, “your faith has to be built on the Word, not on experience.” I partly agree. The Word (Christian-speak for the Bible) is essential for growing in maturity, understanding God’s nature, and how to live a God-pleasing life. But the Word is also full of peoples’ experiences of God – his power, his presence, his prevailing on their behalf.

I thank God that we get to feel his presence. That our faith doesn’t just rest on facts and head knowledge but heart experience. In Romans 10:2, Paul described his own people this way: “For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” In other words, they were people that had a great passion for God. Their minds were excited about God, but this zeal was not based on knowledge (Greek. “epignosis”).

“Gnosis” in Greek refers to head knowledge. “Epignosis” is heart knowledge or deep inner experience of God as a supernatural bring. I don’t doubt that many people sincerely believe in God and Jesus. They may know a lot about God, but the knowledge is head-bound. What’s needed is a theological landslide from head to heart, from facts to experience.

Since my Christian conversion 43 years ago, I have continued to develop a supernatural faith. And it’s this faith that led me to pioneer Bayside Church 28 years ago. Out of one of the most challenging seasons in my life, God called. Prophetic words flowed from five different people. God was letting me know that what he’d spoken to me about in 1988 was about to be fulfilled.

In my observations of the Christian church as a young man, I often questioned why some churches were strong on the Word but didn’t give room to the Spirit, which the Word taught about. Other churches were strong in the Spirit but weak in the Word. Why I asked God, can’t a church be strong in the Word AND the Spirit? God told me, “Go and start one.” So, I did, and the rest is history.

Today, two of our Bayside Church Core Values are:

“Living and loving the Word of God,” and

“Contending for the supernatural.”

Sure, there are seasons when one has been emphasised more than the other. But we have stayed true to the initial calling to be a church of the Word and the Spirit.

I am grateful to God for leading me to Malcolm and Lynne and the legacy they left in my life. I am thankful to be introduced to a supernatural faith through a little church in Sydney’s western suburbs. I am humbled to be guided by God these past 43 years and continue to see his supernatural presence transform, heal, intercede, and provide.


*timeframes mentioned in this blog are based on original published date

I had an interesting conversation last week with a member of Bayside Church. The discussion was around the standards we have in place for people in leadership, especially those in worship & teaching, youth & children’s ministries. During the conversation, he said to me, “but surely everyone is equal. Why do you have different standards for different people?” Or words to that effect.

It’s a good question and one I thought would be helpful to blog about. Let me say upfront that equality, or the lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the Bible. The Bible’s revelation is on a trajectory that led ancient people toward greater and greater equality. We are still on that path today, with civil and religious movements speaking up for justice for the marginal. We’re witnessing that in our world right now.

Equality in Church

But in the church, is everyone equal? Should there be different standards for different people? The answer to both questions is a resounding “YES.” All Christians are the same, but different. In the church, as in society at large, different functions require higher standards. For example, we expect more from our political leaders than we do from a labourer. It doesn’t mean that the labourer is somehow less than a politician, it means that the politician has a greater responsibility, which necessitates higher standards.

So it is in God’s church. I believe that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The New Testament Scriptures break down walls of racial, gender, and economic inequality. Sadly, imbalance in these realms is still alive and well in some churches. But we need to realise that, even though all Christians are equal, there are functional differences that demand higher standards.

Gifts Carry Responsiblity

Consider the teaching gift which I operate regularly (even in writing this blog). The teacher of God’s Word is held to a greater standard. So much so that the apostle James discourages people from desiring the teaching gift: “not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, I will not only give an account for my own life, but also for what I’ve built into the lives of others.

The apostle Paul goes to great lengths in his pastoral letters to point out the same thing (1 Tim. 3:1-13). Pastors (elders, overseers, bishops) and deacons (those who assist the pastors in caring for God’s people), have a high calling with considerable responsibility. Therefore, there are greater expectations:

  • Faithful to their spouse if married. Celibate if single.
  • Above blame and accusation. Living a consistent life.
  • Free from addictions, self-controlled, and modest.
  • Hospitable and able to teach the Word.
  • Not quarrelsome but gentle and peaceable.
  • Not in love with money.
  • A person who manages their own family and household well.
  • A person of deep, godly character.
  • Not a new convert, but mature in the faith.
  • Of good reputation with those outside the church.

It’s quite a list that I take soberly as I’ll be judged by these standards on the Day of Jesus Christ. While we would certainly look for these same qualities to be found in every Christian, the Bible demands them in those who aspire to leadership.

The Burden of Leadership

And so, at Bayside Church, while everyone is equal and everyone is welcome in God’s church, not everyone will be welcomed into leadership. There are higher standards and expectations for those in the public eye: worship leaders (musicians and singers) and teachers of the Word.

Everyone who serves at Bayside needs to go through a discipleship program and gain a “Working with Children Check”. We have higher expectations for those who serve in children’s and youth ministries because we are on our guard against predators. People who serve God and his church in these ways are held to a higher standard and will undergo a stricter judgment.

A well-known Melbourne building is the Arts Centre. The outer roof of the building is low and wide, then rises in the middle as a 162 metre Spire. This is an excellent picture of the church. As with the Arts Centre roof, the church’s welcome is broad. No matter the lifestyle or background, everyone is welcome. All are equal. But those who aspire to serve in public and leadership roles should not be blinded to the truth that they will be held to high standards in a way that others are not.

Have you ever felt like a second-class Christian because you hear people talk about how God speaks to them, but don’t hear God speak to you? Well, read on dear first-class Christian because God is speaking to you; you might not recognise it as God.

Not recognising the voice of God is nothing new. Consider the crowd who were with Jesus one day when the Father spoke to him, “I have glorified [my name] and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him (John 12:28-29).

God Speaks Through Jesus

God speaks in many and varied ways, but the primary way he communicates is through Jesus. Jesus is God’s final word to humanity, “in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). Studying the life of Jesus, how he interacted with people, how he conducted himself, what he did, and said, is God speaking to you. In Jesus, we see what God is like: “The Son is…the exact expression of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is God’s Word (John 1:1). Jesus is the Father speaking to you and saying, “Be like my Son.” Bayside’s vision, “to courageously love and empower people to become like Jesus,” embraces this truth.

Jesus is the living word, and the Bible is the written word. God will never speak to you something that goes against or contradicts His Word! God’s Word is “a lamp to my feet [Immediate direction] and a light for my path [Future direction] (Ps 119:105). So, I encourage you to be consistent & organised with your Bible reading & study. Be open to the Holy Spirit, guiding you to a book, chapter, or verse that speaks to you.

Dreams & Visions

God also speaks through dreams & Visions. The Bible is full of accounts of God speaking to people this way. Visions are pictures you see when you’re awake, while dreams are images you see while you’re asleep. Apparently, “young men will see visions and old men dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). I’m happily still seeing visions.

In the first year of Bayside Church, I had a vision of a map of Bayside Melbourne. While I looked, spot fires sprang up all around the Bay. God spoke to me about Bayside Church springing up all around Bayside Melbourne. Over the past 28 years, we’ve seen that happening with connect groups multiplying. Today this is still the case, and, in the current crisis, this is happening even more as we reach into people’s homes online.

A vision or dream from God will have a profound effect on you and you will remember the details of it for years to come. It is so much more than a natural dream, during which your mind is merely processing recent events.

Knowing the Voice of Whom Speaks

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice.” There is something very distinct about a voice. When you hear the sound of a friend or loved one, you know immediately who it is. I’ve heard the audible voice of Jesus twice in my 40 years of following him. One time was in the early 90s when I was praying for a wife. The words, “it won’t be long” were audible to me. I’ll never forget the kindness, encouragement, and understanding in his voice. It wasn’t long after this that a certain Christine McClay came into my life, and the rest is history. The other time was when God spoke to me about getting Bayside Church into its own building.

The voice of God isn’t always loud. It’s invariably a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12) into your mind or spirit. Amid our fast-paced, noisy world we must find times to be calm to hear the still, small voice of God (Ps 37:7, 46:10).

How Events Speak

God also speaks through events and opportunities (Rev. 3:8). It was many years ago when I was driving to church on New Year’s Eve. On the way, every traffic light turned green as I approached it. It had never happened like that before, and I heard the gentle whisper of God in my heart: “this is a new season Bayside Church is entering where all the lights will be green.” It was an incredible time in our church as opportunities came, and we embraced them.

God Even Speaks Through People

God will also speak to you through his appointed leaders that he has placed over you in the church you’re part of. There are two aspects of Australian culture that we must be careful not to emulate. It inhibits our ability to hear God speak through his appointed leaders ~ Individualism and Egalitarianism.

Individualism is all about “me and Jesus,” and it’s sad when God’s people acquire this attitude. The New Testament never entertains the concept of a Christian who doesn’t connect with other Christians. Over the years, I’ve heard people say, “God told me,” way too many times. This language sounds so spiritual but is, in fact, quite the opposite. It is also impossible to argue with. Who am I to disagree with God? I believe it’s better to say, “I think God may be saying such and such to me. What do you think?” “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counsellors, there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

Egalitarianism is all about equality. It’s one of our greatest strengths in Australia but also one of our most significant weaknesses. Now, everyone is equal, but there needs to be a functional authority for the orderly operation of any society, community, business, or church. Repeatedly, the Bible teaches us to have respect and regard for those who are in authority. Peter is very blunt about this (no surprises), “This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority (2 Peter 2:10). The opposite of despise is appreciate (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Be open to God speaking to you through His appointed leaders.

But That’s Not All

There are many other ways God speaks to us:

  • The gifts of the spirit (2 Timothy 1:1-7)
  • Repetition – i.e., when you keep getting the same message over and over from different sources (Phil 3:1)
  • Angels (Hebrews 1:14, 13:2)
  • Nature (Romans 1:19-20)
  • Circumstances ~ What is it God that you want to teach me in this situation? (Numbers 22-24)
  • Conscience – the moral monitor, inner voice of the human spirit (Romans 2:15)
  • Other People – have you ever had the experience of someone talking to you, and you become aware that God is speaking?
  • Songs, music, poetry, stories

Many years ago, when I was working at Light FM as Music Director, one of the songs I programmed was “Can we still be friends” by Todd Rundgren. It was a hit in 1978 and speaks about the end of a relationship. One day, after the song was played, we received an email from a woman who wanted to let us know how God had spoken to her through this song. She and her husband were going through an acrimonious divorce, but after listening to this song, they decided to take the bitterness out of their communication with each other. The relationship was beyond repair, but God used a secular song to speak kindness and grace into two people’s hearts and change things for the better.

I encourage you to listen to how God is speaking to you.

The Bible contains many references to a supernatural spiritual gift which is usually referred to as the gift of tongues or speaking in tongues:  the ability to communicate in a language that you have not learned by ordinary means.  It’s a phenomenon that has been around since AD 31 when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the first believers in Jesus on the Day of Pentecost.  Church history reveals that speaking in tongues has been experienced by Christians over the centuries and has enjoyed a revival amongst Pentecostal and Charismatic churches from 1900 onwards (see blog).But what is the point of this gift?

There are two expressions of this supernatural ability – one private and the other public.  I believe that everyone who has been filled (baptised) with the Holy Spirit has access to speaking in tongues as an individual gift that has three main benefits:

Spiritual Recharge

Just as the body and mind get weary, so does our spirit. Praying in tongues recharges our spirit. The apostle Paul wrote, “He who speaks in a tongue edifies [strengthens] himself” (1 Cor 14:4). Jude, one of Jesus’ brothers, encouraged believers to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit” (Jude 20). Through speaking in tongues God “will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit” from “his glorious, unlimited resources” (Eph 3:16).

The human spirit is like a rechargeable battery; speaking in tongues is the recharging unit.  Of course, rest is the best way to recharge and speaking in tongues is the best way to allow your spirit to rest. Regarding speaking in tongues, Paul quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest…this is the place of repose” (Is 28:12).  I’ve always prayed for my children when I’ve put them to bed, and when they were small, they loved me praying in tongues. Our second daughter, Paris, called it “Big Pray.”  I’d pray in English first and then she would say, now pray in big pray, and I would lay my hands on her head and pray in tongues. The peace and rest given by the Holy Spirit in these times were stunning.

Divine Revelation

Paul wrote, “anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit.” (1 Cor 14:2). In other words, when you speak in tongues, no one hearing you will understand what you’re saying, but God understands.  We shouldn’t be confused by the word “mysteries.” 

The Greek word musterion doesn’t refer to something unknown, but rather to something that can only be known by revelation, because God reveals it.  When you’re experiencing a dead end in decision making or problem-solving, spend some time praying in tongues to get God’s revelation and wisdom that will help you see the way forward.

Prayer & Praise

Speaking in tongues allow you to communicate directly with God. The Bible refers to this as “praying [or singing] in the spirit.”  In Acts 10:46, the apostle Peter and his team knew that Cornelius and his guests had been baptised with the Holy Spirit because “they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” 

Due to human weakness and short-sightedness, we don’t always know what we ought to pray for, but “the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words” (Rom 8:26-27). When you don’t know how or what to pray, allow the Holy Spirit to pray through you “in harmony with God’s own will.”

As well as these private uses of tongues there is also a public manifestation in which God speaks to people. The gift of tongues can be used privately and quietly in a church meeting for prayer and worship (1 Cor 14:15, 28). However, when exercising the public gift of tongues, the person must speak out so that all can hear and an interpretation must be given (1 Cor. 14:16-17). 

A public message is never a prayer; however, it is a communication from God meant for the people present (1 Cor. 14:26-27).  Everyone filled with the Holy Spirit can speak in tongues, but not everyone will exercise the gift of tongues (1 Cor. 12:27-30).

This public use of the gift is also a sign to unbelievers and was, in fact, one of the things that attracted me to the Christian faith.  Although I was an atheist, I had a fascination with spiritual things.  I’d always viewed Christianity as boring, irrelevant and unspiritual until I met some Pentecostal Christians who spoke to me about the supernatural power and gifts of God.  They got my attention. 

The apostle Paul taught that “speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers” (1 Cor 14:22). That’s what happened on the Day of Pentecost.  The believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues.  The commotion attracted thousands of people who came to find out what was happening. When the crowd gathered, Peter then preached the Gospel, and 3000 became followers of Jesus, fulfilling what was written by the Prophet Isaiah, “with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people.”

A few comments to wrap up:

  • Speaking in tongues is ONE evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence. The others include joy, freedom to praise and worship, boldness, and to prophesy.
  • Speaking in tongues is NOT essential for Salvation. Some cult groups teach a person is not a real Christian if they don’t speak in tongues which is simply untrue.
  • Speaking in tongues can be either human or angelic languages (1 Cor 13:1). For more on this, I encourage you to read the excellent research conducted by author John Sherrill in his book, “They speak with other tongues.
  • Speaking in tongues doesn’t need to be forced or made up. The disciples spoke in tongues, “As the Spirit enabled them.”  You need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit by speaking the words that well up within you. He won’t move your lips for you!

The gifts of the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues are excellent gifts. Ask for them by faith and then believe God to give you these good gifts when and where He chooses (Matt 3:11; Luke 11:13).


It’s one of the most difficult Christian teachings to grasp – that God is a Trinity – that He is THREE but also ONE. This difficulty, added to the fact that it is one of the least understood Christian teachings, also makes it one of the most criticised.  Some groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Latter Day Saints and Christian Scientists, say it’s simply not true.  But the Trinity is one of the most important Christian teachings and is foundational to all other major doctrines of the Christian faith.  For example, if God is not triune then Jesus is not God. If Jesus isn’t God then he wasn’t sinless.  If he weren’t sinless he would have had to die for his own sins and not ours.  If this were the case no one could be forgiven and reconciled to God.  And on it goes.

While the word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible, the concept is.  It comes from two words – “tris” meaning “three” and “unus” meaning “one.”  God is one but He is expressed in three distinct personalities – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

In the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) God revealed Himself as a plurality in the very first chapter of the Bible when He said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” Two chapters later, the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us.”  We find God speaking in plural form all the way through Genesis (cf. 11:7; 18:1-2,10,13-14) and using plural names like Elohim and Adonai.

In the New Testament there are literally dozens of references to the Trinity.  Some of the more profound ones are:

  • The baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17)
  • The great commission (Matthew 28:19)
  • The promise of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17)
  • The gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)
  • The benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14)
  • The plan of redemption (Hebrews 9:14)
  • The love of God (1 John 4:16)

This last point is very interesting when we consider that “God is love.”  By its very nature love needs an object in order to exist. In the eternity before God created, perfect love existed between the members of the Godhead (theotés): the personal and extremely relational God who is clearly seen in the person of Jesus (Colossians 2:9).

The teaching of the Trinity simply states that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are three distinct persons who make up one God.  The Father is God (John 6:27); the Son is God (Matthew 1:23, “Emmanuel – which means, God with us.”) and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:1-4).

I’ve heard a number of illustrations over the years that help us grasp the concept of the Trinity.  A family can consist of a mother, father and a child – three distinct persons but one family.  A musical chord is made up of three different notes – three sounds that make up one sound.  Water can exist as a liquid, a gas and a vapor but it’s all H20.  The sun gives us light, heat and radiation; three distinct aspects, but only one sun.  If we were to use maths, God would not be 1+1+1=3 but rather 1x1x1=1.

While any illustration ultimately falls short of fully describing the Trinity, all of these are helpful for us as limited human beings to grasp something of an infinite and eternal God.  And that’s important to remember. Would a god that I could fully explain to you be worth knowing?  How can a finite mind fully grasp an infinite God?  It would be easier to fit the Pacific Ocean into a teacup!

But there is one thing more important than knowing about God, and that’s knowing God.  And that’s why Jesus came.  God in human form – “with us” – that we might know Him.

“Speaking in tongues” is a gift of the Holy Spirit and is literally “speaking in an unknown language” – that is to say, it is unknown to the speaker but is not unknown to God.

Even though to many people “speaking in tongues” is a new phenomenon, it dates back to AD 31 when, on the Day of Pentecost, 120 disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:1-4).  The rest of the book of Acts also relates occurrences of speaking in tongues and the Epistles of Paul (especially 1 Corinthians) give instructions for the proper use of this gift.

Speaking in tongues has also been reported throughout Church history.  In 150 AD, Irenaeus, a Greek father of the early church, wrote “… we hear many of the brethren in the church … who speak in tongues through the Spirit, and who also bring to light the secret things of men for their benefit.”  Tertullian (ca. 155-220), a Latin father for the early church, also spoke favourably of this gift.

Montanism was a prophetic movement that broke out in Phrygia in Roman Asia Minor (Turkey) around 172AD.  It made tongues-speaking a central part of the worship experience.  In the middle of the fourth century, Francis Xavier described his miraculous ability to communicate with various groups as speaking in tongues.  In addition, many believe that in the Eastern Church tongues speaking continued to be practised in Greek Orthodox monasteries throughout the Middle Ages.

At the end of seventeenth century, widespread tongues speaking occurred in southern France among a group of persecuted Huguenots.  Similarly, in the 1730s an occurrence of tongues-speaking happened among a group of Catholic pietists, called the Jansenists.

Then in the 1830s until the end of the century, a revival of tongues-speaking occurred in England during the ministry of Edward Irving.  After reports that tongues-speaking had occurred in the west of Scotland in the spring of 1830, Irving himself shortly after reported such expressions in his Regent Square Church.  Until the end of the century, his followers (Irvingites) made tongues speaking central to their church life.

The example of the Huguenots and Irvingites then led to similar occurrences in Mother Anne Lee’s Shaker movement in England and America.  Not long after, in the 1850s, a tongues-speaking movement began in Russia that continued throughout the century.  Similarly, beginning around 1860 on the Southern tip of India, through the influence of Plymouth Brethren theology a revival of tongues-speaking and prophecy was reported.  In addition to the occurrences of tongues speaking in 1901 in Topeka and in Los Angeles in 1906-9, it also arose in the Welsh revival in 1904-5.

Today, “speaking in tongues” is the most talked about phenomena in Christianity.  Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement have brought speaking in tongues to the forefront over the past 100+ years, and these branches of Christianity are without doubt the fastest growing segments of the faith.  These movements are impacting the world even more than the reformation did.

Now, in a first of its kind study, scientists are shining the light on this mysterious practice, attempting to explain what actually happens physiologically to the brain of someone while speaking in tongues.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered decreased activity in the frontal lobes, an area of the brain associated with being in control of one’s self.  This pioneering study, involving functional imaging of the brain while subjects were speaking in tongues, is in the November issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, the official publication of the International Society for Neuroimaging in Psychiatry.

Radiology investigators observed increased or decreased brain activity by measuring regional cerebral blood flow while the subjects were speaking in tongues.  They then compared the imaging to what happened to the brain while the subjects sang gospel music.

“We noticed a number of changes that occurred functionally in the brain,” comments Principal Investigator Andrew Newberg, MD.  “Our finding of decreased activity in the frontal lobes during the practice of speaking in tongues is fascinating because these subjects truly believe that the spirit of God is moving through them and controlling them to speak.  Our brain imaging research shows us that these subjects are not in control of the usual language centres during this activity, which is consistent with their description of a lack of intentional control while speaking in tongues.”

Newberg went on to explain, “These findings could be interpreted as the subject’s sense of self-being taken over by something else.  We, scientifically, assume it’s being taken over by another part of the brain, but we couldn’t see, in this imaging study, where this took place.  This study also showed a number of other changes in the brain, including those areas involved in emotions and establishing our sense of self.”

This fascinating research supports what the Bible teaches about speaking in tongues, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful” (1 Corinthians 14:14).  What a wonderful God-given gift this is.  No wonder the Bible encourages us to seek this gift and to use it regularly.