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My Profound Appreciation for Jack Hayford

Jack Hayford went to be with the Lord on January 8 at the age of 88. I never met him personally, but I greatly benefited from his ministry in three specific ways.

Two ways that he helped me were by means of two of his many books: The Beauty of Spiritual Language: Unveiling the Mystery of Speaking in Tongues, and Majesty: God Enthroned in our Worship. Although I didn’t agree with everything in his book on tongues, his was one of the first books I read on the subject and it was extremely helpful. His book on worship also exerted a great influence on me as I was walking through the so-called “worship wars” in the late 1980’s and 1990’s.

But the one occasion when I was in his presence and was greatly impacted by his wisdom and humility took place at a James Robison conference in Ft. Worth in the late 1980’s (I think; it could have been in the very early 1990’s).

There were several thousand people present at the conference and the time of singing, led by Jeanne Rogers, had come to an end. Suddenly, in the highest part of the auditorium an African-American lady stood up and began speaking quite loudly in tongues. Her voice was strong and her words reverberated throughout the building.

Everyone froze. Many of us held our breath, not knowing what to do or say, probably fearful of an impending bolt of lightning from heaven! There was no interpretation that followed, and many could be seen squirming in their seats.

Jack Hayford was not scheduled to speak that night, but he was sitting on the platform with the other conference speakers. While everyone else sat partially paralyzed, devoid of any wisdom on how to respond, Hayford stood up and walked to the podium. As best I can recall, this is what he said:

“O.k., folks. Everyone can start breathing again! Just relax. This is a wonderful opportunity for us to learn something important. Ma’am, I don’t know you, but I sense from the Spirit that you are a devoted follower of Jesus who only wants to honor him and build up his people. So please don’t take what I’m about to say as criticism or rejection. You obviously did what you thought you were supposed to do, but it’s important for all of us to know that there are guidelines in Scripture for how tongues are to be expressed in the corporate assembly of God’s people. So, turn with me to 1 Corinthians 14 and let’s see what Paul says about this.”

Hayford then proceeded to explain that in the corporate assembly tongues are always to be accompanied by interpretation, so that all can understand and be edified. His explanation was so spot on and simple and true to the text and delivered in such a humble and Christ-exalting way that you could literally feel the tension ease and the people relax. We were being given an example of how you should pastor God’s people biblically and in a way that didn’t put to shame the woman who had spoken in tongues.

I’m quite certain the lady felt loved and cared for, and I know the rest of us present were reassured by Hayford’s instruction from the biblical text. Perhaps most of all, I witnessed a gracious man bring loving correction to one person and pastoral wisdom to the rest of us. It was a moment I will never forget.

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