A.W. Tozer was a prolific writer, preacher and considered by many a prophet. He was a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor (most of his time spent in Chicago) who wrote weekly for the C&MA journal and also wrote many books (41) in his lifetime. His most prominent time in the public eye were 1940’s-1963 when he died.
Tozer was known for his rebuke against consumer Christianity calling pastors to stop catering to the masses, and to preach the truth. His most famous book: The Pursuit of God got him labeled as a “Mystic” because he taught what is known as the “Deeper Life” where one pursues more of God and allows the Presence of God to overtake and change a person.
Tozer prophesied time and time again, in books and in his preaching that the church was going down a road direct to secularization where soon the church would be more like the world around it then like the God it was made to serve. He challenged pastors and everyday Christians to go deeper with God and not to accept what he labeled: “Nominal Christianity” where a person simply has the name “Christian” but little else.
When Tozer was alive and even more so today, we has been labeled a modern day prophet. Many people rejoiced at his messages as many rejoice at his books today. I like many have come closer to God through reading his challenging writing.
Just like the prophets of old however, his message has gone largely ignored. He was honored for who he was (a prophetic voice) and is still being honored as such today but many who claim to have read and enjoyed his messages have not allowed the God about whom Tozer preached to change their hearts to cause them to become children of the burning heart.
As I look back and see what he called the church to become so many years ago, my heart is broken to see that much of what he proposed possible was ignored. Also, his warnings to his listeners for not heeding the message in many ways have come true.
Instead of deep pursuit of God in America, much entertainment goes on in the name of church. People go away feeling like they paid for a good worship set and paid for a good sermon but it does little to nothing in their daily lives.
Church in America is largely a consumeristic show put on to please man rather than God. This above all else I believe Grieves the heart of God.
We’ve trained many in this young generation that God is all about fun, and have largely ignored the deeper truths of the Christian life with them saying: “Oh, they can go deeper when they’re older. Plus, they wouldn’t even understand it now”.
I tell you with sincerity that nothing has bothered me more in the past few years than those statements.
I’ve been wrestling with this for years on again and off again but I feel it in my gut that if we continue to entertain and make God nothing but “fun” we are headed for a greater church recession than even Europe has known. There is a constant need to up the ante, always having to one-up our last big thing or worse, to one up the other churches big thing.
Drawing new believers from a show is not intrinsically bad but it is dangerous. It’s dangerous because many times when a young person comes to know Jesus at something like that, their experience dictates their view of God for the rest of their Christian life. They will constantly be expecting God to be more and more fun.
So, as Pastors, what can we do to help solve this issue and spiritual decay we find in America?
Here are a few suggestions:
Stop entertaining and playing games and preach the Word
We need to talk about healing, emotional, physical and spiritual.
We need to talk about the empowering Holy Spirit, who He is and what His role in the life of the believer is all about.
We need to teach surrender.
We need to preach dependence.
We must discuss the meaning of discipleship, not just conversion, both among each other as pastors and with the people who follow us. Bonheoffer wasn’t afraid to share the Cost of Discipleship and neither should we. I think, as pastors we fear we will turn people away if they knew how hard true discipleship would be. Here again, I think we sell people short! If they knew it was such an adventure, wrought with tough times and amazing victories, I think more people would buy into it as valid for their lives. After all real life is hard…delusional religionists make things look ethereal…
I fear that for too long many in the American church have been worried so much about conversions that they have lost sight of discipleship altogether. Once someone comes to Jesus, that’s it! Yay! We did it! Then that person, with very little guidance is expected to join the ranks and get some conversions under their belt as well.
Have we forgotten that God is the ultimate goal? The redemption happened so we could be reunited with our first love. The Cross and Resurrection happened so we can once again have a walking side by side, hand in hand, face to face relationship with our Creator. The Fall took that away and God offers us a way to get it back.
He desires community with us.
He doesn’t want to be our court Jester, he desires to be our Daddy, our Coming (and present) King, our God, our Friend, our Savior, Our Healer, Our Sanctifier. We need to re-tell the story of God for the people who follow us, not simply pander to their desires.
As Parents of children, youth and young adults what can we do?
Here are a few suggestions:
Live a life of surrender before your kids
Pray for your kids and with them
Live a life that is seeking more of God’s presence
Don’t hope the Sunday School teachers will teach your children about the Word, or God, teach them yourself
Don’t be so consumeristic in your church talk, or in the way you treat church
EXPECT God to show up in your prayer times, your church services and share this expectation with your children, so when God does show up (because he most certainly will) you can point to Him and his work amongst you
Love your children the way God does
Admit your mistakes and apologize when you sin against your children
Don’t pretend you have it all together, be real!
As Christians what can we do?
Here are a few suggestions:
Expect God to move
Live lives of surrender
Stop thinking of “Christian” as a title but rather a deeper life reality.
Be the INCARNATE Christ to a world who desperately needs Him
Think of God and others before we think of ourselves
Tozer is one of many forefathers who spoke of things about where we’d be today. Many of those before us didn’t heed the advice and we are further than we were before. May we as pastors, parents and Christians heed the Spirit’s advice and reset a new course for the generations to come! I think we should take a deeper look at some of Tozer’s (and other forefather’s) statements and unpack them. So, in the coming blog posts, this will be what appears!