A.W. TOZER OF 1950s calls for CHURCHES to get out of “RUT & ROT”, i.e. QUIT SEEING LIBERALS as ENEMY and SEEK REVIVAL and REFORM from Within
By Kevin Stoda
Last week I wrote on the topic of spirituality in the wake of the Mumbai Siege. This week I turn to the spiritual crisis in supposedly Christian America (but the words I share are words that can be spoken to people of all faiths and creeds).
I recently opened James L. Snyder’s 1993 compilation of RUT, ROT, or REVIVAL by A. W. Tozer and was struck by the call in our misguided sound-bite age against misleading television evangelism and FOX-NEWS-pro-war evangelism dividing Americans of all faiths these days. A.W. Tozer, author of LET MY PEOPLE GO and ROOTS OF THE RIGHTEOUS, began by stating:
“What is the worst enemy our church faces today? This is where a lot of unreality and hypocrisy enters. Many are ready to say, “The Liberals are our worst enemy.” But the fact is that the average evangelical church does not have too much trouble with liberalism.” [p. 2]
In short, there have been very, very few cases of someone standing up in front of people in churches and shouting out that the first five books (Pentateuch) of the Bible are complete myths. There have been very few known instances of churches being invaded or surrounded by peoples shouting that “Christ will not come back one day.”
Tozer reports, “We just cannot hide behind liberalism and say that it is our worst enemy. We believe that evangelical Christians are trying to hold onto the truth given us, the faith of our fathers, so the liberals are not our worst enemy.”[p.3]
Concerning the state, Tozer adds, “Neither do we have a problem with the government. People can do about whatever they please and the government pays no attention. . . . There is no secret breathing down our backs watching our every move.”[Ibid.]
That is, unless we consider the spies in liberal meetings and tapping of liberal persons telephones and e-mails!
For Tozer, “The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today [and in almost any age] is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes ‘lord’ in the life of the church. Programs are organized and prevailing conditions are accepted as normal.”[p.3]
Interestingly, Tozer lived a fairly alternative lifestyle and lived sparsely to give as much effort as he could to his faith and related activities of raising families and church. According to many web sources sharing of the Tozer family, this is a common refrain: “Living a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, he and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need.”
Evangelical Christians [of either conservative or progressive political bent] have a lot to learn from A. W. Tozer’s lifestyle and words—especially in 2008-2009 as we struggle through a second Great Depression in a century and in an age when public transport and fast national train networks need to be rebuilt and developed.
Christians and non-Christians need to represent a cooperative--yet revolutionary—people who are ready to change for the better ourselves and our world—wherever we are planted. The status-quo of divided church kingdoms on Sunday morning and separate prayer meetings must be ended. In the final scheme of things, Tozer writes, churches [and societal groupings of all stripes] are just (1) a reflection of the individual membership and (2) all change in church ways--even mis-directions--starts with the individual.
THE MAN (OR WOMAN) IN THE MIRROR
“Politicians [of whatever political orientation] sometimes talk about the state as though it were an entity onto itself. Social workers talk about society, but society is people. The church is made up of real people, and when they come together we have the church. Whatever the people are who make up the church, that is the kind of church it is—no worse and no better, nor wiser, no holier, no more ardent, no more and no more worshipful. To improve or change the church we must begin with individuals [p. 7],” explains Tozer.
Naturally, working at the individual level is something that community organizers and leaders of all types need to focus on—whether in politics, in the church, in human resources, or in community development.