Church leaders beware

If I could read only one author for the rest of my life (aside from the contributors to the Bible), it would have to be AW Tozer. This guy just knows his stuff. I plowed through How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit this afternoon. And, well, where do I start? Just awesome… all 58 pages of it. It would probably be easiest to just quote the whole thing. 

But for now I won’t. For now, I’ll put down the first chunk that jumped out at me. And it’s something I feel very strongly about… and Tozer obviously did too. 

To give some context, How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit is a Sunday evening sermon series-turned book. So, Tozer sometimes references events that happened in previous services. In his first message of the series, he sets the stage by telling people a bunch of things they already know, such as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three-in-one. They are all God. They are all persons. Know Jesus, and you know God and the Holy Spirit… stuff like that. 

As he nears the end of his first message, he makes the point that we “believe” and “know” a lot of stuff, but aren’t taught on it and don’t practice it. Read on: 

How many blessed truths have gotten snowed under. People believe them, but they are just not being taught, that is all. I think of our experience this morning. Here was a man and his wife, a very fine intelligent couple from another city. They named the church to which they belonged, and I instantly said, “That’s a fine church!” “Oh, yes,” they said “but they don’t teach what we came over here for.” They came over because they were ill and wanted to be scripturally anointed for healing. So I got together two missionaries, two preachers, and an elder, and we anointed them and prayed for them. If you were to go to that church where they attend and say to the preacher, “Do you believe that the Lord answers prayer and heals the sick?” he would reply, “Sure, I do!” He believes it, but he doesn’t teach it, and what you don’t believe strongly enough to teach doesn’t do you any good. 

It’s the same with the fullness of the Holy Ghost. Evangelical Christianity believes it, but nobody experiences it. It lies under the snow, forgotten. I am praying that God may be able to melt away the ice from this blessed truth, and let it spring up again alive, that the Church and the people who hear may get some good out of it and not merely say “I believe” while it is buried under the snow of inactivity and nonattention.  

Reminds me a lot of Jack Deere’s Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, which I recently finished, sans the appendices. In it, Deere references numerous discussions he’s had with pastors and church leaders around the country that claim they “believe” God has the power to perform miracles the way He did through the New Testament apostles. But, when it comes down to it, they don’t really believe God does much more than supply a timely check in the mail when finances are tight and guide doctor’s hands during surgery. At least, that’s what their prayers indicate they believe. And if that’s what they believe, that’s the direction they’re going to steer most of their congregations. 

It’s sad that in our quest for relevance, we’ve deemed “Decrypting the DaVinci Code” more vital than “God still heals today” or “Living a Spirit-filled life.” It seems God has somehow become irrelevant outside of a pop-culture context. We’ve got to show people how they can “include God in their everyday life,” once again, hopefully unknowingly, suggesting that God alone isn’t relevant. 

And now, I’ll quote more Tozer, even though I said I wouldn’t. 

Jesus Christ wanted to take religion out of the external and make it internal… so that a man knows he knows God the same as he knows he is himself and not someone else… Only the Holy Ghost can do that. The Holy Spirit came to carry the evidence of Christianity from the books of apologetics into the human heart… 

Our trouble is that we are trying to confirm the truth of Christianity by an appeal to external evidence. We are saying, “Well, look at this fellow. He can throw a baseball farther than anybody else and he is a Christian, therefore Christianity must be true.” “Here is a great statesman who believes the Bible. Therefore, the Bible must be true.” … We write books to show that some scientist believed in Christianity: therefore, Christianity must be true. We are all the way out on the wrong track, brother! That is not New Testament Christianity at all. That is a pitiful, whimpering, drooling appeal to the flesh. That never was the testimony of the New Testament, never the way God did things–never! You might satisfy the intellects of men by external evidences, and Christ did, I say, point to external evidences when He was here on the earth. But He said, “I am sending you something better. I am taking Christian apologetics out of the realm of logic and putting it into the realm of life. I am proving My deity, and My proof will not be an appeal to a general or a prime minister. The proof lies in an invisible, unseen but powerful energy that visits the human soul when the gospel is preached–the Holy Ghost!” The Spirit of the living God brought an evidence that needed no logic; it went straight to the soul like a flash of silver light, like the direct plunge of a sharp spear into the heart.” … 

There is an immediate witness, an unmediated push of the Spirit of God upon the spirit of man. There is a filtering down, a getting down into the very cells of the human soul and the impression on that soul by the Holy Ghost that this is true. 

As I think about this some more, it is all becoming very convicting. Even the fact that I’m quoting Tozer proves his point a bit. “Tozer said it, it must be true!” is my tone here, not “God said it, it must be true.” I’m putting more faith in the messenger than in the message. If I quote Tozer, people will be more inclined to find the message credible. I’m showing little faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to move through God’s Word without the assistance of a famous name, book, title or theory. Port that concept a bit and we can see how we have little faith in the Holy Spirit’s ability to move without the assistance of a multi-media presentation, a rock star band, a riveting drama or a well-articulated sermon. 

Basically, a lot of God-and is preached, because we don’t believe that God is enough. 

Deere cast some light on this idea a bit in Surprised as well, though in a little different vein. I couldn’t find the quote after a quick skim through the book, but I remember pondering the idea while reading that I hesitate to share Christ with people because I put way too much weight on my ability to craft a good conversation. I slip into thinking evangelism is about me, the messenger, instead of His message. That’s madness! I could deliver the most compelling argument of the ages and not see one soul saved if the Holy Spirit didn’t breathe life into the words. Sure… God needs a willing messenger. And equipping ones-self with God’s word is vital if you’re going to be His ambassador. But right about there is where it stops. 

Look who He chose to first proclaim the kingdom: John “Wild Wilderness Man” The Baptist. And it wasn’t just a few that heeded his word to repent, it was everyone–except, of course, those who were too sophisticated to associate with such a blunt-mouthed locust-eater. Matt. 3:5-6 says “Jerusalem, all Judea and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.” 

I could now go a million different directions in addition to the dozen I’ve already gone. But I’ll put this long-winded blog to rest. I’ve said a lot, but I don’t know that I’ve made many points. Hopefully you somehow find it challenging and edifying. 

I’m in a weird season. I’m pretty sure it’s a spring… but it’s unlike one I’ve been in before. Rather than a giant field of wheat or corn, I feel like a back-yard garden with 30 different seeds being planted in it. This Christmas break has been very, very good in a lot of unforeseen ways. But I’m convinced that God did foresee and ordain it all. I’m just slightly concerned about what my reaction is going to be. How will I be changed? How will I live differently? What’s my role? 

And this reminds me of one last idea: that of Jesus, the best leader to ever walk the earth. Step aside John Maxwell, FDR, Robert E. Lee and King David. Jesus was the greatest of all time. 

We need to shift hope in our ability to follow Christ onto His ability to lead us. I shouldn’t lean as heavily on my ability to discern God’s voice as I should on His ability to speak in a way I’ll understand. I shouldn’t place hope in my skills to learn His ways as I should in His skill to teach in a way that sinks in. 

Good leaders steer people in directions they don’t necessarily want to go. They pull skills out of people they didn’t even know they had. They teach people lessons without them knowing it. They prepare them for situations even without official training. 

If I truly believe God knows me more intimately than I know myself, then I have to admit that He knows how best to motivate me. He knows how best to inspire me. He knows how best to win more of my heart over to Him. He knows how best to cultivate the gifts He’s given me. The responsibility to walk the walk is not solely on me. He’s looking for me to be willing. He’s asking me to participate. But he’s calling me to follow. 

Great organizations succeed in part because of great employees. But they succeed most of all because of great leadership. 

Joel Maust

Joel Maust is a blogger, marketer and photographer living in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.

3 Comments

jennifer

about 11 years ago

i came across your page one day when i was aimlessing searching for an outlet to curb my boredom. little did i know that i would come across someone who's heart's on fire for God and so passionate about getting the gospel out. i'm part of a new church plant in NW ohio, and we're trying to send out a similar message. us christians need to be more on fire for God and less afraid of what people will think of us when they find out we're Jesus Freaks. God's message is love... and we need to show it! experience it. live it. hard as it may seem... but God didn't promise it would be easy. God's awesome. continue to let Him move!!

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Crystal

about 11 years ago

Big Tozer fan! That book was a major blessing to me as well. It sounds like you are in for an awesome 2007. You're right about the garden and not the wheat field. Look forward to it. Rather than some ginormous outpouring of one fruit...look for the growth in mulitple areas on multiple planes. I can't wait to see that garden in bloom! (Don't forget different seeds grow at different speeds and their fruit is born at different times. Look to expect new and different fruit all year long.)

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J Shupe

about 11 years ago

I have heard this to some extent from a couple of different preachers, and have seen it in many lives, mine by no means withstanding, that the bigger the God the more amazing the life. I guess a longer way to explain that would be, the bigger the view of God (as in the ALMIGHTY not impish all inclusiveness but a furthering from "christian" humanism) the more incredibly God will move in a persons life, which also means often more hurt and pain, but along with that more grace and strength for those times that Christ might shine all the brighter. Like Paul said in Philippians 1:12-14 "Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." Not fun, but what more could we want (for most of many other things) than to be used reguardless of how, for the furtherment of Christ! On a different note: About quoting A.W. I think it is fine. I just quoted Paul, not Jesus, even though it is the Word of God through Paul. Different, but if you just rehashed his stuff than that is plagerism. I think its better to quote.

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