A.W. Tozer - A Man of God
Thirty years ago or so, I encountered the writings of A.W. Tozer. Since that time I have read and collected most all of his books, listened to numerous hours of his preaching, and read the biography of his life, In Pursuit of God, at least four times. Tozer was a pastor, writer, prophet, and mystic. For over 3o years he pastored the Southside Alliance Church in Chicago (1928-1959), he became the spokesman for the Christian & Missionary Alliance and a prophetic voice to the evangelical world. Though he never traveled outside of the North American continent his ministry impacted the globe.
What do I find so appealing in the life and writings of Tozer? Tozer was so different from most of the evangelical leaders of our day. He did not care to be popular, in fact he had the audacity to challenge many of the popular trends in his day. As a conference speaker he was somewhat of a "loose cannon." You never knew what he might say. He never owned a car, refused salary increases from his church board, gave away the royalties from most of his books, and lived a non-materialistic, simplified lifestyle. Some thought him unfriendly and unloving, while others said he was simply arrogant. A few said he depressed them and was not happy enough. Still others thought that he was just “odd.” The last point might be in some sense true but only if you apply our typical social standards. (Tozer was not much for small talk and social events and as a consequence this annoyed some people.) As a pastor, he made it clear to his congregation that he did not do hospital visits or counseling, except in extreme circumstances. But rather his time was devoted to prayer and the study of the Word.
Tozer never attended Bible college or seminary, but he had a profound grasp of theological truth. He was not someone you could easily categorize. He was thoroughly evangelical doctrinally, in fact he was somewhat of a fundamentalist, but he read the Catholic mystics (Teresa of Avilia, St. John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Julian of Norwich). For a time he carried on a correspondence with Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk. He was not a Calvinist in the strictest sense, but neither did he fit well with the Arminians. He was not Pentecostal or Charismatic, but he was not a cessationist either.
As both a preacher and writer, Tozer spoke to both the mind and heart. He had a unique ability to stir the emotions, in a proper sense, and cause a passion for Jesus to arise in the listener. He was a man of prayer and deep intimacy with God that is reflected in both his spoken and written word. He did not try to appear "spiritual," but rather there was a genuineness and naturalness to his referencing his devotional life. He urged his listeners to know the Lord experientially. His preaching was often quite simple, and yet had a depth of understanding. His illustrations were often "homey" and often reflected his rural background. Though he addressed error and heresy, he never seemed to attack others personally.
If you have not read any of his books, I would recommend that you begin with The Pursuit of God. But of almost equal value in my opinion is Knowledge of the Holy. Some of the books of Tozer are transcripts of his sermons and provide a sampling of his preaching style. Others are taken from his editorials for the Alliance Witness, the denominational magazine of the Christian & Missionary Alliance.
A.W. Tozer died in 1963. The epitaph on his tombstone simply reads "A.W. Tozer - A Man of God."