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March 20, 2005

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Chris,

Great questions. I will only attempt to tackle number 3. I wonder if even the concept of the "evangelical church" is just that - a construct. I do think that evangelicals (of which I suppose I am still one) have failed to offer a sufficient counterscript to a world looking for authentic faith. Fortunately God exists above our constructs.

Ok, number 4 as well. Just too tempting. I have lived in the CBA all my life. It is not as evil as it might seem, yet way more insidious. Take my wife as an example. We are not getting rich from her career as a CBA novelist. Yet in some way she participates in the whole deal. The difference with Lisa is that she seeks to offer an alternative, well-written fiction that genuinely raises questions. I think that too many people in the Christian industry are just out to make a buck, so they will shape their message however they need to. The best example of this is Jerry Jenkins, someone who seems to want to be a great writer and instead has settled for pumping out shlocky Left Behind books.

I would put forward Keith Green as a similar influence in my walk - a prophetic voice, perhaps a bit more visceral than Tozer. I'd write more, but I see that you have beat me to it (here), even quoting my favourite song and referencing my favourite message of his. I believe it was Green who first opened my eyes to how badly the church often fails in its true calling, and prepared me to hear other voices like those of McLaren, Webber, Grenz, et al... Thanks for this - I'm going to have to go read some Tozer now.

'Why haven't evangelicals listened to voices like Tozer?'

some have.

which explains some of the friction within the church today ;)

For me, I think one of the other voices has been Eugene Peterson. When you read his pastoral theology and spirituality stuff, you're confronted with challenges to the church's focus on attendance, commercialism, "the show".

We're talking about a guy who, when his church began a building campaign and he was being pressured to go visit the wealthier members of the congregation, instead spent the majority of his time in rest homes visiting those who couldn't possibly help financially.

That's authenticity.

I have come to the realization that I am one of perhaps a handful of Paradoxology faithfuls who is not well-educated in religion. However, as a lay person and relatively recent Christian convert, I do believe I have something to contribute... I disagree that adapting Christian worship to what we could call "worldly expectations" is a bad thing. This is not a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Rather, by writing and performing Christian rock and soulful gospel, modern disciples are shaping their message to be palatable to the masses whom they are trying to reach. Must worship be boring to be authentic? If the American culture is accustomed to watching TV and video, would evangelicals not be failing in their mission NOT to attempt to embrace the media of choice of its target market, the unchurched? Yes, simply finding joy in God for who he is is the ideal, but we must first reach those who need to understand they are missing that joy in their hearts to make them want it. I enjoy Chirstiian entertainment and resent Tozer's implication I should feel guilty about it to be an authentic Christian. I am going to listen to music and praise God my children and I have a great local Christian rock station to listen to in the car, rather than my previous favorite -- classic rock --which often glamorizes drugs and illicit sex.

So many people read Tozer and yet so few actually heed what he is saying. It saddens me.

1. Leonard Ravenhill, contemporary and friend of Tozer, is another person we should be heeding, even though he is deceased, also. Ravenhill and Tozer are prophetic voices in an age of itching ears. I know of no living prophetic voices like theirs in the 21st century American church. Prophets assess the times accurately and call people to repentance. Many claim to do the former but few the latter. Very, very sad.

2. Yes.

3. Yes. I believe the remnant in this country is rapidly shrinking. There will always be a few sold-out Christians who truly understand the Lordship of Christ (as Tozer was a Lordship preacher), but I meet fewer and fewer people like this every year.

4. It depends. You can't blanket condemn a Christian who does well. If I were to setup a company that helped people travel to the Holy Lands and I made a lot of money doing it, is that ungodly? I don't think so. (How I spent that money would be a greater indication of my faithfulness to Christ.) But if I try to Christianize contemporary cultural artifacts and make a fortune doing so, I have a much bigger issue with that.

5. Evangelicals have not listened to Tozer because they ultimately love the world more than they love the Lord. I see it all the time. One family in a church is losing their home due to health or unemployment issues, while other families buy a third car, a plasma TV, or another computer to add to the lot they already own. The response to the hurting? "Oh, that's so sad for you!" The hurting get a brief pat on the back as if to say, "Buck up, buckeroo--we'll pray for you!" and then it's off to Williams Sonoma to buy the latest $300 panani-maker. And the prayer doesn't come, either. We're creating a generation of people a mile wide and a quarter inch deep. Doesn't take a genius to realize how fast a puddle like that will dry up when the heat is on.

Tozer is one of the many reasons I started taking Orthodoxy seriously.

"Is it possible that the evangelical Church has so messed-up, that it's wound is incurable?"

Yes, I think so.

Funny this should come up. I have been listening to a series of sermons from Tozer, by Tozer himself on www.sermonaudio.com. We can discuss incurable wounds, but it may be drowning out God's call to the type of radical revival that Tozer pleads for. We're it... let's do it!

Great point, Greg. Talking about the "incurable wound" is helpful, but we can't afford to get stuck there.

As I'm not an American, and not overly familiar with the American Church (although I've read a lot of Tozer, listened to Keith Green, and Ravenhill), I don't know if Paris Reidhead was considered to be an Evangelical, but his sermon "Ten Shekels And A Shirt" (preached, oh, 35 years ago?) is a MUST.

The audio can be found at sermonindex.com, and I think the transcript of it is easy to obtain there and elsewhere too.

Just started reading Tozer today, and saw your post.
There is a sharp clear message in his writing, surely a prophet of the 20th century.

1) Peterson has been mentioned. I would add J.I. Packer, Harvey Cox (early on), Francis Shaeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Tony Campolo, C.S. Lewis...

2) Wow, how much space do we have to talk about the infilatration of consumerism into conteporary church.

3) Perhaps.

4) See 2) above.

5) Some have. However, the heresy attack-dogs in the evangelical church are well trained at silencing unwanted voices and stopping new thinkers from maturing in their voice.

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