Quotation: A.W. Tozer

“Any evangelism which by appeal to common interest and chatter about current events seeks to establish a common ground where the sinner can feel at home is as false as the altars of Baal ever were. Every effort to smooth out the road for men and to take away the guilt and the embarrassment is worse than wasted: it is evil and dangerous to the souls of men.

One of the most popular current errors, and the one out of which springs most of the noisy, blustering religious activity being carried on in evangelical circles these days, is the notion that as times change the church must change with them. Christians must adapt their methods by the demands of the people. If they want ten-minute sermons, give them ten-minute sermons. If they want truth in capsule form, give it to them. If they want pictures, give them plenty of pictures. If they like stories, tell them stories. If they prefer to absorb their religious instruction through the drama, go along with them – give them what they want. ‘The message is the same, only the methods changes,’ say the advocates of compromise.”

-A.W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares, 1970

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4 thoughts on “Quotation: A.W. Tozer

  1. Interesting quote. I can see his point, but wonder how this fits with Mars Hill in Acts. Paul was relating to the culture on their terms, but using it to point to the need for a savior. He was using a method of that time and the culture of that time to relate to the people of that time. Shouldn’t we be doing the same? Is the quote arguing against that? Thoughts?

  2. Valid concern, and I would add Paul’s explanation of being “all things to all men.” But when the gospel is watered down in the name of accommodating the lost, that’s what Tozer is warning against. When we dance around the concept of sin in order to make people feel comfortable (a culturally-relevant thing to do), or when we focus on Jesus’ example rather than as “a bloody Saviour” as Michael Horton is fond of saying, we do unbelievers a disservice in the eternal scheme of things.The gospel isn’t self-fulfilling or culturally relevant. It’s man’s sin and separation from God and God moving to man in the form of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.Tozer is warning against watering down the gospel for the sake of being relevant.

  3. I only agree with Tozer half way here. It is true that we must never change the message, but (contra Tozer) we must change the methods. An example of this is door to door evangelism; much more effective in 1978 than 2008.Where Tozer is right however, and this is true of all the examples he gives (I think), is that we cannot change methods that inevitably compromise the message.So… depends what you mean by “methods.” But this is an important corrective to a commonly held assumption.

  4. agreed, and i think Tozer’s context is similar – we should not use new methods that change the message.if you want to bring communication theory into this, i would argue with McLuhan that “the medium is the message” and that we always need to be mindful of the methods, even if the message is the same. McLuhan’s argument doesn’t fit too well with presenting the gospel, but it works in some instances.

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