10. The Perils of the Preacher (Part 1)

The “Church” Paradigm (a la Tozer)

Neil Girrard

Scriptures Referenced in This Article:
          (Follow the Scripture links if you want to study the Scriptures for yourself.)
1 Ki. 12:28 π Mt. 7:21-23 π Mt. 15:14 π Mt. 23:8 π Mt. 23:13-14 π Jn. 4:24 π Jn. 15:5 π Jn. 16:13 π Rom. 8:9 π 1 Cor. 12:24-25 π 1 Cor. 3:12-13 π Gal. 2:12 π 1 Jn. 2:21; 2nd π Rev. 1:6 π Rev. 2:6 π Rev. 2:15

All quotes from A.W. Tozer are from his book, God Tells the Man Who Cares unless otherwise specified.

Tozer wrote:

There is the danger also that the preacher may suffer alienation of spirit from the plain people. This arises from the nature of institutionalized Christianity. The minister meets religious people almost exclusively. People are on their guard when they are with him. They tend to talk over their own heads and to be for the time the kind of persons they think he wants them to be rather than the kind of persons they are in fact. This creates a world of unreality where no one is quite himself, but the preacher has lived in it so long that he accepts it as real and never knows the real difference.

The results of living in this artificial world are disastrous. There are no more casual conversations, there are only “conferences”; there are no more plain people such as our Lord loved so well, there are only “cases” and people with “problems.” The simple candor that should characterize all relationships between the Christian and his fellow men is lost and the church is turned into a religious clinic. The Holy Spirit cannot work in such an atmosphere, and this in the end is calamitous, for without Him the work of the ministry becomes wood, hay and stubble. (“Perils of the Preacher,” pp. 92-93)

Here is one of the clearest instances where Tozer saw things as they were but was unable to rightly label what he was seeing. This description is the essence of Nicolaitanism – the subtle lording over the people ( Rev. 2:6 , 15; top ) and it is all made possible because of the demonically constructed “world of unreality” called “church.”

In “church,” Tozer wrote, “There is the danger also that the preacher may suffer alienation of spirit from the plain people.” Jesus suffered from no such alienation – nor did Peter (except when he fearfully submitted to the headship of James, the leader of the circumcised group – Gal. 2:12; top ), Paul, John, James or any of the other apostles and writers of the New Testament. This danger is merely evidence that somehow “church” and the “ministry” is now different than the ministry of Christ and His apostles.

Tozer writes, “This [danger of the preacher being alienated from the plain people] arises from the nature of institutionalized Christianity.” (emphasis added) When did Christianity become “institutionalized”? Neither the word nor the concept can be found in the New Testament. The process began early in church history but perhaps it founds its greatest acceptance in the Reformation where books like Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion were considered classic volumes of spiritual insight. Spiritual, yes, but which spirit? Several hundred years later, the fruit has ripened and, as Tozer gives clear testimony, one fruit of the nature of institutionalized Christianity is division of spirit from the plain people. We are all supposed to be plain people (brothers)! Jesus said, “One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brothers.” ( Mt. 23:8 ) Put another way, we are all made by Christ to “be kings and priests to His God and Father.” ( Rev. 1:6; top ) There simply is no “over/under” or “apart from” categories – there is one body and one Head. That is all. Everything else and anything else is counterfeit and deception.

“The minister,” wrote Tozer, “meets religious people almost exclusively.” Whereas Paul (as but one example) made and sold tents – undoubtedly constantly rubbing shoulders with the poor working class as well as the rich buyers, the paid professional clergy can afford to cloister itself into ivory towers (whether literal or figurative) and gains the tilted view that life is all about religion. Forcing a preacher to work for his own living may be the best thing that could be done for him! While there is nothing wrong, per se, in giving toward the support of a man whom God has gifted to preach or teach, to give him a regular salary is pushing him away from his reliance upon and relationship with God. This is another fruit of the nature of institutionalized Christianity (“churchianity”) that points to its real nature.

“People are on their guard,” Tozer wrote, “when they are with [the minister]. They tend to talk over their own heads and to be for the time the kind of persons they think he wants them to be rather than the kind of persons they are in fact.” Preachers have complained for centuries about the “fake Christian smiles” and facades worn at “church.” Few at “church” are able to present their real selves with its burdens, problems and sins. Why not? Because they are in the presence of a “man of God”! That means, somewhere in their subconscious mind, that they need to be on one’s best behavior and present one’s best side. But this is not how we must approach God. We may fool the preacher but we cannot fool God! The “man of God,” by his mere presence, causes us to act and be different from our real selves whereas God says we must come as we are and worship Him in spirit and truth (reality – see Jn. 4:24; top ). That the nature of institutionalized Christianity (“churchianity”) bears different fruit than that required by God is further evidence of a different nature.

“This creates a world of unreality,” wrote Tozer, “where no one is quite himself…” “No lie is of the truth,” John wrote. ( 1 Jn. 2:21 ) The nature of institutionalized Christianity creates an atmosphere of non-reality. This is what Tozer is saying! We must conclude therefore that institutionalized Christianity (“churchianity”) is not of the truth! If it is not of the truth, the Holy Spirit will not guide us into it ( Jn. 16:13; top ) and it can only be a snare of the devil to divert us away from the truth. The “church” has so grayed the lines that these black and white, clearly visible distinctions are not discernible any longer to the average “Christian.”

“The preacher,” wrote Tozer, “has lived in [this world of unreality] so long that he accepts it as real and never know the difference.” Blind leaders of blind followers all marching toward a ditch is how Jesus would describe them. (see Mt. 15:14 ) The Pharisees never knew the difference between their traditionalism and the real way of God. (see Mt. 23:13-14 for example) The people and priests of Israel could not discern between the wickedness of Jeroboam at Bethel (“the house of God,” no less!) and the true worship of God in Jerusalem. ( 1 Ki. 12:28; top ) Today’s “pastor” and his followers cannot discern that the nature of institutionalized Christianity has produced a world of unreality that promotes phoniness and hollow superficiality!

Tozer correctly tells us, “The results of living in this artificial world are disastrous.” Then he goes on to give us four particulars as to how this is a disaster. Let’s look at these one at a time:

1) No more casual conversations, only conferences. This bad fruit of the nature of “churchianity” is a heavy price to pay, especially (but not exclusively) for the “pastor.” The “pastor” often has no real friends because he never stops being the “man of God” to those around him. Friends are replaced with sycophants (yes-men, groupies) and, as Tozer rightly points out, conversations become conferences where the business of religion is discussed. Loneliness and feelings of isolation rank highest among the complaints of the clergy but none dare call it what it really is – the bad fruit of Nicolaitanism, the lording over the people.

2) No people, only cases and problems. Again, this bad fruit of the nature of institutionalized Christianity – the substitution of living, breathing relationships for stale, professional encounters – is widespread across the board in every sect (denomination). Paul wrote, “God composed the body…[so] that there should be no schism [division, class separations] in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.” ( 1 Cor. 12:24-25 - emphasis added; top) The “church” utilizes the paid professional clergy to care for the needs of the people and thus betrays that it is in reality built according to a different design and built by a different builder than God who intends that all members care for one another as equals. There is perhaps no “church” more blind and abominable than the ones who teach the equality of the brethren and the priesthood of all believers but then bestow untouchable, unchallengeable clergy-like status and preferential treatment on the “pastor” and staff.

3) No candor, only a religious clinic. Candor, especially as Tozer uses it here, is defined as “unreserved, honest or sincere expression, forthrightness.” (Webster’s 9th Ed. - emphasis added) Again, “No lie is of the truth.” ( 1 Jn. 2:21; top ) This usual fruit of the nature of “churchianity” causes people to be dishonest and insincere. This is what Tozer is saying! And in this atmosphere of hidden dishonesty and insincerity, the “pastor” takes the place of preeminence and is given the sense and place that he is the superior spiritual specialist with access to the cures for all the people! What a recipe for disaster! Yet, somehow, we’re still supposed to believe that an infallible, all-wise God is the author and architect of the “church”!

4) No work of the Holy Spirit, only wood, hay and stubble. (see 1 Cor. 3:12-13; top ) If there is no work of the Holy Spirit in the “church’s” insincere, dishonest, divisive, ineffective environment, then just what spirit is at work giving those people all those feel-good experiences? That God still manages to touch and preserve those hearts who are sincerely seeking Him is only evidence of His transcendent power over the schemes of the demonic and not an indication that “church” is something He created.

Tozer wrote, “Without [the Holy Spirit] the work of the ministry becomes wood, hay and stubble.” This is only a partial rendering of the whole counsel of God on this matter. It is true, as Jesus said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” ( Jn. 15:5 ) But it is also true, as Paul wrote, that “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.” ( Rom. 8:9; top )

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” ( Mt. 7:21-23; top )

Let us review that list of things done in His name: prophesying or speaking “the word of the Lord,” deliverance of others from demonic oppression and control and performing many wonders. Consider carefully the question of who does these kinds of things today more than “pastors”? Let us also note the qualification Jesus gives for entering the kingdom of heaven after He has judged our lives: It will not be those who verbally proclaim that Jesus is their Lord but rather those who actually do the will of the Father. Those “pastors” whose “ministry” is characterized most by the bad fruit of institutionalized churchianity will have a hard time convincing Jesus they actually did the Father’s will concerning all those people’s lives they’ve mutilated, mangled and distorted away from God’s will.

The whole counsel of God on this matter is this: yes, building with wood, hay or straw will not remove us from His kingdom but lawlessness – doing what is right in one’s own eyes for one’s own benefit – will. When on the last day, all those wonderful things we’ve done in His name – and most religious people today consider institutionalized Christianity to be a wonderful thing – are proven to be lawlessness, He will say to us, “Depart from Me; I never knew you.”

9. The Era of an Absentee God π 11. Organization: Necessary and Dangerous (Part 3)
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