After writing the piece “Loss of an Icon,” regarding the Pioneer Cabin tree in California, I went to our bookshelves looking for something to read on a rainy day. I grabbed a paperback by A.W. Tozer that we had picked up somewhere, and I had yet to read. I noticed that the booklet was written in 1955. As I started into it, I thought, “What timing.” I had just written about the comparison between the pioneer cabin tree and our country (the loss of roots, the onset of decay, etc.). In the first chapter of the booklet by Tozer, he speaks of the loss of roots and the resulting decay in the modern church and Christianity of his era (1955). He states that a strong tree with good roots can withstand almost any storm, and the same holds true for the church. He then states that nothing can save a church whose roots have dried up. He mentioned various strategies that churches have attempted to utilize to disguise/recover from the fact that they are rootless, such as clever marketing and advertising campaigns.
Again, I thought that this was strange. I had just had a conversation with someone about the marketing strategies of churches today and how we have, in essence, given God a Public Relations manager to rework His public image—to add a little bling, bling, if you will, in an attempt to make Him more sellable. I thought that this idea of marketing God was something relatively new. I guess Tozer saw it in his day.
As I looked at facebook on Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice all the hype about the Cowboys football game. My timeline and news feed were covered with the insanity. I quit watching football a few years back. I tried to watch the Superbowl last year, and even the commercials stunk. I guess for me, I just do not understand it—all the hype—it’s a game—no more, no less. We have a friend who, when he sees foolishness posted online, in news stories, personal posts, etc. he satirically comments, “I dare the Russians to invade us now.” My thoughts: the Russians could invade us on a Sunday afternoon and nobody would know it until after the game. Fed up with what I saw on facebook, I picked up the book again and began to read. A couple of chapters later, this is what I found: a chapter entitled, “The Great God Entertainment”. In this chapter, Tozer goes on to state that the churches had joined forces with the great god of entertainment. “Many churches these days have become little more than poor theaters where fifth rate producers peddle their shoddy wares with the full approval of evangelical leaders who can even quote a holy text in defense of their delinquency.”
Look at how entertainment has changed since 1955. Look at the technology that has changed since then. What would Tozer write today? My sister-in-law says it like this, “Way too many churches and modern Christian entities are becoming the equivalent of spiritual methadone clinics. Like the clinics that give legal drugs to mimic the effects of the illegal drugs in an attempt to help the addict, churches often mimic what the world has saturated a person’s being with in an attempt to get that person to bond with the church program instead of a worldly program.” In other words, the church offers much the same thing as the world does, only under Christian labels. Those who subscribe to this version of Christianity are getting the same fix, just from a different source. Tozer also realized this and mentioned it in this book, “We look for entertainment the same way the dope addict looks for his daily shot of heroine.”
Another thing that I have been saying for quite a while is that many modern Christians treat God like a genie in a bottle, only summoning him if they need a wish granted. Again Tozer saw this in the 1950’s. He said it turns our Lord into a “Christ of utility, a kind of Aladdin’s lamp to do minor miracles in behalf of anyone who summons Him to do his bidding.”
I’m 34 pages in. I would say that this book written in 1955 is still very relevant today.