The Church Cannot Die

September 15, 2010 at 11:49 am | Posted in A. W. Tozer | 1 Comment
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Insight from A. W. Tozer

There is a notion abroad that Christianity is on its last legs, or possibly already dead and just too weak to lie down.

This is confidently believed in Communist countries, and while spokesmen for the West are too polite to say so, one can hardly escape the feeling that they too believe the demise of the church to be a certain if embarrassing fact, the chief proof of her death being her failure to provide leadership for the world just when it needs it most.

Let me employ a pair of mixed and battered but still useful clichés and say that those who have come to bury the faith of our fathers have reckoned without the host. Just as Jesus Christ was once buried away with the full expectation that He had been gotten rid of, so His church has been laid to rest times without number; and as He disconcerted His enemies by rising from the dead so the church has confounded hers by springing again to vigorous life after all the obsequies had been performed over her coffin and the crocodile tears had been shed at her grave…………………………………..

The world is constantly lashing the church because she has no solution for the problems of society, and the religious leaders who do not know the score wince under the lash. Every once in a while some churchman in an acute attack of conscience does penance in public for Christianity’s failure to furnish bold leadership for the world in this time of crisis. “We have sinned,” cries the frustrated prophet. “The world looked to us for help and we have failed it.”

Well, I am all for repentance if it is genuine, and I think the church has failed, not by neglecting to provide leadership but by living too much like the world. That, however, is not what the muddled churchman means when he bares his soul in public. Rather, he erroneously assumes that the church of God has been left on earth to minister the good hope and cheer to the world in such quantities that it can ignore God, reject Christ, glorify fallen human flesh and pursue its selfish ends in peace. The world wants the church to add a dainty spiritual touch it its carnal schemes, and to be there to help it to its feet and put it to bed when it comes home drunk with fleshly pleasures……………………………

We are in real need of a reformation that will lead to revival among the churches, but the church is not dead, neither is it dying. The Church cannot die.

A local church can die. This happens when all the old saints in a given place fall asleep and no young saints arise to take their place. Sometimes under these circumstances the congregation ceases to be a church, or there is no congregation left and the doors of the chapel are nailed shut. But such a condition, however deplorable, should not discourage us. The true Church is the repository of the life of God among men, and if in one place the frail vessels fail, that life will break out somewhere else. Of this we may be sure. – Taken from Man: The Dwelling Place of God, pages 137-140. Christian Publications, Inc. 1966.

This is just an excerpt from this chapter of Tozer’s book. If you are unfamiliar with the writing of A. W. Tozer this would be a good book to read. Tozer was a prolific writer and most of the chapters in this book first appeard as editorials or articles in The Alliance Witness, which he edited for thirteen years.

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  1. I think what Tozer is saying may have applied during his time, but not as much today. For example, concerning the perceived proof that Christianity is dying, he says,

    “…the chief proof of her death being her failure to provide leadership for the world just when it needs it most.”

    That may have been the case during Tozer’s time, but not so much so today. Today, the chief “proof” that the church is fading away is the rapidly increasing number of people who no longer believe Christianity’s truth claims. For more and more people, the last thing they want is more leadership in the world by the church. For them, more leadership by the church = more religious influence on politics.

    Again he reiterates this,

    “The world looked to us for help and we have failed it.”

    Again, maybe during his day, but not now. The growing idea in the non-christain world is that anything beneficial that the church can provide, the secular world can provide equally as well. And there’s a growing suspicion of the motives of the church when providing aid to the world – that humanitarian aid is primarily a tool to convert people to Christianity.

    The church will never die. Of course this is true. But as the numbers diminish, and acceptance of the church’s truth claims coninues to decline, I wonder at what point will some Christians begin to questions if the whole thing is a human invention devoid of any real sustaining power of a supernatural deity.

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