En Gedi: Finding rest in the wilderness!

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Artificiality is a Disease of the Soul!

Posted by Scott on January 16, 2008

  by A.W. Tozer

When I was a young lad and first beginning to observe the human scene, one thing that struck me forcibly was the artificiality of preachers. The world they inhabited was, it seemed to me, always once removed from reality.

I was not brought up in a Christian home and so was not accustomed to the conventional language of religion, and when I chanced occasionally to hear a sermon, I listened with an ear undulled by familiarity. How strange the preachers sounded to me, how artificial their tones and how unnatural their demeanor.

They were men, obviously, but they lacked the candor and downrightness I knew so well in other men. The bold, man-to-man approach was missing. They seemed to be afraid of something, though I could not tell what, for certainly the tame, patient, almost indifferent persons who listened to them did not seem a threat. They spoke so gingerly and apologetically that one got the impression that they would rather remain silent forever than to offend anyone. After listening to some of them now and again I knew the meaning of the French saying (though I did not hear it till many years later), “There are three sexes: men, women and preachers.”

Now I am all for preachers (A.W.T. was a life long pastor and editor of The Alliance Weekly, his denomination’s official publication) and I do not expect them to be perfect, but I am all for downrightness too. I think it is highly improbably that anyone who speaks cautiously can speak effectively. His timidity will deactivate his effort and render it impotent. (emphasis mine JCS)

It is true that the church has suffered from pugnacious men, but she has suffered more from timid preachers who would rather be nice than right. The latter have done more harm if for no other reason than that there are so many more of them. I do not think, however, that we must make our choice between the two. It is altogether possible to have true love and courage at the same time.

Our theological schools may be at fault here. They strive to turn out preachers who will be all things to all men in a sense Paul never had in mind. They want their students to be cultured if it kills them and they begin by draining off all salt and leaving only a sweetness and light that appears to some of us to be neither sweet nor light. Everything natural is as far as possible refined away. All tang is eliminated from the speech, and all angularity carefully filed off the language. The young man is trained to gesture gracefully, smile faintly and sound scholarly. The direct language than men naturally use when speaking to each other is edited out and a vague, stilted jargon is substituted for it. The total result is artificiality and ineffectiveness.

But back to my own experience; it was by the mercy of God that I was later permitted to hear an evangelist who was completely human and paid his hearers the compliment of assuming they were human too. He knew what he wanted to say, and said it fearlessly; and the people knew what he meant and either took it or left it. Thank God a good number of them took it.

Every man who stands to proclaim the Word should speak with something of the bold authority of the Word itself. The Bible is the book of supreme love, but it is at the same time altogether frank and downright. Its writers are invariably honest and entirely sincere. A great sense of urgency is upon everything they write. They are deeply concerned with moral decisions. Protocol is of less interest to them than the glory of God and the welfare of people.

One is tempted to offer advice to the young preacher to prevent him from becoming a mere purveyor or artificial religious platitudes. One might urge him to study the best writers and speakers, to strive to be original, to look at and through things before speaking of them, to avoid cliches, to speak as men and in the language men speak; but this would be to miss the point entirely. Religious artificiality is not a technical thing but a deeply human and spiritual one. It is a disease of the soul and can only be healed by the Physician of souls.

To escape the snare of artificiality it is necessary that a man enjoy a satisfying personal experience with God. He must be totally committed to Christ and deeply anointed with the Holy Spirit. Further, he must be delivered from the fear of man. The focus of his attention must be God and not men. He must let everything dear to him ride out on each sermon. He must so preach as to jeopardize his future, his ministry, even life itself. He must make God responsible for the consequences and speak as one who will not have long to speak before he is called to judgment. Then the people will know they are hearing a voice instead of a mere echo.

(*By :A.W.Tozer, Christian Publications)

-Scott Bailey 2008

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