Wednesday, July 16, 2008


In light of some of our recent “blogversations” and those I have been privileged to read or participate in at other at sites, these words by Tozer are a needed encouragement and exhortation to what godly, biblical leadership really entails.

His words are strong and unadulterated. Tozer preceded the postmodern sea change in our culture by a few decades; so don’t expect him to be politically correct or accommodating to present leadership pragmatics.

He is refreshingly direct; he speaks the truth in love, and is unapologetic in his views. He speaks not as a religious promoter, but as a prophet. I so miss today men of his candor, biblical conviction, tenacity of spirit, and lucid speech. Tozer was not for sale by the religious handlers and profiteers of his day. He was not consumed with his own ministerial standing or station in life. He could not be manipulated nor seduced by the promise of greater fame. He was not preoccupied with maintaining his place within evangelicalism through religious bartering or careful cultivated protected alliances. Today, Tozer has no contemporary rivals... In many respects, the pedestals are empty in evangelicalism and biblical leadership within the church is steadily becoming a mirage.

May it be, beloved, our daily prayer that the Lord would raise up Christian servant-leaders who would be delivered from religious posturing for selfish gain or personal advancement; but with humility of mind and contrition of heart, be able to say with fear and trembling,
"follow me, as I follow Christ."

By His grace and for His glory,

2 Timothy 2

By Tozer
The history of Israel and Judah points up a truth taught clearly enough by all history, viz., that the masses are or soon will be what their leaders are. The kings set the moral pace for the people. The public is never capable of acting en masse. Without a leader it is headless and a headless body is powerless. Always someone must lead. Even the mob engaged in pillage and murder is not the disorganized thing it appears to be. Somewhere behind the violence is a leader whose ideas it is simply putting into effect.

Israel sometimes rebelled against her leaders, it is true, but the rebellions were not spontaneous. The people merely switched to a new leader and followed him. The point is, they always had to have a leader. Whatever sort of man the king turned out to be, the people were soon following his leadership. They followed David in the worship of Jehovah, Solomon in the building of the Temple, Jeroboam in the making of a calf and Hezekiah in the restoration of the temple worship.

It is not complimentary to the masses that they are so easily led, but we are not interested in praising or blaming; we are concerned for truth, and the truth is that for better or for worse religious people follow leaders. A good man may change the moral complexion of a whole nation; or a corrupt and worldly clergy may lead a nation into bondage. The transposed proverb, "Like priest, like people," sums up in four words a truth taught plainly in the Scriptures and demonstrated again and again in religious history.

Today, Christianity in the Western world is what its leaders were in the recent past and is becoming what its present leaders are. The local church soon becomes like its pastor, and this is true even of those groups who do not believe in pastors. The true pastor of such a group is not hard to identify; he is usually the one who can present the strongest argument against any church having a pastor. The strong-minded leader of the local group who succeeds in influencing the flock through Bible teaching or frequent impromptu talks in the public gatherings is the pastor, no matter how earnestly he may deny it.

The poor condition of the churches today may be traced straight to their leaders. When, as sometimes happens, the members of a local church rise up and turn their pastor out for preaching the truth, they are still following a leader. Behind their act is sure to be found a carnal (and often well-to-do) deacon or elder who usurps the right to determine who the pastor shall be and what he shall say twice each Sunday. In such cases the pastor is unable to lead the flock. He merely works for the leader; a pitiful situation indeed.

A number of factors that contribute 
to bad spiritual leadership. Here are a few:

1. Fear.
The wish to be liked and admired is strong even among the clergy, so rather than risk public disapproval the pastor is tempted simply to sit on his hands and smile ingratiatingly at the people. "Fear of man will prove to be a snare" (Proverbs 29:25), says the Holy Spirit, and nowhere more than in the ministry.

2. The economic squeeze.
The Protestant ministry is notoriously underpaid and the pastor's family is often large. Put these two facts together and you have a situation ready-made to bring trouble and temptation to the man of God. The ability of the congregation to turn off the flow of money to the church when the man in the pulpit gets on their toes is well known. The average Pastor lives from year to year barely making ends meet. To give vigorous moral leadership to the church is often to invite economic strangulation, so such leadership is withheld. But the evil thing is that leadership withheld is in fact a kind of inverted leadership. The man who will not lead his flock up the mountainside leads it down without knowing it.

3. Ambition.
When Christ is not all in all to the minister he is tempted to seek place for himself, and pleasing the crowds is a time-proved way to get on in church circles. Instead of leading his people where they ought to go, he skillfully leads them where he knows they want to go. In this way he gives the appearance of being a bold leader of men, but avoids offending anyone, and thus assures ecclesiastical preferment when the big church or the high office is open.

4. Intellectual pride.
Unfortunately there is in religious circles a cult of the intelligentsia, which, in my opinion, is merely beatnikism, turned wrong side out. As the beatnik, in spite of his loud protestations of individualism, is in reality one of the most slavish of conformists, so the young intellectual in the pulpit shakes in his carefully polished Oxfords lest he be guilty of saying something trite or common. The people look to him to lead them into green pastures but instead he leads them in circles over a sandy desert.

5. Absence of true spiritual experience.
No one can lead another farther than he himself has gone. For many ministers this explains their failure to lead. They simply do not know where to go.

6. Inadequate preparation.
The churches are cluttered with religious amateurs culturally unfit to minister at the altar, and the people suffer as a consequence. They are led astray and are not aware of it.

The rewards of godly leadership are so great and the responsibilities of the leader so heavy that no one can afford to take the matter lightly.

-this has been an encore presentation-


Steven H said...


Great post! I agree with your assessment of some of the factors contributing to bad spiritual leadership. I agree wholeheartedly that the pastor is worthy of double honor. The issue of the economic squeeze, however, has a flip-side to it. In some instances the problem arises from the ‘spiritual’ leader himself.

As one who has pastored in rural America whose salary was quite small, I saw too many fellow pastor friends (who were making the same amount as I) purchasing items at the rate of a sold-out materialist. The flip-side to the economic pressure factor is the self-induced economic pressure heaped upon some pastors who have yet to yield their spending habits to the Lordship of Christ.

Not only do churches need to be taught to adequately pay their pastors, but pastors need to be taught that the things of this world are passing away and to lead the flock by example! I know this is not the case for every situation, but it is true for many.

Dan Edelen said...


I'd like to preface my statements by saying that I enjoy reading your blog and appreciate what you are offering to the Church. We need the kind of common sense, doctrinally-secure Christianity you are espousing.

Now with that said...

I continue to be amazed that so many Christian denominations and leaders want to claim Tozer as their own. They will laud him right and left, yet somehow ignore the parts of his preaching and praxis that don't line up with their own.

Tozer was totally anti-cessationist. He and MacArthur would profoundly disagree. (A Tozer quote in this regard that leaps to mind: "Nowhere in the Word of God is there any text or passage that can be tortured or twisted into teaching that the organic living church of Jesus Christ just prior to His return will not have every right and every power and every obligation that she knew in that early part of the book of Acts.")

Tozer was not a proponent of Calvinism.

Tozer read and endorsed the mystics like Meister Eckhart, St. John of the Cross, and so on. I don't see that you support that. In fact, it seems to me that you are very much against all kinds of Christian mysticism. If we go for the jugular on Christian leaders today who endorse mysticism, why does Tozer get a pass?

In fact, the more Tozer is read, the more it appears that he was a man outside of time or classification. He does not appear to be like any stream of Evangelical thought we see today. He is clearly too mystical and charismatic for Reformed thinking, that's for certain.

Just last week Al Mohler was quoting Tozer and now he's mentioned here. But are you willing to buy the whole Tozer package or only the parts that fit with what you believe? And it's not only you, Steve; I would ask that of anyone who wants to make Tozer to be the pinnacle of modern day Christian thought.

In my own life, Tozer has had a profound influence. I believe that, outside of the Bible, his The Knowledge of the Holy is the best book on the nature of God that I have ever read. Tozer's practice of spending five hours in prayer every morning is almost unheard of today and stands as a stark reminder that we are drifting. I know that I continue to be challenged by this astonishing man of God and I thank God that He was able to speak to me through Tozer.

SJ Camp said...

Some very good thoughts here Dan. I fully agree with you...

None of us takes "everything" someone teaches, writes, or propagates and places biblical stock in what they represent without questioning their truth claims, do we? That's just being a good Berean (Acts 17:9-11). We must be discerning about what someone teaches and not shy to ask the hard questions. "Eat the meat and throw away the bones..."

Every great Bible teacher today has flaws in their theology. All do. Examples: Any conference that would have R.C. Sproul talk about "justification by faith" is going to be tremendously blessed;--you just don't want to have him speak on eschatology. You would want to have John MacArthur speak about the authority and sufficiency of God's Word--no one finer; but you wouldn't want him to speak to the conference on "the daily pastoral shepherding of hurting people"--it's not his wheelhouse. In the same way, you would want to have John Piper speak about "the glory and supremacy of God"; but not on "spiritual gifts." See what I mean?

Tozer had his "theological gaffs" as we all do. That doesn't excuse them, but it should give us empathy. However, he was an orthodox man on the essentials and unwavering on sola Scriptura. For that I am very grateful.

My dear late friend, Keith Green, and I would "argue" about theology and doctrinal considerations when we'd get together. We loved it. He came from a Finney-revivalist influence; I came from a Calvin-reformed influence. All that I can say is--he knows the truth now :-). But what an uncompromised voice for the gospel and the Lord Keith was in his music. He and I were like Wesley and Whitefield--on the opposite sides of the theological fence on some things, but both, by God's grace, wholeheartedly committed to the work and Word of Christ. As the old saying goes, "it's easier to cool down a fanatic than warm up a corpse." I'll take Keith--with all the flaws--anyday to much of what I see in current evangelicalism by those who even "get it right" theologically; They're not excited about the truth, they're embalmed with it. Rather than the truth making them bold and courageous for the gospel, it has caused them to create a fraternity of "intellectual elitism." Some men have "degrees today" (i.e., ETS) and no heat; the Apostles had heat and no degrees. I'll stay with the Apostles.

I'm not pooh-poohing knowledge or education (read a few books every week and hundreds of articles and posts); but I am pooh-poohing academics for academics sake.

Thanks for your words brother. As Paul said, "till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God; to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" Eph. 4:13.

Grace and peace,

Bret said...

I appreciate the comments in this section. I did not know that about brother Tozer, but Steve comments are also appropriate. One question brother Steve. No disrespect to you or the late Keith Green, but how much Finney-revivalism influence did Keith have. Hopefully you are not referring to some of the pelagianistic beliefs Finney held to? ;-).

Pastor Bret Lovitz
Grace Fellowship

Bhedr said...

Amen! may his words examine all of our hearts in order that he may fashion us and burn off our dross. These are such good points. Has anyone ever read his book Worship and Entertainment?
I also have an article on the spirit of Eros in the church. Has anyone read that?He has good stuff.

2Tal said...

Once again, an edifying post! One of the main things I love about people like you and those whom Christ has used to bring influence to His glory (i.e. Tozer, Piper, Spurgeon, MacArthur, Sproul, Edwards, Keith Green etc. etc.) is the call to personal self examination. This call is much too absent in churches today and yet without it reformation will never occur. I recall once seeking leadership counsel at my church regaring questions I had about whether or not I was truly saved. This man's response was basically "Oh that's just the devil! You just need to have a point in time when you recall praying "the sinner's prayer" and receiving Christ and let that be your confidence." How many people are there who think this way!? From what I've seen my guess would be far too many. It's scary that so many professing Christians would put all their confidence in a past moment of time alone rather then in God's ongoing sanctifying work of trusting and relishing in Christ. Praise God He continues to preserve a voice of truth in these tragic days. As you say, "As the church goes so goes the nation." Thank you for continuing to challenge and encourage me in my relationship with our Lord.

Dan Edelen said...


Thanks for the gracious response.


donsands said...

What a fine post. I am convicted that I do have a fear of man, sometimes, more than a fear of our Lord. God has been working on my heart, but it can be so very hard to confront people in the church, when needed.

Some weaker vessels are much more bold in their sin, than the stronger vessels in their righteousness.

I agree that we need to give the body of Christ what they need, and not what they want. Good words from Tozer.

"Tozer had his theological gaffs as we all do." Amen.
I visited C. J. Mahaney's Covenant Life Church this past Sunday, and it is different. Worshipping God with these brothers and sisters was such a joyful expereince, though my personality, and secondary beliefs, would be less than what they would need to be to join myself with this body.
However, the heart of their doctrinal beliefs are so solid. What a light this church is for the truth.

iamchief said...

Thanks for the post, Steve. Dan's concerns are truly legitimate and your response to them was certainly helpful.
If we had to agree 100% with everyone we read & quoted, we'd...we'd...uh...we'd just be reading the Bible...I guess? (somehow that didn't come out the way I intended...or did it? :o)
This gives us all the more reason to be discerning in our reading, doesn't it?

Regarding leadership...I've always been convicted (haunted, maybe?) by Oswald Sander's quote:

“No one need aspire to leadership in the work of God who is not prepared to pay a price greater than his contemporaries and colleagues are willing to pay. True leadership always exacts a heavy toll on the whole man, and the more effective the leadership is, the higher the price to be paid.” - Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership

Thanks for your ministry. Looking forward to our time together in Little Rock!

Mike Ratliff said...


This is a question about church leadership. What do we do when a pastor is attempting to impliment some pragmatic, program oriented thing in a church simply because the church isn't big enough to suit him? I am speaking of the Purpose Driven Church model. If we have serious misgivings about this, what is called for?

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

littlegal_66 said...

mike ratliff asked: "What do we do when a pastor is attempting to implement some pragmatic, program oriented thing in a church...."

Steve, I'd be really interested in getting your take on this, as well. I'm well aware of your stance on the issue, but what suggestions do you have for folks who see it occuring in their churches?

SJ Camp said...

4given: Yes Little Rock, AK. A great church there (The Bible Church of Little Rock) pastored by my dear friend Lance Quinn. If you're in the L.R. area, you need to visit and worship with them sometime. Excellent church!

littlegal and Mike Great question. Here are a few steps that I hope will be helpful:

1. You want to be a faithful Berean when it comes to church leadership (Acts 17:9-11). Make sure you have biblical precedence when lovingly asking a pastor to qualify his actions or leadership within the church.

2. If it is not an issue of doctrinal drift to aberrant or skewed theology away from an essential of the faith and more of a preference issue, then you need to address the pastor still from Scripture, but I would personally ask questions pertaining to the motive behind the pragmatic. In the end, on preference issues where no doctrinal slippage is occurring, then I would submit to their leadership and trust the Lord through prayer for the outcome.

3. If the pastor is wanting to "grow the church" and isn't satisfied with the size of the congregation, direct him to Acts 2:42ff where Luke records that it was "the Lord who added to the church daily..." Your pastor doesn't want to compete with Christ, Who is the real architect and builder of the church (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 3:5-15; Eph. 2:20) amen?

4. If your pastor is considering the PDL material as his foundation for this, then again, I would appeal to him to examine biblically what Mr. Warren is really representing in that material and to see if it agrees with or contradicts your current doctrinal statement within the church. Q- is your church government one of a plurality of godly elders; more pastoral led; or even congregation rule? That would determine, in part, how you proceed to voice your concerns.

5. Lastly, most pastors are fairly fragile when being confronted about their leadership. Knowing that ahead of time, be gentle, loving, humble, submissive to their position, and gracious when approaching him (Heb. 13:17). Reinforce your love for him; let him know that it is not about numbers, but about being faithful with whomever God has given him as an under-shepherd of Christ to be responsible with to care for.

You can get people to come to most anything if it is marketed correctly and promoted effectively--but that is not the issue is it. I am certain that no real pastor worth his salt wants to operate outside the scope and authority of God's Word--especially in the area of church growth.

Encourage him that he should focus on the depth of obedience within the church; and trust God that he will take care of the breadth of the influence of the church (and the growth as well). Spurgeon had a church of thousands; Watson a church of less than two hundred. In the scope of eternity it doesn't matter... Faithfulness does though.

Praying for you... Not an easy answer this.
Acts 2:42ff

Mike Ratliff said...


Thank you for you godly and Berean answer. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that it is Christ who grows the church not gimmicks, etc.

I am doing research on the Puprose Driven Church. I plan to do exactly what you said in your comment. I am writing a position paper to present to him on why I believe it is a mistake to go this direction. I am a deacon in this church. We don't have elders. I have felt tremendous conviction to be gentle and non-threatening in this. Thanks again for answering my question.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Jana said...

After moving from church to church (as we moved from state to state), we have been very blessed to find a church with a wonderful pastor, who not only preaches the Word, but does so humbly. And the really wonderful thing is that I see his example, which he would be quick to point out is Christ's example, of humility and a servant's heart throughout the men of the church. Even though there are a couple of things I don't agree with (no music with drums, for instance, and I have to wear a skirt to every service - I hate that), I can't imagine leaving this church as long as the pastor maintains his high level of integrity and faithfulness to the truths of the Bible. And if we hadn't attended so many different churches through the years, I wouldn't realized how fortunate we are.

boxcarvibe said...

Mike R. said: "What do we do when a pastor is attempting to implement some pragmatic, program oriented thing in a church simply because the church isn't big enough to suit him?"

Thank you for bringing this up and thanks to Steve C. for graciously providing insight on this matter. Over the past two years, my pastor has thrown his shift to the PDL/seeker model into high gear. Videos, jokes, secular quotes, non-threatening sermons have replaced expository, in-depth preaching. He mentioned the word "sin" once - one time - on Easter Sunday.

Crafting a response like you describe, Mike, has been something I've been considering as well. My wife is great friends with my pastors wife and addressing our concerns will effect me on more than one "front"!

Mike Ratliff said...

Steve, boxcarvibe and Little Gal,

I started working on the paper last night. I have done a great deal of research into the PDC/PDL over the last several weeks. Now I pray that God will guide me in putting together a paper that explains why this approach is "of the world" not of God.

I worked on the paper about three hours last night and have only gotton through the faulty exegesis from Warren's book. Now I am working on the faulty methodologies (ie. Purpose orientation on everything rather than Gospel orientation.) I covet all of your prayers in this.

Perhaps it is for such as time as this that God placed me and you in the churches we are in.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

Grosey's Messages said...

Although I know this is an old post, I wonder if some of the issues of PDL may be raised?
I am of the opinion that the Purpose Driven Life is merely a compression of the navigator's Discipleship courses (with answers for the lazy!)
As such it partakes of both the blessings and the cursings of the Navigator's programme (correct spelling for us colonial boys) Blessings: Foundational discipleship materials developing habits that can become integral to a godly lifestyle).
Cursings: The peril of spiritual pride associated to one who has "lost the plot" and forgotten that the gospel of the grace of God is integral motivational and defining of true godliness.. Titus 2:13.
I am more concerned that the preaching fare reflected in PDL style churches reflects a shallow doctrinal depth that can be utilised in cultic groups and nominal groups, where problem centred preaching becomes normative. I firmly believe that Churches should be conviction driven rather than purpose driven (purpose driven churches reflected in their preaching seem to devolve into a shallow legalism that is devoid of godliness).
I hope I don't sound too scathing?! I am commenting by observation. I first met Rick Warren in January 1990, and met his associate pastor who explained to me that the real source of growth in their church was the small group discipleship cells established around Navigator's materials. In many ways the Purpose Driven church materials are merely tidying up administrative issues and bringing discipleship emphases to church administration! I still think the grace of God should be the powerhouse core motivation to EVERYTHING. But this seems to get lost in the Purpose Driven church.

boxcarvibe said...

Been there, done that, Littlegal? :)

Balancing what I want to do with the wishes from my wife to avoid confrontation have been hard. The old adage "if momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" comes to mind.

Looking back on Tozers comments, I believe my pastors problem is fear. Fear to offend anyone. Fear of having anyone leave or dislike him. I heard he takes it very personally when someone leaves the perhaps that's the core issue.

Mike Ratliff said: "Perhaps it is for such as time as this that God placed me and you in the churches we are in."

Agreed...good word, thanks.

Denise said...


This is so needed in our churches today. I continue to see the circle of true, biblical Christians shrink at a rapid rate and it is alarming.

I have had to deal with this as well at my own church. Confronting leadership is no small or trivial task and we need to make sure we are on solid biblical ground before doing so.

Sadly, many pastors fear their own elder boards or the congretation themselves. We need to encourage them to stand for truth and tell them we are behind them in doing so.

Mike Ratliff said...

Just an update. I put together a 14 page position paper on the PDC and why it is a mistake for our church to go that way. The last 4 pages of it was a presentation on the 9Marks and the book "The Deliberate Church" as alternatives.

I gave it and the PDC book he had given me to my pastor in his office prior to church yesterday. His sermon yesteday talked about rebuilding the "walls" of our church and a big change was coming.

I thought I was going to feel disappointed and let down after he rejected my arguments, but in fact, I felt a great relief. One of the key points in the paper I gave him was that God is more interested in His pastor's faithfulness than in how big they can get their churches. I was faithful in bringing this up and it is like a huge burden has been lifted from me.

If they institute this thing I will be looking for another church, but I'm okay with that now.

In Christ

Mike Ratliff

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Only Look said...

Incidentily I was listening to a favorite message of mine by Tozer in my truck today on the power of true worship. He said as I recall something like this:

"I see some of you getting mad at me over this, but I like that see, I like it because if your not making somebody either mad or sad or glad then you might as well pack your bags and go on home."

Something like that anyway.

Grace upon grace,