Whatever happened to worship?

The other day I was much refreshed in re-reading a little collection of AW Tozer’s sermons called “Whatever happened to worship?”

Fifty years on, it still brings a great challenge: a challenge for a sense of the transcendent majesty of God in the Christian life. For a heart and life that are consciously poured out in passionate worship – whether in moments of ‘work’ or moments of ‘devotion’; whether alone or when meeting with other Christians.

I wouldn’t quite share all of Tozer’s nuances. But here are some quotes which particularly struck a chord with my life- and might with yours too. In some ways and some places, the church is in a better state than it generally was in North America in the 1960s. But in other ways – probably not. We still have a lot to learn about worship, and, though he doesn’t give a comprehensive set of answers here, Tozer still has a lot to teach us. Here are the quotes!

  • Christian churches have come to the dangerous time predicted long ago. It is a time when we can pat one another on the back, congratulate ourselves and join in the glad refrain, ‘We are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing!’ It certainly is true that hardly anything is missing from our churches these days – except the most important thing. We are missing genuine and sacred offering of ourselves and our worship to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (p1)
  • Another example of our wrong thinking about God is the attitude of so many that God is now a charity case. He is a kind of frustrated foreman who cannot find enough help. He stands at the wayside asking how many will come to his rescue and begin to do his work. (p3)
  • Any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven. (p5)
  • Nowadays there is a deadly, automatic quality about getting saved. It bothers me greatly. … ‘Put a nickel’s worth of faith in the slot, pull down the lever and take out the little card of salvation. Tuck it in your wallet and off you go!’ … But really, my brother or sister, we are brought to God and to faith and to salvation that we might worship and adore him. (p5)
  • We have a lot of men willing to sit on our church boards who have no desire for spiritual joy and radiance and who never show up for the church prayer meeting. These are the men who often make the decisions about the church budget and the church expenses and where the frills will go in the new edifice. These are the fellows who run the church, but you cannot get them to the prayer meeting because they are not worshippers. (p8)
  • Because we are not truly worshippers, we spend a lot of time in the churches just free-wheeling, burning up fuel, making a noise but not getting anywhere…God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theatres….Most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur actors putting on a home-talent show. (p8)
  • A survey of church history will prove that it was those who were the yearning worshippers who also became the great workers. (p9)
  • I want to be among those who worship. I do not want just to be a part of some great ecclesiastical machine where the pastor turns the cranks and the machine runs. You know – the pastor loves everybody and everybody loves him. He has to do it. He is paid to do it. I wish we might get back to worship again. Then when people come into the church they will instantly sense that they come among holy people, God’s people. They can testify, ‘Of a truth God is in this place.’ (p11)
  • The very last thing that God desires is to have shallow-minded and worldly Christians bragging about him. (p12)
  • God’s highest desire is that his believing children should so love and so adore him that we are continually in his presence, in spirit and in truth. That is to worship, indeed. (p12)
  • There is all around us…a very evident and continuing substitute for worship. I speak of the compelling temptation among Christian believers to be constantly engaged, during every waking hour, in religious activity…But if there is any honesty left in us, it persuades us in our quieter moments that true spiritual worship is at a discouragingly low ebb among professing Christians. (p15)
  • The fear of God is that ‘astonished reverence’ of which the great Faber wrote. I would say that it may grade anywhere from its basic element – the terror of the guilty soul before a holy God – to the fascinated rapture of the worshipping saint…The reverential fear of God mixed with love and fascination and astonishment and admiration and devotion is the most enjoyable state and the most purifying emotion the human soul can know. (p18)
  • I am sorry that this powerful sense of godly fear is a missing quality in the churches today, and its absence is a portent and a sign. (p19)
  • Much of our problem in continuing fellowship with a holy God is that many Christians repent only for what they do, rather than for what they are. (p50)
  • A person who has sensed what Isaiah sensed [ch 6] will never be able to joke about the ‘Man upstairs’ or the ‘Someone up there who likes me’. (p52)
  • There should be a birth from above and within. There should be the terror of seeing ourselves in violent contrast to the holy, holy, holy God. Unless we come into this place of conviction and pain, I am not sure how deep and real our repentance will ever be. (p53)
  • Isaiah was unclean, and thank God, he became aware of it. But the world today is unclean and seems to be almost totally unaware of it. (p54)
  • Do you know who gives me the most trouble? Do you know who I pray for the most in my pastoral work? Just myself. (p55)
  • Real worship is, among other things, a feeling about the Lord our God. It is in our hearts. And we must be willing to express it in an appropriate manner. (p59)
  • We find much of spiritual astonishment and wonder in the book of Acts. You will always find these elements present when the Holy Spirit directs believing men and women. (p59)
  • I once heard Dr George D Watson…point out that men can have two kinds of love for God – the love of gratitude or the love of excellence. He urged that we go on from gratefulness to a love of God just because he is God and because of the excellence of his character. (p61)
  • What we need among us is a genuine visitation of the Spirit. We need a sudden bestowment of the spirit of worship among God’s people. (p65)
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