Thoughts on Tozer’s “Whatever Happened to Worship?”

TozerLast week I read Tozer’s book Whatever Happened to Worship? I enjoyed it much, and I’ve appreciated Tozer over the years. I must say, however, that in some ways he reminds me of Andrew Murray, whom a read a few weeks ago. (I discussed his book Humility here). What I mean is that he has some tremendously powerful quotations and thoughts–thoughts which stir the heart–but he isn’t an expositor. His writings/messages are a collection of profound insights on a topic, but they don’t unfold the meaning of the Scriptures themselves, or even point you to the Scriptures, at least not in this book. Again, I’ve appreciated Tozer & this book; I’m not trying to degrade him. I don’t find theological problems with him as I did with Murray. But if you’re looking for a line-by-line exposition of Scripture, look elsewhere. If you’re looking for thoughtful reflections on the spiritual life–and a top-notch source for sharp quotations–he’s your guy. That’s my two cents, anyway.

I’ve collected the following quotations for my own use, and I’ll reproduce them here for your edification. They’re arranged in order, not by topic. Your comments are welcome, whether on a particular quotation, the book, or Tozer himself.

  • “Worship acceptable to God is the missing crown jewel in evangelical Christianity.” (p. 7)
  • “Jesus was born of a virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died on the cross and rose from the grace to make worshipers out of rebels!” (p. 11). – “I am of the opinion that we should not be concerned about working for God until we have learned the meaning and delight of worshiping Him…I fear that there are many professing Christians who do not want to hear such statements about their ‘busy schedule,’ but it is the truth. God is trying to call us back to that for which He created us—to worship Him and to enjoy Him forever!” (p. 12)
  • “All of the examples that we have in the Bible illustrate that glad and devoted and reverent worship is the normal employment of moral beings. Every glimpse that is given us of heaven and of God’s created beings is always a glimpse of worship and rejoicing and praise because God is who He is.” (p. 13)
  • “But nowadays there is a deadly, automatic quality about getting saved. It bothers me greatly. I say an ‘automatic’ quality: ‘Put in 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!’ After that, the man or woman can say, ‘Yes, I’m saved.’ How does he or she know?’ I put the nickel in. I accepted Jesus and I signed the card.'” (p. 13-14)
  • “[W]e are brought to God and to faith and to salvation that we might worship and adore Him….God has provided His salvation that we might be, individually and personally, vibrant children of God, loving God with all our hearts and worshiping Him in the beauty of Holiness.” (p. 14)
  • “God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theaters. That is where we are, even in the evangelical churches, and I don’t mind telling you that 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.” (p. 17)
  • “Practically every great deed done in the church of Christ all the way back to the apostle Paul was done by people blazing with the radiant worship of their God.” (p. 18 )
  • “I wish to get back to worship again. Then, when people come into the church they will instantly sense that they have come among holy people, God’s people. They can testify, ‘Of a truth God is in this place.’” (p. 20)
  • “That is exactly what God anticipated when He wrought the plan of salvation. He intended to make worshipers out of rebels!” (p. 24)
  • “The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the souls of redeemed men and women is the throbbing heart of the New Testament religion.” (p. 25)
  • “When we come into this sweet relationship, we are beginning to learn astonished reverence, breathless adoration, awesome fascination, lofty admiration of the attributes of God and something of the breathless silence that we know when God is near.” (p. 30).
  • “The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably than can the proud devil himself. There must be humility in the heart of the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth.” (p. 84)
  • “[Genuine] believers worship gladly because they have a high view of God. In some circles, God has been abridged, reduced, modified, edited, changed and amended until He is no longer the God whom Isaiah saw, high and lifted up. Because He has been reduced in the minds of so many people, we no longer have that boundless confidence in His character that we used to have….The God of the whole earth cannot do wrong! He does not need to be rescued. It is man’s inadequate concept of God that needs to be rescued.” (p. 86)
  • We are saved to worship God. All that Christ has done for us in the past and all that He is doing now leads to this one end.” (p. 94, emphasis his)
  • “When we build a sanctuary and dedicate it to the worship of God, are we then obligated to provide a place in the church for entertainers to display their amateur talents?” (p. 97)
  • “When young people begin to comprehend this truth of the highest position and stature in the universe accorded to Jesus Christ as Lord of all, they also begin to sense the importance of His call to a lifetime of loving service.” (p. 106-107)
  • “There is grief in my spirit when I go into the average church, for we have become a generation rapidly losing all sense of divine sacredness in our worship. Many whom we have raised in our churches no longer think in terms of reverence—which seems to indicate they doubt that God’s Presence is there….Much of the blame must be placed on the growing acceptance of a worldly secularism that seems much more appealing in our church circles than any hungering or thirsting for the spiritual life that pleases God. We secularize God, we secularize the gospel of Christ and we secularize worship.” (p. 117)
  • “We have such smooth, almost secularized ways of talking people into the kingdom of God that we can no longer find men and women willing to seek God through the crisis of encounter. When we bring them into our churches, they have no idea of what it means to love and worship God because, in the route through which we have brought them, there has been no personal encounter, no personal crisis, no need of repentance–only a Bible verse with a promise of forgiveness.” (p. 118 )
  • “Oh, how I wish I could adequately set forth the glory of that One who is worthy to be the object of our worship! I do believe that if our new converts—the babes in Christ—could be made to see His thousand attributes and even partially comprehend His being, they would become faint with a yearning desire to worship and honor and acknowledge Him, now and forever.” (p. 118 )
  • “You are not worshiping God as you should if you have departmentalized your life so that some areas worship and other parts do not worship.” (p. 124)
  • “No worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God.” (p. 125)


9 Responses

  1. Chris, I did a series on Worship a while back also. Tozer was one of my resources. Another book I found interesting was Ralph P. Martin, Worship in the Early Church. Martin is more of a historical survey, but I found it quite interesting in comparison to conditions today. It is not too long.

    A few Martin quotes:

    The Church of Jesus Christ is by definition the people of God called by Him to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable through Jesus Christ, and to proclaim the wonderful works of His grace (1 Peter ii, 5-9). [7]

    Worship which is man-devised and conducted according to human dictates and whims, however impressive and aesthetic it may appear, is not acceptable. [13] (See 1 Ki 12.33, Phil 3.3)

    As A. M. Fairbairn put it, ‘the man who does not believe that God can speak to him will not speak to God’. [13]

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. […] We don’t just need better worship; we need a better understanding of who God is, and the latter will go a long way in improving the former. When we understand that God is “great” we will understand why he is also “greatly to be praised” (Psalm 96:4). Though our worship might be broken, “it is man’s inadequate concept of God that needs to be rescued” (Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship, 86). […]

  3. Why would you even expect Toziers book Whatever Happened to Worship” to be an exposition of scripture. I read the book last year and it seemed like he had just written the book. Sadly, there is so little real, meaningful worship in most “worship” services. There are a lot of songs about “me”, “feeling good” etc but few choruses are God directed.
    Of curse, I am from a generation of the “past” where we experienced mighty moves of God and powerful altar calls so I am struggling to find meaningful worship services today.
    Bob Hudson
    Retired AF officer, pastor, missionary

  4. Good morning everybody. A. W. Tozer book is a ‘must read’ book because it awakens the sleeping giant in every person that is spiritually sleeping.
    please I need books by him and I will really apprriciate if you can help me send it to my mail. I really need it.


  5. I love the works of Tozer.
    I do get the feeling that much of worship is almost a competition to “American Idol”, in an attempt to woo those to come to church, by making the music “attractive” it will draw people to the service, especially to “appeal” to the young people.
    “Thou Shalt worship the Lord with all thine heart, mind and soul.
    It is say that drums and guitars poorly played reach the sole of the person and not the soul. I am surprised to read of people impressed with music that could be sung or performed anywhere. For sure, I am old and think that “sanctified” means set apart. There seems to be little separation from the world in worship these days. Though occasionally pure scripture comes through. Where is the thought of “giving ones best to the Lord” ?

  6. Brother, I am glad you read his work. I have yet to read it but have read other truths God gave our brother Tozer. I have multiple books and collections of his sermons, and I can say that they were to say of Ezekiel — “whether they listen or not… they will know that a prophet has been in our midst.” Some of what he preached was expository, but more often, in his communion with Almighty God and His Beloved Son through the indwelling Spirit, he received Truth — Reality — and communicated that to others. We have many expositors, often they put their opinion into it. It has head knowledge but hearts aren’t remae in His image, with His Nature, His Character, His Spirit. As Tozer said, a man can have a theology as straight as a gun barrel and be just as empty. Knowledge is necessary, but without the Spirit in it, there is no life. Tozer urges us to experience Him, not emotionally nor to fufill some psychic need, but to KNOW HIM. I urge you to read everything by him you can get your hands on, particularly The Pursuit of God..


  7. I just finished Chp 1 this morning, and posted a comment on FB re: a thought from page 18 that grabbed me: “What are we going to do about this awesome, beautiful worship God calls for? I would rather worship God than do anything other thing I know of in all this world.” Wow … think about that!
    Blessings indeed,
    Chip Fox

  8. Reading th book now, just begun and blessed by th gems so relevant today. It’s hardly conceivable that these words were uttered some 50years ago! So prophetic. Th situation in th kenyan churches is largely deceptive. Anyone would think we are indeed ablaze by observing th gathered masses or televised renditions… But it’s so apparent we are missing genuine and sacred offering of ourselves and our worship…

  9. Read it some year back. I need to read it again.

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