Summary: “The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes ‘lord’ in the life of the church."
“You Have Stayed Too Long In this Place”
Just day before yesterday I was reading a book of sermons by A.W. Tozer entitled “Rut, Rot or Revival”. The text of the first sermon was Deut 1:6 which says, “..you have stayed too long in this place.” I found his message personally very convicting, and I don’t want to be convicted alone so I have decided to share it with you.
“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel on this side of the Jordan in the wilderness, ….. ( 2) It is eleven days’ journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea. (3) Now it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them ….(5) On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law, saying, (6) "The LORD our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: "You have dwelt long enough at this mountain.”
Tozer maintains that if most church were asked, “What is the worst enemy the church faces today?” most would come up with the wrong answer. He says that many would say that the worst enemy of the church is liberalism. But the simply fact is that most bible believing churches do not have much trouble with liberalism. We do any one get up in our services and say that the first five books of the Bible are just a myth. We do not have anyone who says the creation story is just religious fabrication. No one denies that Jesus walked on the water or that He rose from the grave. No one gets up in our churches and denies that Jesus is the Son of God or that He is coming back again. No one says that the scriptures are no valid today. So we need to stop hiding behind liberalism as our worst enemy.
Tozer goes on to say, “The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes ‘lord’ in the life of the church. Programs are organized and the prevailing conditions are accepted as normal. Anyone can predict next Sunday’s service and what will happen. This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut. The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been determines what is, and what is determines what will be.” [A. W. Tozer. Rut, Rot or Revival: The Problem of Change and Breaking Out of the Status Quo. Compiled by James L. Snyder (Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Pub. Inc., 1993] pp.3-4
But falling prey to this treacherous disease does not happen all at once it happens in progressive Stages.
The first stage Tozer calls the routine.
“But too many are caught up in the routine, repeating without feeling, without meaning, without wonder and without any happy surprises or expectations.” [Tozer p. 5]
Tozer then says “We go one step further and come to what I call a rut, which is bondage to the routine.” [Tozer p. 5] I have heard a rut described as a grave with both ends kicked out.
The third stage is the most horrid of all it is rot. “This is best explained when the psychology of non-expectation takes over and spiritual rigidity sets in, which is an inability to visualize anything better, a lack of desire for improvement.” [Tozer p. 6]
What sincerely scares me silly about this progression is how easily it can happen. It can even happen when you are sincerely trying to add more people to the church. But to what end? “More people to come and repeat the routine, without feeling, without meaning, without wonder, without surprise.” [pp. 6-7] So what is the answer, “How do we change the church?” Is it in changing the routine? No. The church is made up of people, what ever kind of people they are “that is the kind of church it is – no worse and no better, no wiser, no holier, no more ardent and no more worshipful. To improve the church you must begin with individuals.” (p. 7)
Moses says that it is an eleven day journey to Mt. Sinai and they have now been at it for forty years. The condition that causes this seems to have an inward and an outward manifestation.