In 1948, Evangelical Protestant pastor A.W. Tozer wrote a short book called The Pursuit of God, in which he sought to bring to Evangelical Protestants the concepts of meditation and contemplative prayer found in the writings of the great contemplative writers. In the course of the short book, Tozer quotes St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Augustine, Nicholas of Cusa, and Frederick Faber, and he mentions St. Francis and Thomas a Kempis. A "preacher" with the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, ordained without a high school education, Tozer's favorite sources were the Catholic mystics. He was known for lying prostrate on his office floor in silent prayer. Broadcasting on a Moody Bible Institute radio station, he brought his message to thousands of Protestants in the early 20th century.
In his Preface, dated June 16, 1948, Tozer expressed regret that, in many places "the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the 'program.'" A word from the theatrical world, he complained, had carried into the type of service that "passes for worship."
While Tozer's books continued to be read and continue to teach the concepts of contemplation to Evangelical Protestants, the "program-driven church" has become increasingly prevalent among Evangelical Protestants over the past 30 years.
Interestingly, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church -- one of the ecclesial communities that has led the way toward the program-driven movement -- recently acknowledged that the latest research shows that the program-driven church has not achieved its objective of helping people develop spiritually. Out of Ur (the blog at the Christianity Today website) reported October 18 that Hybels acknowledged, at a recent leadership summit:
"We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own."
Explaining Hybel's comments, the Christianity Today blog author states, "In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships."
It thus appears that the latest research has proven Tozer's preface correct, nearly 60 years after it was written. Hopefully, those few Catholic churches who have adopted some of the Protestant program-driven principles will take note.
Hat tip TitusOneNine.