Azusa Street - Fresh Wind at the Turn of the 20th Century - Part II
Updated: Jun 30
UNITY - Tozer's Take
We've discussed in past blogs covering history's great revivals that a key component to each and every move of God has been unity. I had simply listed it as one of the three common ingredients (prayer & preaching repentance are the other two) that I've seen in the formula that, when brought together and mixed, ushered revival. A.W. Tozer, the famous Pastor & Author, offers a parallel yet tangential take on unity's role in revival. To him, unity might be the over-arching characteristic that's necessary for revival in the first place. In other words, a unified body is an atmosphere or starting point with which other things may be added. And this unified body is not just suggested, in scripture and in history, for the Holy Spirit to arrive and stay, but mandatory. Tozer cites a pair of scriptures to illustrate his point in a sermon he gave in Toronto, likely sometime in the 1950's, that I recently uncovered on YouTube.
"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore." PSALM 133
This psalm points to unity [among God's people] being something that attracts the very presence and blessing of God.
"When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place." ACTS 2:1
This scripture simply posits that immediately before that "sound like a mighty rushing wind," in Acts 2 they were all together in one place and were all of one accord.
Tozer's conclusion then is that rather than unity being a "product" of revival, it was instead a variable for revival. He makes the distinction in his sermon that the Acts writer does not say that they "became" of one accord and made arrangements to be in "one place," rather they already were of one accord in one place. He, therefore, defines revival as "the achieving of oneness of mind for a number of Christians."
Tozer's Conditions for Oneness
1. Oneness in Essential Truths
Tozer notes that rather than a focus on oneness in particular doctrinal views, a oneness of the "essentials" is paramount to foster revival atmosphere. These essentials are the backbone of the church, and although other, less prominent doctrines are important, these core truths are especially necessary for singularity of mind.
2. Democratic Oneness
As opposed to a totalitarian form of oneness, as Tozer puts it, a democratic one is not controlled or ordained by a leader, it's rather freely attained. When individuals corporately arrive at oneness, and are not commanded to conform to it, a pure version of unity is achieved.
3. Not Oneness of Passivity or Compromise
Tozer describes a form of false unity in a church where out of fear the environment is mutually safe and overly tame. This environment is passive and it compromises truth to maintain a certain pact among its constituents that no one offends their neighbor.
4. A Persistent Oneness
Tozer's final condition is that this pure oneness is not an isolated incident but rather a persistent, sustaining one. Time and fervor will determine this step almost always.
Tozer's Secondary Ingredients for Revival
The below list is a sum of the rest of Tozer's characteristics for revival.
1. Oneness in a Determination to Glorify God alone - This state has no form of man, worldy interest, or motive for individual gain.
2. United in Absorption of the Lord's Doings - This state is totally dedicated to God's ways; like Edison being utterly entrenched in the making of the light bulb before it was finished and patented, a revival-friendly environment is this way toward God and His ways.
3. Unity of Prayer for God's Outpouring - This one is obvious but the people must be prepared to pray for God to move not for a day or two, but for a season or two.
4. Expectation - There is an excited sense of expectation and prayer is pointed and specific (and also accountable) toward the outcome.
5. Oneness in Putting Away Forbidden Things - This would fall into line with preaching and urging repentance. Wrong things are made right and sinful behaviors are laid aside in this step.
The Example of Azusa
The uncommon unity of Azusa met all of Tozer's standards, and its ability to do so is even more amazing considering the gender, racial, and socio-economic diversity of their group, in light of the societal context of early 1900's California.
As you can see in the picture to the right, Azusa's leaders were of different skin color, gender, & background, but apparently all of one accord. They laid the groundwork conducive to a move of God with their "Tozerian" unity, which is precisely why a powerful move of God swept through the region in 1906.
- JF D'Orsie - Communications Director