Who was A.W. Tozer?
The Young Tozer
Aiden Wilson Tozer was born April 21, 1897 on a small farm in Western Pennsylvania, the third of six children. And although he would inspire millions with his preaching and writing, he was given very little education during his childhood. Instead, he was needed at home for physical labor. In 1907, when his brother left home to work for the Goodrich Rubber Company in Akron, Ohio, Tozer was called upon to do the difficult work of a farm-hand. At 15, his entire family moved to Akron and Tozer went to work at Goodyear. One afternoon walking home from his job, he heard a street preacher say, “If you don’t know how to be saved . . . just call on God.” When he got home, he climbed the narrow stairs to his attic and gave his life to God. Within a few years, Tozer would gain a reputation as a “20th-century prophet.”
His First Pastorate
Tozer joined the Missionary Alliance Church shortly after his conversion, where he met Ada Pfautz, whom he married at the age of twenty-one. In 1919, ordained, married, and without formal education, Tozer was called to pastor a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. Able to express his thoughts in a simple and forceful manner, Tozer’s preaching began bringing the power of God to hungry souls, and people couldn’t get enough of him. That humble pastorate in West Virginia sparked Tozer’s 44 year ministry with The Christian and Missionary Alliance. He spent most of those years at Chicago’s Southside Alliance Church where the congregation, captivated by his preaching, grew from 80 to 800. In 1950 Tozer became the editor of the Alliance Weekly, and its circulation doubled almost immediately. His ministry was fueled by constant prayer, and he would often be seen walking the aisles of a sanctuary or laying face down on the floor, praying. He noted once that, “As a man prays, so is he.” An early biographer noted his consistent prayer life: “Tozer spent more time on his knees than at his desk.”
His Continuing Legacy
A. W. Tozer was 66 when he died of a heart attack on May 12, 1963. His tombstone simply and appropriately reads, “A Man of God.”
He left behind many books that continue to give Christians encouragement and guidance. His writings are as fresh today as when he was alive because, as a friend commented, “His books reach deep into the heart.” His honest and colloquial humor has been known to sweep up congregations in gales of laughter. And his wisdom has left them silent and stunned. For almost 50 years Tozer walked with God, and even though he is gone, he continues to minister to those who are eager to experience God.