While on his way home from the Akron, Ohio tire company where he worked as a teen, young Aiden Wilson Tozer overheard a street preacher say,“If you don’t know how to be saved…just call on God.” Upon returning home, Tozer climbed into the attic and heeded the preacher’s advice.
In 1919, five years after his decision to follow Christ, and without formal theological training, Tozer accepted an offer to pastor his first church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. This began forty-four fruitful years of ministry with The Alliance, thirty of which he served as pastor of the Southside Alliance Church in Chicago (1928 to 1959). His final years were spent pastoring the Avenue Road (Alliance) Church in Toronto, Canada.
Considered by many to be a modern-day prophet, Tozer felt that the church was on a dangerous course towards compromising with “worldly” concerns. In 1950, he was appointed editor of the Alliance Weekly magazine, now Alliance Life, the official publication of The Alliance. In his first editorial, dated June 3, 1950, he wrote “It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress. But it will pay in the long run, and the true Christian is not much interested in anything short of that.”
Prayer was of vital personal importance for Tozer. “His preaching as well as his writings were but extensions of his prayer life,” comments his biographer, James L. Snyder in the book, In Pursuit of God: The Life Of A.W. Tozer. “He had the ability to make his listeners face themselves in the light of what God was saying to them”, writes Snyder.
Among the more than forty books Tozer authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His writings impress on the reader the necessity to abandon worldly comforts in favor the deeper life that comes with following Christ. Living out this simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, Tozer and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, he signed away much of his royalties to those who were in need.
Tozer had seven children, six boys and one girl. He was buried in Ellet cemetery, Akron, Ohio, with a simple epitaph marking his grave: “A. W. Tozer — A Man of God.”