Hailing from a tiny farming community in western Pennsylvania, A. W. Tozer’s conversion was as a teenager in Akron, Ohio. While on his way home from work at a tire company, he overheard an anonymous street preacher say: “If you don’t know how to be saved… just call on God.” Upon returning home, he climbed into the attic and heeded the preacher’s advice.
In 1919, five years after his conversion, and without formal theological training, Tozer accepted an offer to pastor his first church. This began 44 years of ministry, associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), a Protestant evangelical denomination; 33 of those years were served as a pastor in a number of churches. His first pastorate was in a small storefront church in Nutter Fort, West Virginia. Tozer also served as pastor for 30 years at Southside Alliance Church, in Chicago (1928 to 1959), and the final years of his life were spent as pastor of Avenue Road Church, in Toronto, Canada. In observing contemporary Christian living, he felt that the church was on a dangerous course toward compromising with “worldly” concerns.
In 1950, Tozer received an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Wheaton College. It was May 1950, when Tozer was elected editor of the Alliance Weekly magazine, now called, Alliance Life, the official publication of the CMA. From 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.” In 1952, he received an LL.D. degree from Houghton College.
Among the more than 40 books that he authored, at least two are regarded as Christian classics: The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy. His books impress on the reader the possibility and necessity for a deeper relationship with God.
Living a simple and non-materialistic lifestyle, he and his wife, Ada Cecelia Pfautz, never owned a car, preferring bus and train travel. Even after becoming a well-known Christian author, Tozer 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.”
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.