Tozer Beware The File Card Mentality
The essence of true religion is spontaneity, the sovereign movings of the Holy Spirit upon and in the free spirit of redeemed men. This has through the years of human history been the hallmark of spiritual excellency, the evidence of reality in a world of unreality.
When religion loses its sovereign character and becomes mere form this spontaneity is lost also, and in its place come precedent, propriety, system—and the file-card mentality.
Back of the file-card mentality is the belief that spirituality can be organized. Then is introduced into religion those ideas which never belong there—numbers, statistics, the law of averages and other such natural and human things. And creeping death always follows!
Now a file card is a very harmless little tool and a very useful one for some purposes. It is splendid for keeping attendance records in the Sunday School, and a good mailing list can hardly be managed without it. It is a good thing in its place and deadly out of its place Its danger comes from the well-known human tendency to depend upon external helps in dealing with internal things.
When the file card begins to direct the Christian’s life it immediately becomes a nuisance and a curse. When it gets out of the file case and into the human heart-woe be uno us; nothing but an internal spiritual revolution can deliver the victom from his fate.
Here’s how the file card works when it gets into the Christian life and begins to create mental habits: it divides the Bible into sections fitted to the days of the year and compels the Christian to read according to rule. No matter what the Holy Spirit may be trying to say to a man, still he goes on reading where the card tells him, dutifully checking it off each day. Every Spirit-led saint knows that there are times when he is held by an inward pressure to one chapter, or even one verse, for days at a time, while he wrestles with God till some truth does its work within him. To leave that present passage to follow a prearranged reading schedule is for him wholly impossible. He is in the hand of the free Spirit, and reality is appearing before him to break and humble and lift and liberate and cheer. But only the free soul can know the glory of this To this the heart bound by system will be forever a stranger.
The slave to the file card soon finds that his prayers lose their freedom and become less spontaneous, less effective. He finds himself concerned over matters that should give him no concern whatever—how much time he spent in prayer yesterday, whether he did or did not cover his prayer list for the day, whether he gets up as early as he used to do or stays up in prayer as late at night. Inevitably the calendar crowds out the Spirit and the face of the clock hides the face of God. Prayer ceases to be the free breath of a ransomed soul and becomes a duty to be fulfilled. And even if under such circumstances he succeeds in making his prayer amount to something, still he is suffering tragic losses and binding upon his soul a yoke from which Christ died to set him free.
The Pastor, too, must watchlest he become the victim of the file card. From the road in it looks like a good idea to work out a system of sermon coverage, mapping out the doctrines of the Bible as a farmer divides his acre, allowing so much time during the year for sermons on the various Bible truths so that at the end of a given period the correct amount of attention will have been given to each one. This looks good and theoretically it should be fine, but it will kill any man who follows it, and it will kill his church as well; and one characteristic of this kind of death is that neither pastor nor people are aware that is has come.
Those responsible for the activites of churches and gospel workers must also look out for the file card snare. It is a deadly thing and works to stop the spontaneous operation of the Spirit. No one need die, no one need lie in patient, suffering prayer in the presence of God while the Holy Spirit imparts His sovereign will to his believing heart. No vision of God, high and lifted up, no shocking exposure of inner uncleanness, no pain of a burning coal upon the lips. Yes, it is an easy way. But dare we take it?
The glory of the gospel is its freedom. The Pharisees, who were slaves, hated Christ because He was free. The battle for spiritual freedom did not end when our Lord had risen from the dead. It still goes on, and in a tragic degree the sons of freedom are losing it. Many wo know better are surrendering their liberties with only a token struggle. They find it easier to consult the card than to pray through to a place of spiritual illumination and inward prophetic assurance.
Let us not forget that a free man who could hear God speak opened Europe to the gospel. Do not forget that a man with a free mentality founded the Christian and Missionary Alliance. Remember that a man whose heart was bursting with a weight he could no longer contain forced hi way into Indonesia and opened one of the most fruitful mission fields i modern times.
It will indeed be cause for mourning in Zion when the race of free men dies out in the church and the work of God is entrusted wholly to the file card jockey. O Lord, hear, O Lord, remember, and put off the evil day as long as possible.
A. W. Tozer Beware The File Card Mentality is from Alliance Weekly 22 August 1951