Five insights on Church and Life from Francis Schaeffer
1. “Some well-organized business enterprise?”
“We tend to think of Christ building his invisible church, and our building the visible church. We tend to think in this kind of dichotomy. So our building of the visible church becomes much like any natural business function, using natural means and natural motives. How many times do we find that in doing the business of the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a rapid opening of prayer, a rapid closing prayer after half the people have left, but in between there is no difference between doing the Lord’s business and the business of some well-organized business enterprise? Instead of that, we should always look to Him, and always wait and pray for His leading, moment by moment. This is a different world.”
–Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1971/2001), p. 152.
2. “The simple tragic fact”
“The church’s or Christian group’s methods are as important as its message. It is to deal consciously with the reality of the supernatural. Anything that exhibits unfaith is a mistake, or may even be a corporate sin. The liberal theologians get rid of the supernatural in their teaching, but the unfaith of the evangelical can in practice get rid of the supernatural.
May I put it like this? If I woke up tomorrow morning and found that all that the Bible teaches concerning prayer and the Holy Spirit were removed (not as a liberal would remove it, by misinterpretation, but really removed) what difference would it make in practice from the way we are functioning today? The simple tragic fact is that in much of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ – the evangelical Church – there would be no difference whatsoever.
We function as though the supernatural were not there. If the Church does not show forth the supernatural in our generation, what will? The Lord’s work done in the Lord’s way does not relate only to its message, it relates also to the method. There must be something the world cannot explain away by the world’s methods, or by applied psychology.”
–Francis Schaeffer, True Spirituality (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1971/2001), pp. 150-51.
3. “The central problem of our age”
“Christians must humble themselves to know the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. To the extent that we do not humble ourselves, there will be no power of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Lord’s work in the Lord’s way is the Lord’s work in the power of the Holy Spirit and not in the power of the flesh.
The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat.
The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”
–Francis Schaeffer, No Little People(Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1974/2003), 66.
4. “The church is something beautiful”
“One cannot explain the explosive power of the early church apart from the fact that they practiced two things simultaneously: the orthodoxy of doctrine and orthodoxy of community in the midst of the visible church, a community which the world could see.
By the grace of God, therefore, the church must be known simultaneously for its purity of doctrine and the reality of its community. Our churches have so often been only preaching points with very little emphasis on community. But the exhibition of the love of God in practice is beautiful and must be there.
We have, then, two sets of parallel couplets: (1) the principle of the purity of the visible church, and yet the practice of observable love among all true Christians; and (2) the practice of orthodoxy of doctrine and observable orthodoxy of community in the visible church. The heart of these sets of principles is to show forth the love of God and the holiness of God simultaneously. If we show either of these without the other, we exhibit not the character, but a caricature of God for the world to see. If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise. But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty. And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation. All too often people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are called upon to show a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.
Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity. I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously. In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit. Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.”
–Francis Schaeffer, “The Church Before the Watching World” in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Four, A Christian View of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1982), 152.
5. “What Christians are to wear”
“First, Christians are called upon to love all men as neighbors, loving them as ourselves. Second, we are to love all true Christian brothers in a way that the world may observe.
This means showing love to our brothers in the midst of our differences– great or small– loving our brothers when it costs us something, loving them even under times of tremendous emotional tension, loving them in a way the world can see.
In short, we are to practice and exhibit the holiness of God and the love of God, for without this we grieve the Holy Spirit.
Love -and the unity it attests to– is the mark Christ gave Christians to wear before the world. Only with this mark may the world know that Christians are indeed Christians and that Jesus was sent by the Father.” (John 13:34-35; 17:21)
–Francis Schaeffer, The Mark of the Christian in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Four, A Christian View of the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1982), 204.
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