In this post I want to talk about how Francis Schaeffer impacted my own life, anyone who has heard me preach will know that Schaeffer is the most influential person in my life. so this is my story.
I became a Christian in 1969 and I had been very involved in the New Left, as a Christian I had many questions about philosophy and politics but no answers. But then one day in 1970 in Luton Library I came across the L’Abri Story by Edith Schaeffer as soon as I read this I knew that I needed to read her husband’s books. I then discovered on my next visit to the Library “Escape from Reason” and “Death in the City” I read these two books and realized that there were answers to my questions. Later that year I was in a bookshop in London and I purchased “The God Who is There”, I started reading it on the train as I returned home, this book gripped me, I was finding answers to my questions and food for my soul. I still don’t know how I did it but I finished my first read of “The God Who is There” on the day I purchased it. Now a new passion to find answers and develop a Christian worldview became the pressing concern.
As the books came out I read them, I remember going to the Christian Bookshop to collect my copy of “He is there and He Is Not Silent” on the day that it was published, I did the same for “True Spirituality”. In 1972 I made contact with Dick Keyes who was running the non-residential L’Abri in London, here I found a new resource a tape lending library. I began to borrow tapes and listened to Schaeffer expound Romans and teach his Doctrine Series based on the Westminster Confession of Faith. The more I heard the more I wanted to learn, as I talked with Dick and Mardi Keyes they suggested that I visit the residential work of L’Abri at Greatham. I visited Greatham for the first time in September 1972, Ranald Macaulay and Jerram Barrs were leading the work there at that time, I learnt much from them at that time. In June 1974 I became a helper at Greatham, at the time I thought I was going to L’Abri for 3 months but this became 9 months at Greatham and then nearly 5 years in France And Switzerland. I first met Schaeffer when he came to the L’Abri Conference at Ashburnham Place in 1974. I soon noticed that he not only had a fine mind but that he was very approachable.
In 1975 I became a worker at Swiss L’Abri, although I actually spent most of my time in the French L’Abri which was not far from Huemoz, we travelled into Switzerland twice a week for Lectures, discussions, workers meetings and worship. During this time I began to realise from Schaeffer’s example what servant leadership was all about. I saw his leadership style as one who was convinced of the direction in which the work was to go but he was able to trust the work to others. Especially during the production of the films he was away a lot but was always supportive of decisions that had been made in his absence.
Prayer was vital to the whole ministry of L’Abri (and still is) this could be seen in Schaeffer in diverse ways whether in the business of L’Abri or the production of the films and books.
As I watched Francis Schaeffer I was encouraged to follow the Lord and see that my faith was not something for the intellect alone but issued in a true spirituality.
The last time I spoke with Dr Schaeffer was in 1982, although I had left L’Abri my wife and I visited Switzerland to visit with friends, by that time Dr Schaeffer was quite ill and was also busy so we decided not to bother him. However we visited some friends who lived in the basement of his house, we had not been there long when there was a knock at the door and Dr.Schaeffer came in. I will never forget his greeting he said”David and Judy I could not let you be in my house without praying with you” We had a short conversation in which I asked him if I was correct in saying that you can not understand Francis Schaeffer if you don’t understand True Spirituality. He replied that this was correct and he wanted me to promise him that whenever I spoke of his work I would always mention this, I have been aware of this promise ever since and I would ask any reader of this blog if you have not read that book please do so and you will then grasp some of the deep spiritual principles that made Dr Schaeffer’s ministry so effective