Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Memorable Encounter with Francis Schaeffer

Long time readers of this blog (are there any?) should know that Francis Schaeffer is one of my heroes. Saw this story by Bruce Little about An Encounter with Francis Schaeffer and thought it was worth sharing.
I remember hearing Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) in person, several weeks before his death, at a large gathering on the campus of a Christian University. Schaeffer was of particular importance to me. At the time, in April 1984, I was attending a graduate seminar on Schaeffer so it was perfect timing. Just a few years before, I had first felt the force of Schaeffer’s thought through reading his books, and now I was having the opportunity to hear him in person as he was on a speaking tour promoting his latest book, The Great Evangelical Disaster. I have vivid memories of that night. I watched as he was helped to the platform and then remained seated even while he spoke. By this time cancer had so weakened him physically that standing was out of the question. In fact, at that time I was told that his diet consisted mainly of milkshakes.

After Schaeffer delivered his lecture, the audience was invited to ask questions. I remember one young man who began his question by reviewing some of what Schaeffer had just noted (and as many young men tend to do, he tried to impress the crowd with his knowledge, struggling to put his mini-speech into the form of a question). And alas, after the young man launched a rather dramatic presentation of his insights, he concluded by picturing the Church in the tenth round, bloody and beaten and on its knees. Then, at last, he asked his question. He wondered if there was any hope the Church could win given his analysis of the situation.

Dr. Schaeffer leaned forward and brought the microphone to his lips. A hush came over the audience as it awaited the response. Then Schaeffer said, “If we do it to win, we have lost already. We do not do it to win, but because our risen Lord has commanded us.” What an answer! I have told this story so many times I embarrass myself, but the power of that response moves me each time I think of it. In fact, I often have been encouraged as well as challenged by those words. And for this, I am forever grateful for that night I heard Dr. Schaeffer. That was 26 years ago, not so long when you think about it, but it has been long enough for the name of Francis Schaeffer to fade from the evangelical memory. My hope is that Francis Schaeffer’s life and ministry will not fade from memory, but will instead remain present to our minds as a model of faithful witness. Perhaps this blogpost will be the catalyst for some of our readers to read Schaeffer’s works and benefit from them.
He's been dead 26 years, and I still miss him!