Schaeffer: Taking the roof off

Francis SchaefferSchaeffer is one of my heroes. Great article about his experience reaching the lost, proclaiming the gospel and founding a loving, missional community at L’Abri.

But L’Abri had its genesis in a spiritual crisis that engulfed Schaeffer in 1950-1951. Depressed by church politics and power struggles, Schaeffer wrestled with the question: “How could people stand for truth and purity and God’s holiness without ugliness and harshness?” He became dissatisfied, too, with his own failures to live out the faith as the Bible describes it, according to Mr. Barrs.

Schaeffer felt these problems so deeply that he began to question whether Christianity, if it has so little effect, could be true. Once again, as he did when he was 17, he plunged into Bible reading in search of answers. He found them, becoming convinced that not only salvation but sanctification and the whole of the Christian’s life are by faith. “The sun came out again,” he said, and he found “a new song in my heart.”

Now, in addition to holding Bible studies in the Schaeffer home and working with children, the Schaeffers began discussion groups for their teenage daughters and friends to hear their questions and to tell about the Bible’s answers.

On June 5, 1955, the Schaeffers drew up a plan to turn their home into a place where people could come to work out their problems and to practice “true spirituality.” Without finances and with no assurance that they would be allowed to stay in Switzerland, the Schaeffers purchased property in Huemoz, a rural village high in the mountains with a spectacular view of the Alps.

Ranald Macaulay, a student at Cambridge who became involved with the Schaeffers in the early days (and later married their daughter Susan), said the founding of L’Abri was consistent with its organizing principle: to live in constant dependence on the grace of God. At a March 11-13 Jubilee for L’Abri Fellowship at the America’s Center in St. Louis, Mr. Macaulay said the Schaeffers resolved to do no advertising for workers, no marketing to attract newcomers, no fundraising, and no planning‚Äîprinciples in stark contrast to most other ministries.

The Schaeffers saw L’Abri as a unique experiment‚Äîthey did not necessarily recommend this radical dependence on God’s providence as a pattern for other ministries‚Äîbut the needs always were met. Concerned with reaching individuals, the Schaeffers were content with small numbers. Over time, however, the effect of their work multiplied. Over 1,000 L’Abri alumni attended the jubilee celebration, an event that was equal parts conference and family reunion.

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