Posted by: Billy Marsh | April 29, 2009

Schaeffer On What New Christians Must Do

I love Francis Schaeffer. Discovering his writings as well as the man himself has definitely become one of the major mile-markers in my journey in the faith. For years I wanted to read his works but never forced myself to purchase any of his books. Thankfully, I was persuaded by one of my good friends, Keith Krepcho, to join The Francis Schaeffer Book Club at SWBTS in its first year of meeting. I had missed out on that Fall semester’s gathering which had begun with Escape from Reason. Playing “catch-up,” I read that one over the following Christmas Break, but though brief in length, the material went way over my head, not to mention that I hadn’t quite figured out Schaeffer’s thought process or his writing style. In the subsequent Spring semester, we read True Spirituality as a response to Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. Needless to say, True Spirituality changed my life and Schaeffer has carved out a special place in my heart ever since.

One of the main reasons that I have such great affection for Schaeffer is similar to my love for John’s writings in the NT, namely, the profundity of his simplicity. Currently in The Francis Schaeffer Book Club at SWBTS we are wrapping up our reading of The God Who Is There, and towards the end, Schaeffer includes a chapter in his section on his approach to evangelism titled, “Applying the Gospel.” Here he summarizes the gospel truth and what is necessary for someone to believe upon in order to be saved. Then, once a person places his or her faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, he gives four things that a new Christian must do in order to grow in his new life. This is an example of what makes Schaeffer so unique. Amidst the complexities of his presentation of truth, modernity, philosophy, and so forth, you are always going to end up being brought back to the basics of Christian orthodoxy and biblical Christianity in his writings. Here is what he prescribes:

  1. Regular personal Bible study.
  2. Regular prayer.
  3. [Regular] Christian conversation and fellowship.
  4. Regular attendance at a local Bible-believing church.

There’s no long “how-to” list, or some vague inspiring message to go out and be who God has made you to be by expressing yourself through blind trial and error through some sort of experiential Christianity. Schaeffer commends to new Christians what will always be unavoidable for any believer, new or old, if they so desire true fellowship with God and to persevere in the faith. He presents in its bare form what everyone else is trying to get around, that is, a life of Christian discipline and commitment. Granted the disciplines themselves are not what save you, but you cannot follow after Christ without them. And as for those who are trying other avenues of discipleship, they are either deceived regarding the reality of their salvation or they are living in disobedience to God’s Word and should soon awaken to the error of their ways and repent. 

I have bracketed the word “regular” in #3 because I inserted it on my own. Schaeffer included the word “regular” in the other three, but left it out with respect to Christian conversation. I added it just to balance out the list, and I know that it in no way contradicts his intent at this point. Each of these practices for a new Christian must be formed into habits. Making these things a “regular” part of life is necessary for consistent and substantial change to occur.

I remember listening to a sermon series by John Piper that I bought on CD several years ago called “Finishing Well“. In his final message he attempts to give application for how to cultivate the type of radical discipleship that he was expounding upon from Hebrews. Piper’s exhortation for these men and women was two-fold: daily Bible-study and prayer. I know that it seems too simple to be true, but there’s no other way. Don’t equivocate simplicity with minimalism. In this case, that is a deadly error. Ultimately, combining both Schaeffer’s and Piper’s thoughts we can see that in summary new Christians as well as old Christians must practice regular communion with God and regular fellowship with the saints. The Christian life is one that is meant to be lived out in Christ as a part of the body of Christ by the power of the Spirit of Christ.



  1. Hmmm, I need to re-read Schaeffer.

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