Schaeffer’s Bare Minimum…Church 5

Francis Schaeffer was a Christian thinker and author whom I have benefitted much from. In the 1980’s I read his book “the Church at The End of the Twentieth Century”and benefitted from the points he raised.

Schaeffer pointed out that if the Church is to thrive in the ever changing world we live in, we must know the distinction between Form and Freedom. What is essential to the structure of the church (Form)? And what in church life is fluid, as regards organization , liturgy, practices, services, etc. ?

Schaeffer taught that the true Church is structured around eight essential, non negotiable norms.

  1. That local congregations, composed of believers, must exist in a region. Of course unbelievers would be welcome to the services, but Schaeffer believed that Church is made up of believers, and should revolve around the need of believers, while at the same time reaching out to unbelievers.

2. That the congregation must meet once a week. Schaeffer went further and insisted that it be on the first day of the week.

3. Churches should be led by Elders and Overseers, men who would take responsibility for the teaching and practice of the church.*

4. Schaeffer taught that Deacons be appointed to care for the physical aspects of the body of believers and their outreach.*

5. The Church must Take discipline seriously. She should exercise church discipline upon herself, in accord with the teaching of the New Testament. In Schaeffer’s view such discipline was essential to keep the Church distinct from the World,”

“The New Testament stresses such purity, for the church is not to be like an ameba so that no one can tell the difference between the church and the world.  There is to be a sharp edge.  There is to be a distinction between one side and the other – between the world and the church, and between those who are in the church and those who are not” (The Church At The End Of The Twentieth Century, 57).”

6. The True Church administers the two ordinances, The Lord’s Supper, and Baptism.

7. That there is a place for form on a wider basis than the local Church. Schaeffer cited Acts 15, and the council in Jerusalem as an example of this. There was submission and assent in the early church, among the churches. 

 I submit this topic for discussion, agreement, disagreement, what have you. Perhaps Schaeffer took for granted as an obvious given, but I would have added, that it is essential form that the Church be centered around the Word of God. The Church is the very pillar and ground of the Truth. Without the Word of God there is no church, and to depart from the Word of God, is to depart from remaining as a church. 

What is the bare minimum, non negotiable characteristic of the True Church?  Can a church ever stop being a church? At what point is a Church no longer a Church? We literally live in times where these are valid and timely issues.

*The standards of I Timothy 3 and Titus 1, should be met by the leadership of said churches.

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7 Responses to Schaeffer’s Bare Minimum…Church 5

  1. Junior Phillip says:

    Excellent, your added piece is the cherry on top of the pie. The word of God is essential for our continued identity and sustenance.

  2. Dorman Woodall says:

    The Word of God is a primary matter for every believing congregation, of course. I also agree that believers must worship and fellowship once a week… however, the Bible says we are to remember the Shabbat day and keep it holy. The Shabbat is Saturday. I know it may be a secondary matter, but why does Schaeffer insist on Sunday when the Bible says otherwise? Who can change God’s words?
    Also, the Great Commission to build disciples was made a primary matter by Jesus. I don’t see this commandment emphasized in this list of essential norms. Saint Paul told us in Romans to share the Good News with the Jew first, then the Gentile. As gentile believers we are called to make the Jews jealous not to ignore them. As a gentile believer I have always wondered why we aren’t do more to witness to the Jewish people. Since Schaeffer did not empathize the winning of all souls as a norm for churches, what am I missing?
    Thank you for your posts. I love what you do and how you give others permission to ask questions.

    • billrandles says:

      Thanks Dorman, I do agree with you about the necessity to make disciples and to reach out to Jews especially. Should be interesting to see what others add…glad you appreciate the blog

    • Rob Nelson says:

      I absolutely agree Dorman with your question as to “Why did Schaeffer insist on Sunday”. Very strange. Ditto re making disciples. Very basic but essential issues. I actually became a believer while in L’Abri in 1974 having gone there to assist two Australian Christians to reach it high up in there the mountains of Switzerland. I ended up staying on and listening to what was being said and preached up there and accepted Yeshua while listening to the exposition tapes Francis did on Roman’s 8.

  3. Stan says:

    Thank you for the post,and I also as Dorman stated ,thank you that you allow questions and discussion.The one thing I would add ,a Church is a community of believers who not only meet on a day to worship together but also share their lives together I would submit Acts 2:42-47. “and had all things common”

  4. Sue Ackerman says:

    I have two points to make on this topic. First, I don’t see any biblical justification for any particular day to meet together. We are not under the Sabbath laws of the Old Testament. See Galatians 4:8-11, Colossians 2:8-23 (especially vs. 16-17), and Romans, chapter 14. I believe the early church met on Sunday, the first day of the week, possibly in remembrance of the Lord’s resurrection, but He has told us that when two or more are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of us. Matthew 18:20. We are not under any law as to where or when we choose to gather together.
    Secondly, when we do come together, I believe we are missing out on the edification that comes from the Body of Christ being allowed to function in the way He planned it. See I Corinthians, chapter 14, especially verse 26. I have been going “to church” for years, and it can be the DRIEST thing on earth when the one who is speaking is not anointed by the Holy Spirit with a message from God! The best meetings I have been in recently have been on Tuesday nights with a few ladies where we pray and study the scriptures and talk about the issues that are on our minds and hearts. WE ARE THE CHURCH! The Holy Spirit dwells in us! Let the Body of Christ function organically by the Spirit! There is such edification that comes from that.
    During these days it has become VERY DIFFICULT to find a group to fellowship with that has not been tainted by bad doctrine, fleshly “worship,” and ego driven leadership. Truly, we must be in the days of apostasy! II Thess. 2:3. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

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