We Need More Jeremiahs – and Schaeffers

More than ever their words are vitally needed today:

Anyone familiar with the work of the Christian apologist, pastor and evangelist Francis Schaeffer, and the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, will know where I am going with this article. While Schaeffer often appealed to Jeremiah, one of his books is mainly all about the prophet and how we need to be like him.

Death in the City (IVP, 1969) is taken from a week of lectures Schaeffer had given at Wheaton College in Chicago in late 1968. Here I draw from Chapter 5: “The Persistence of Compassion.” In it he reminds us that because of Jeremiah’s strong commitment to proclaim God’s message, he went “from the stocks, to a prison, to a dungeon.” Yet he never stopped preaching. He says this:

It’s no small thing to stick with the message. It’s easy to opt out. Both hippies and evangelicals easily can opt out into their own little ghetto, saying nice things to themselves and closing their eyes to the real situation that surrounds them. One can opt out in many ways. But if one really preaches the Word of God to a post-Christian world, he must understand that he is likely to end up like Jeremiah.


We must not think that Jeremiah’s trials were merely physical. They were psychological as well, for Jeremiah never saw any change in his own lifetime. He knew that seventy years later the people would return, but he didn’t live to see it. Jeremiah, like every man, lived existentially on the knife edge of time, moment by moment; and like all of us, he lived day by day within the confines of his own lifetime.


Jeremiah was not just a piece of cardboard; he had a psychological life just as you and I have. How then was he affected? There were times when Jeremiah stood in discouragement, overwhelmed by preaching the message of God faithfully to this culture and ending up in the stocks, the prison, and the dungeon. pp. 67-68

Image of Death in the City
Death in the City by Schaeffer, Francis (Author), Dennis, Lane (Contributor), Middelmann, Udo (Contributor) Amazon logo

Yet we might think that he was such a strong, brave and committed man of God. That he was, but he was also human. More than once he lamented the day that he was born (see Jer. 15:10 and 20:14-18). So yes, he certainly did get discouraged. Schaeffer continues:

And you say, how can a man of God be discouraged? Anybody who asks that has never been in the midst of the battle; he understands nothing about a real struggle for God. We are real men. We are on this side of the fall. We are not perfect. We have our dreams, our psychological needs, and we want to be fulfilled. There are times of heroism as we stand firm and are faithful in preaching to men who will not listen. But there are also times when we feel overwhelmed….


There is no contradiction here. It is possible to be faithful to God and yet to be overwhelmed with discouragement as we face the world. In fact, if we are never overwhelmed, I wonder if we are fighting the battle with compassion and reality, or whether we are jousting with paper swords against paper windmills….


Jeremiah was discouraged because he was a man standing against a flood. And I want to say to you that nobody who is fighting the battle in our own generation can float on a Beauty Rest mattress. If you love God and love men and have compassion for them, you will pay a real price psychologically.


So many people seem to think that if the Holy Spirit is working, then the work is easy. Don’t believe it! As the Holy Spirit works, a man is consumed. This is the record of revivals; it is the record of those places in which God has really done something. It is not easy!


As I stand and try to give a message into the world—at the cafe tables and in the universities, to individuals and large seminars, publicly and privately—it costs a price. Often there is discouragement. Many times I say, “I can’t go up the hill once more. I can’t do it again.” And what is God’s answer? Well, first it is important to know that God doesn’t scold a man when his tiredness comes from his battles and his tears from compassion.


Jeremiah, we recall, was the weeping prophet. This has psychological depth as well as historic meaning. He is really the man weeping. But what does God expect of Jeremiah? What does God expect of every man who preaches into a lost age like ours? I’ll tell you what God expects. He simply expects a man to go right on. He doesn’t scold a man for being tired, but neither does He expect him to stop his message because people are against him. Jeremiah proclaimed the message to the very end. pp. 68-70

He then rounds off the chapter by making five important points:

First, we may say that there is a time, and ours is such a time, when a negative message is needed before anything positive can begin. There must first be the message of judgment, the tearing down. There are times, and Jeremiah’s day and ours are such times, when we cannot expect a constructive revolution if we begin by overemphasizing the positive message….


Secondly, with love we must face squarely the fact that our culture really is under the judgment of God. We must not heal the sickness lightly. We must emphasize the reality. We must proclaim the message with tears and give it with love. Through the work of the Holy Spirit there must be a simultaneous exhibition of God’s holiness and His love, as we speak. We cannot shout at them or scream down upon them….


There is in all of this a time for tears. It will not do to say these things coldly. Jeremiah cried, and we must cry for the poor lost world, for we are all of one kind. There is, of course, a sense in which there are two humanities, one saved, one lost. But the Bible also tells us that there is only one humanity; we all have a common ancestor and all have been made in the image of God. So I must have tears for my kind. But with the tears the message must be clear: our culture, our country, our churches have walked upon what God has given us, and thus all these are under the judgment of God….


Third, we must say that if we believe in truth, we must practice truth….


Fourth, we must realize that to know the truth and to practice it will be costly….


Fifth, we must keep on preaching even if the price is high. There is nothing on the Bible that says we are to stop. The Bible rather says, keep on, keep on. pp. 70-74

He continues with these words:

Christianity is not a modern success story. It is to be preached with love and tears into the teeth of men, preached without compromise, without regard to the world’s concept of success. If there seem to be no results, remember that Jeremiah did not see the results in his day. They came later. If there seem to be no results, it does not change God’s imperative. It is simply up to you and to me to go on, go on, go on, whether we see the results or whether we don’t. Go on. p. 75

His final two paragraphs are these:

And we as Christians today, what are we saying? We are saying that we want reformation and we want revival, but still we are not preaching down into this generation, stating the negative things that are necessary. If there is to be a constructive revolution in the orthodox, evangelical church, then like Jeremiah we must speak of the judgment of individual men great and small, of the church, the state, and the culture, for many of them have known the truth of God and have turned away from Him and His propositional revelation. God exists, He is holy, and we must know that there will be judgment. And like Jeremiah, we must keep on so speaking regardless of the cost to ourselves.


My concluding sentence is simply this: The world is lost, the God of the Bible does exist; the world is lost, but truth is truth. Keep on! And for how long? I’ll tell you. Keep on, keep on, keep on, keep on, and then KEEP ON! p. 76

When Schaeffer delivered these talks in 1968 I was not yet a Christian. So I knew nothing about him, nor L’Abri, nor Wheaton College. In 1971 I did get saved, and a year or two later a friend introduced me to Schaeffer and C. S. Lewis. I quickly bought and read everything of theirs that I could find. They changed my life.

Some 55 years after Schaeffer delivered those lectures, they still impact heavily upon me, and millions of other believers. As I said in my title, we can use some more Schaeffers. And some more Jeremiahs as well. Will you be one of them, by God’s grace?


This was shared on the social media recently, and it is worth offering here:

Those that remain in the camp often find that when the warrior comes back into the camp from battle, he seems “too passionate”, “too wound up”, and “too obsessed” on the war outside to be able to come in and chill.
They can’t understand why he can’t just “shut it off” and join them in their cosy pews.
But what the warrior can’t understand is how those in the pews can sit there week after week, year after year and instead of picking up a sword and laying it to the necks of the spiritual dragons of the day, they sit in their air-conditioned buildings, drink their lattes, and pray that God would just make all the bad dragons disappear.
For those of you in the trenches, stay the course.
Don’t drop the sword.
And press on for the crown rights of King Jesus.
God has never needed huge numbers to accomplish His mission and He doesn’t need them now.
A handful of confused, puny, but obedient warriors will work just fine.
When they tell you to calm down, don’t.
When they tell you to talk about something else, don’t.
When they tell you you’re doing it wrong, ask them to come out and show you how it should be done.
Don’t let them make you feel arrogant.
Don’t let them make you feel mean.
Don’t let them tell you that what you’re doing isn’t loving.
Don’t let them make you feel guilty.
And don’t let them tell you that what you’re doing is a waste of time.
-As written and shared by Matt Brock

[1810 words]

11 Replies to “We Need More Jeremiahs – and Schaeffers”

  1. I look forward to your messages every day, Bill. I appreciate your hard work, in particular during your time of grief. Please keep up the good work.

  2. Above all: stand, and speak: then get up again and stand and speak. Jesus give us strength.

  3. For Those in Ministry

    Do not depend on the hope of results. When you are doing the sort of work you have taken on, essentially an apostolic work, you may have to face the fact that your work may seem worthless and achieve no visible results at all or results opposite to what you expected. As you get used to this idea, you start to concentrate more and more, not on the results, but on the value, the truth of the work itself. And then you struggle less and less for an abstract idea or a sense of worth and more and more for specific people and for God. In the end it is the reality of personal relationships that save everything.

    The big results are not in your hands or mine anyway, but they suddenly happen, and we can share in them; but there is no point in building our lives for personal satisfaction which may be denied us and which, after all is not important. The great thing is to live for the building of the Kingdom, not to pour out your life in the service of a self-serving myth.

    If you can free your life from the domination of immediate causes and effects and just serve Christ’s truth, you will be able to do more and not be crushed by disappointment. The real hope then, is not in something that we can do—but in God who is making something out of what we do in a way we cannot see. That is what real faith is about.

    In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being,
    we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activities.
    We must be content:
    to live without watching ourselves live,
    to work without expecting immediate results,
    to love without instantaneous satisfaction,
    and to exist without any special recognition.
    For it is only when we are detached from our selves
    that we can be at peace with ourselves.

    Thomas Merton

  4. Absolutely, yes!!! Obviously, having a disabled grand daughter, I have tremendous respect for the Schaeffers over L’Abri and their community life there, and Whatever Happened to the Human Race (1983) is an all-time pro-life classic! It was also co-authored by C.Everett Koop, who valiantly tried to prevent the discriminatory starvation and de facto euthanasia of severely disabled newborn infants in the United States back in the eighties, and another one of my pro-life heroes.

  5. Thanks Bill. Schaeffer still speaks prophetically to this culture although he has been dead 39 years. We need more Schaeffers to address the GREAT EVANGELICAL DISASTER and the godless culture around us. In his book HOW THEN SHALL WE LIVE he concludes with 2 verses from Ezekiel 33:10 and 11, which are pertinent and urgent for today: “And thou, son of man, say to the house of Israel; Thus have ye spoken, saying, Our errors, and our iniquities weigh upon us, and we pine away in them, and how then shall we live? Say to them, Thus saith the Lord; As I live, I desire not the death of the ungodly, as that the ungodly should turn from his way and live: turn ye heartily from your way; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? Say to the children of thy people, The righteousness of the righteous shall not deliver him, in the day wherein he errs: and the iniquity of the ungodly shall not harm him, in the day wherein he turns from his iniquity, but the righteous erring shall not be able to deliver himself.”

  6. Schaeffer was highlighted when I was a young man in church. It felt right, all he was doing and saying seemed to hold together. Of course, for myself, it was the first time, I’d heard Biblical ethics translated, into, as one example, the right to life issue. This issue is in Britain sidelined by many Christian leaders, it is like church leaders are either scared or ignorant. Killing unborn children is the ultimate selfishness. It sounds a death knell for any society and this modern day prophet challenged me as his work was highlighted and then later when I read several of his books. A true modern day prophet.

  7. “First, we may say that there is a time, and ours is such a time, when a negative message is needed before anything positive can begin. There must first be the message of judgment, the tearing down. There are times, and Jeremiah’s day and ours are such times, when we cannot expect a constructive revolution if we begin by overemphasizing the positive message….”

    THIS is the biggest sticking point. Our society has no place anymore for negativity and that has bled into the church. For about 20 or so years the church has been about positive messaging about, to use a line from a song I’m sure you know, “sunshine lollipops and rainbows” instead of God’s word. We (the church as a whole) want all the blessings of ancient Israel but none of the curses. We want the joy of resurrection Sunday but without the Passover sacrifice. We want to bypass the cross to get to heaven. Find the secret cheat code, for the gamers out there, to get us passed the hard part of life and into all the good stuff. People have mostly disliked me when I went to groups in the past because I spoke not of imminent revival but imminent judgement. People are so convinced that America is just about to break out in the largest revival ever and there will be absolutely NO price to pay for her sins. Yet for 40+ years they’ve said revival is just around the corner. They don’t KNOW God! They don’t know his holiness and justice go hand in hand and he can NOT abide sin or give it a free pass. Sin MUST BE JUDGED. It isn’t an opinion it’s a fact! Way too many armchair quarterbacks in the pews. They know how thing should be done and to do everything correctly because they don’t ACTUALLY have to. I’m prepared to die the way of my Lord – whipped and crucified. Most Christians, like these and others, wouldn’t give up there phone for him. I would imagine only 10% of those who call themselves Christian worldwide are saved (a bit over 1/4 of a billion) and even that might be too generous.

    It’s been said most people want to serve God, but only in a advisory capacity.

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