September 20: Schaeffer Leaves for Europe (1948)

With One Ministry in Mind, Yet God Had a Greater

When Francis A. Schaeffer was called to serve the First Bible Presbyterian Church of St. Louis, his first sermon as the new pastor of the church was delivered on 5 December 1943 and was titled “Believing in the Light of His Coming.” But not two years later, in September of 1945, the Session Minutes of the First Bible Presbyterian Church record this note:

Our pastor F.A. Schaeffer brought before us a letter he received from Dr. J. Gordon Holdcroft general secretary of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions asking if he would consider or be willing if he felt that the Lord had called him to go to Germany as a missionary to start a work there that would be sound. It was stated that Rev. Carl Straub pastor of the Afton Bible Presbyterian Church might go along as a helper.
There was much discussion about it and it was the general consensus of opinion that the board might have been hasty in the matter and not given it as much thought as it should have, due to the fact that it might have a detrimental effect on the work here in St. Louis.
No concrete action was taken at this time as it was the thought of the session as well as the moderators that the will of the Lord be done and since no one present knew what the Lord would have Mr. Schaeffer do the meeting was brought to a close after a season of prayer asking God for His guidance.

Finally in February of 1947, the Session Minutes record that

“Mr. Schaeffer asked the session for a leave of absence to go to a work located on the continent of Europe for the purpose of starting Bible Presbyterian Churches and getting sound ones to become a part of the American Council and also start children works where possible. After much discussion it was moved and passed to grant Mr. Schaeffer a leave of nine months to go to this work. . .”

Highly reluctant to let him go, when the congregation met to consider the matter, the leave of absence was reduced to three months, to be taken over the summer months. While Schaeffer was gone that summer, the Rev. John Sanderson returned to pastor the congregation in his absence. Then not long after his return, Schaeffer tendered his resignation in December of 1947 , the Clerk of Session noting that the Session “voted to receive it with real regret.” After some time of preparation, the Schaeffers said their farewells. His final sermon before the congregation came on the evening of 25 July 1948—”Man’s Greatest Cause for Rejoicing”—and by the fall of 1948 the Schaeffers were getting established in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Words to Live By:
The Schaeffers came to St. Louis no doubt intending to pastor the church there for many years. But the Lord called them to something greater. And no doubt, Fran and Edith Schaeffer thought they knew what that ministry looked like. They had no idea! It was something far greater and more far reaching than they could have imagined. Strive to obey the Lord in all that He calls you to do. Whether that work may seem great or small, it is in His hands. Rest assured then, His blessing will be in that work, and what is more, it will astound you one day to know how the Lord worked through you, growing His kingdom and bringing glory to His name.


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