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Tim Keller in Newsweek February 11, 2008

Posted by peterong in New York Ministries, Tim Keller.


I heard that Tim Keller is in Newsweek this week in an article called “The Smart Shepherd.” It is amazing how much traction Dr. Keller has picked up in the last 10 years. I remember first attending Redeemer as a pagan in my college year. I had dated this Christian girl and she was the only one Christian girl I dated who maintained her integrity in her faith and her body. I remember that back in those days (1993/1994), the church was about 300 and Keller would have these Q & A sessions after service. I would badger him about “sin” and the pettiness of God. I don’t remember his answers much but I remember he was cordial and intellectually engaging. It was something I never forgot as I journeyed for another few years before I came home as a prodigal. While I was at Redeemer serving in a short tenure as BOD member of Hope for New York (Redeemer’s Justice and Mercy ministry wing), I occasionally ran into him and had conversations about faith, family and the city. He seemed self-effacing and at times even uncomfortable being in the center of attention.

I am struck that he is seen in the Asian American Christian circles as a hero and to others an object of such envy. Redeemer Presbyterian has to a large part been a triage for so many disaffected post- second generation Asian American Christians. He brings to the community a level of engagement that is refreshingly robust in intellect, a warm embrace of humility, a deep commitment to the gospel, high regard for scripture and an inspired God-sized vision for the city. He is a spiritual father to many in the city, as a visionary for the Urban Church Planting Center, and serving the Greater New York area’s Presbytery. Yet, there is a haunt for me. No one personality should have such an impact without preparing for an apparent heir to this ministry. The legacy of Tim Keller needs to be continued. I am glad that his book “Reason for God” that is coming out next week and it will start to reach a larger audience. I am thankful for his ability of creating space for a singular expression of how to think and prepare to engage an urban intellectual (postmodern) culture with the latent power of the gospel. Too many “trends” these days are on building churches to be more “healthy” and “authentic” and “relevant” but not without compromising the gospel and putting to much focus on church growth versus gospel depth.

My journey as a staff at Living Faith Community Church ( Presbyterian Church of America church) has made me realize how much powerful the gospel is. How it does not end with our “emotional health” but rather outward to a community that is so desperate for grace and the power of redemption. Hope, not in the pithy manner as Pastor Hickman shared so powerful this past Sunday (sermon here. Note: It will be available after Tuesday) but the intense faith that is required to engage in the hope that we proclaim.

Despite the state of the church these days, there are moments of hope. I am excited to see what God will do. So join with me and pick up an issue of Newsweek or you can read the article online. I might brave an extra block in the cold to pick up this issue up and pray that God will raise up another worker…not in the Tim Keller mold but rather one that is inspired by those who God has called. We don’t need another Tim Keller but we do need to have more those who believe in the gospel and daring enough to proclaim it.


1. thecuttingtruth - February 11, 2008

Tim Keller is an amazing pastor, but I have to wonder why he hasn’t picked out a successor yet.


2. Calvin Chin - February 11, 2008


I don’t know you personally but know of you thru others at Redeemer and of course Ellen Hwang at CCHC.

I think your summation is probably in line with many other Asian Americans who have either found themselves calling Redeemer home or sojourned there for a time.

It would be great if the Church would attract and engage people on a greater scale so that our city could be transformed even more so…

3. Ben Pun - February 11, 2008

Hi Peter! How’ve you been? I think is some ways Tim Keller is an Asian-American in hiding. 🙂 He is not overtly confrontational like a Piper or a Driscoll or most public Reformed figures (Mohler or MacArthur) — I have yet to see an Asian-American comfortable with that type of confrontational style. And as you pointed out, he speaks to the intellect and has self-effacing sensibilities. I often wonder what his leadership style is like beyond his preaching…and I bet it has more similarities with an Asian-American leadership style. The more I am learning, the more I am realizing that Tim Keller wasn’t the first to say the things he is saying…but that he is just re-articulating the ancient Gospel throughout the ages! I was reading Martin Luther and found myself saying, did Luther steal this from Tim Keller? 🙂 Indeed, I hope more will be able to discover the ancient Gospel in fresh ways like Keller has.

4. Ben Pun - February 12, 2008

Hi Peter! How’ve you been? I tried to comment yesterday, but I’m not seeing it?

I sometimes think that Tim Keller might actually be an Asian-American in hiding. He’s not confrontational like many other Reformed Pastors (think Piper, Driscoll, Mohler, MacAurthur), and as you mentioned he’s self-effacing and appeals to the intellect. I often wonder what his leadership style is like beyond his preaching and if it might draw similarities to Asian-American leadership styles. The more I learn, the more I realize that Keller is not really saying anything new. I was reading Martin Luther and I was thinking, did he steal this from Tim Keller? 🙂 You’re right, we need more who will explore the depths of the orthodox Gospel and express it in fresh new ways like Keller.

5. peterong - February 12, 2008

dear cutting truth, i agree that this is one of the concerns I have with Keller. He needs to define a legacy that is tangible but in all honesty…is there a successor to Piper? I think that it is important that all these men who are christian culture shapers to pass on a legacy…maybe not a successor but a continuation of the conversation.

6. joyipster - February 14, 2008

keller knows that choosing a successor is not needed because doing so perpetuates the same problem. that’s why he spends a lot of time on CHURCH PLANTING.

7. joyipster - February 14, 2008

and i think all this glorification of one white dude is pretty disturbing…and i think he’d think the same…

8. peterong - February 15, 2008

i disagree with about the successor part. He is not the problem but a pointer to the solution. i think that he would agree that the “glorification” of one person is problematic but the reality is that we all have grown from the presence of someone else’s teaching or insight. the best are the ones who bring glory to God in their insight. but part of our responsibility in ministry is to be able to seek a building of a successive generation. that is why moses had joshua and why joshua failed to bring into the story a successor. Israel fell into the dark without one. the reality is that Keller is building a certain criteria and expectation for the congregation. the urban church plant are a great legacy but it still leads by his leadership. vision is from God but the leadership that he brings is so critical. My hope is that he is thoughtful enough to acknowledge that a leadership who can take the next reins would be valuable to the ministry that God has done through Keller and Redeemer (sometime it is way too synonymous).

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