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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.

Poor Race August 30, 2007

Posted by peterong in Asian American, New York Ministries, racism, Reflections, Social Justice, Uncategorized.


“To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardship.”
W. E. B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk

Taking some time out to think about the panel discussion that I participated at the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of New York City. It was a panel discussion entitled “Do Faith-Based Mentorship Programs Work?” As I prepared and sat on the panel of such esteemed faith community leaders, I soon came to knowledge that I was the only non African American on the panel. As I heard their concerns for the African American youth (particularly of African American males.) They spoke of recidivism of incarcerated youth and the cycle of crime and the absence of adult male presence. As I sat there, I shared a picture of the immigrant Chinese and challenge them to look beyond the Asian American community as what Tim Tseng once said as “foreigners” or “model minority.” It was a provocative exchange that left me a bit concerned about my limited view on implications of race in the complex workings of justice and mercy.

In my years serving in Chinatown and the Asian American church there has been an underlying ethnocentrism that borders on racism. We love to send missions trips to “East Asia” and where there are “East Asian” presence. But I believe that we are not racist by culture but the issue was one of leadership and vision. I think that as a culture, we tend to live in our circles and worship the culture more than Christ but it is inherent for us to practice tribalism for the sake of comfort. It is too easy to label Asian American churches as “racist” and not going through a deeper evaluation that we all have tendencies to create huddles. But the gospel challenges us to make intentional steps towards one another. In the Ephesians church, there were those who wanted to create huddles but Paul challenges them to engage. Pastor Tim Keller, Redeemer Presbyterian Church,  expounded once that we are not to only “tolerate” those who are foreign to us (spiritually, racially, economically, etc.) but to enter in and love deeply for what they have to contribute to our understanding of the gospel and the yet to be redeemed world. Rob Bell in his book Sex God, says this:

“The temptation is always to avoid things that are difficult and complex. To go around them rather than through them. ” (Italics mine)

So often in our journey is one sidestep after another. To avoid the unknown out of fear. I am afraid to admit that I have ignored this issue for a great deal of time. As I have been serving the Asian American community, I have sidestepped the issues of race in the larger context. But God has a great way of reversing that…

This past weekend, the members of OneHouse met with New York Faith & Justice and had a profound conversation about injustice on both the international and domestic urban context. Lisa Harper, the Director of NY Faith & Justice, opened up the conversation by saying, “if we do not solve our problems here, we are going to transplant the problems overseas.” We talked about justice and the issues of churches being mostly silent on it and how the Asian American church could be perceived as “racist” because of our lack of relevance to underserved communities outside of Asian communities.

During the conversation, my heart was burning as I saw how God has yearned to bring His Shalom into the realm of the affluence of the Asian American church. Beyond our minor church buildings but to the streets, to reclaim our humanity through engaging with those who are blessed (beatitudes blessed: the poor). As we shared over a meal, we learned that we have so much more on this journey to learn. To learn that there are brothers and sisters in our communities, who share the same subway seats who we have not exchanged a single hint of a prayer for one another. What if there is something to be said of Asian Americans and our role in this conversation…to be at the table to share a meal and our hearts for those who are literally disconnected because of our fear. I confess I have been guilty of this. It has been easy for me to send a check to help a family thousands of miles from me. We said how “paternalistic” our motives are and how we are seeing that we are “helping” but not connecting with the humanity of it. So the question is, what am I praying for here in my zip code? What am I am understanding about the issues concerning the neighbors here. How do I work out the gospel in the city? I have ignored that Chinatown is populated by Latinos, African Americans and now with the new influx of the Caucasian hipsters in the Lower East Side. When we become unconcerned we have unleashed chaos into the gospel pursuit of redemption to those things that are broken.

As I remembered a sermon on Jonah (you can download it here) by Steven Ro, Living Faith Community Church pastor. I walked away with the sense that justice is an act of expressing a merciful God. Pastor Ro said a God whose “…mercies extend to the end of the world…to even to the enemies of God.” When we live out justice, it reflects mercy of God. It shows that we are living in a continued message that God is compassionate. Jonah’s understanding was God was only compassionate to the religious people. But through this story of Jonah, it shows that God is not tribal, filled with judgment, not unconcerned, but rather a God who is inclusive, holy pity, and committed concern through compassion.

We are so distorted in our narrow vision and it is this blind spot that will forever mute our faith to nothing more than a spiritual ethnic club that says neither of God’s broad vision for redemption or His profound intent of moving us towards connecting with our disconnectedness.


Posted by peterong in Food for thought, New York Ministries.

Here is the text from Tim Keller from the 9/11 memorial service. I got this from Tim’s son’s blog. I was moved to tears as I read this and amazed in Keller’s ability to bring to a community ravaged by this gaping absence with a beautiful conviction and hope. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Ground Zero/St Paul’s Chapel Tim Keller
Sep 10, 2006

As a minister, of course, I’ve spent countless hours with people who are struggling and wrestling with the biggest question – the WHY question in the face of relentless tragedies and injustices. And like all ministers or any spiritual guides of any sort, I scramble to try to say something to respond and I always come away feeling inadequate and that’s not going to be any different today. But we can’t shrink from the task of responding to that question. Because the very best way to honor the memories of the ones we’ve lost and love is to live confident, productive lives. And the only way to do that is to actually be able to face that question. We have to have the strength to face a world filled with constant devastation and loss. So where do we get that strength? How do we deal with that question? I would like to propose that, though we won’t get all of what we need, we may get some of what we need 3 ways: by recognizing the problem for what it is, and then by grasping both an empowering hint from the past and an empowering hope from the future.

Clergy Again Shoulders Burdens of Consoling and Explaining September 11, 2006

Posted by peterong in New York Ministries, Uncategorized.
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An article in the New York Times that features Timothy Keller, my NYC home church pastor.


Published: September 11, 2006

What to say after five years?

The Rev. Timothy J. Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, began wrestling with the question about a week and a half ago. He was working at home when the church’s receptionist called with an urgent message: “Tim, I think you better return this call. It’s the White House.”

White House officials asked Dr. Keller to deliver the sermon at an ecumenical prayer and remembrance service yesterday evening at St. Paul’s Chapel in Lower Manhattan for family members of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. President Bush and his wife, Laura, would be attending.

The invitation came as a surprise to Dr. Keller, who is pastor of one of the city’s largest Protestant churches but seldom preaches outside his own church. After hesitating because it would mean missing his church’s two Sunday evening services, he accepted. But what to say?

Yesterday and today, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, the city’s religious leaders were being asked again to shoulder much of the burden for making sense of the tragedy and offering consolation. (more…)