Tag Archives: tim keller

The Importance of Bearing Fruit at Work

Too often, we get into a fundamentally unhealthy divide in our thinking about faith and life.  We abstract our faith, putting it in the “spiritual” box, and consider our labor as separate.  It goes in the “actual real life” box.

I’m thankful for a new book called Fruit at Work: Mixing Christian Virtues with Business (Lanphier, 2012) by Chris Evans.  Evans is a talented entrepreneur who works with the cool-sounding Blackstone Entrepreneur Network.  He’s also been involved with The Trinity Forum, associated with Os Guinness and others.  I’ve enjoyed Fruit at Work, which draws off of Tim Keller and others to ground our daily labor in the gospel and in biblical virtue.

The text is readable and filled with personal reflection from Evans’s life.  Here’s an example from his chapter on humility, a quality that not every leader–or Christian leader–has an easy time embodying:

A big way that I changed is that I feel I have a capacity for gentleness that just wasn’t there before I was broken.  Having been deeply humbled, I can have compassion for others in tough situations.  While part of me still wants to feel powerful and give orders, the Christ in me cares more about the people I’m relating to than my image (136).

Read this helpful book, which will help you to approach work first from the perspective of godly virtue, rather than primarily as a means to accomplishment, achievement, or as Charlie Sheen would say, “winning.”

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Gender Roles and the Gospel

Here’s a great video on complementarianism (or biblical gender roles) from The Gospel Coalition featuring John Piper, Tim Keller, and D. A. Carson (HT: JT).  I found all three panelists’s remarks stimulating (and I enjoyed Carson’s anti-Zwinglian militarism at around the 9-minute mark!).

Piper, as Piper does, got ramped up in the first part of the video, and said some truly inspiring things about the need to guard this doctrine and not shrink back against the rushing tide of culture.  His boldness, clarity, and zeal for the gospel is as inspiring to me today as it was thirteen years ago, when I first heard of him.  Both he and Carson made painstakingly clear that the church must speak up about this issue, costly as this may be, culturally speaking.

I am thankful that TGC is hosting such nuanced and helpful video discussions, and I hope this video proves constructive to you as you sort out this issue.  God’s glory is in this.

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Gospel Shrewdness: Why Churches in University Towns Are Highly Strategic

Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, just preached a gripping sermon on what he called “gospel shrewdness” from Luke 16:1-13.   I heard Dr. Mohler speak on this subject in the White House when I worked for the same some years back; his brief remarks then stuck with me.  I had not heard them developed in a full-blown sermon until last week.  Listen to this sermon–it is inspiring and fun.

Speaking of being shrewd in a distinctly Christian sense, I just saw this in the monthly update of City to City, the church planting network of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan:

University towns like Oxford, Cambridge or Palo Alto may not technically be classified as “global cities,” but it’s hard to deny their importance to global culture, shaping the nation’s next generation of thinkers, politicians, and thought leaders. College graduates flock to cities for jobs and become a large part of the center-city population. The questions heard on college campuses are often the same ones heard in places like London, New York, or Hong Kong.

This also makes universities excellent training ground for church planters and evangelists. C. S. Lewis spent most of his life in Oxford, became a Christian there as a result of a friendship with several Christian professors (including J.R.R. Tolkien), and many of his most brilliant insights were sharpened by his academic training.

During the week of February 6-10, the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU), an umbrella group of Christian ministries at Oxford which has existed for over 130 years, sponsored “This is Jesus,” an annual week-long outreach of talks and Q&A sessions on some of the biggest questions students have about Christianity. The speakers were Michael Cain, pastor of Emmanuel Church, Bristol, and Timothy Keller, who together with his wife Kathy and son Michael (currently a college pastor in New York) spent a full week meeting directly with students and wrestling with their questions.

I deeply appreciated these remarks.  It would be my own argument, based on my experience at an academically tough and very secular college, that there is a nearly desperate need for church planting and revitalization in university towns.  There is a terrific need in New England, for example; look, for example, at the colleges that belong to the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), the so-called “little Ivies.”  Many of these schools have no strong, gospel-preaching church nearby.  There are literally thousands of future cultural leaders on such campuses, and while various parachurch organizations courageously minister to them (see the excellent work of the Bowdoin Christian Fellowship, for example), there are few God-exalting congregations in such locales.

It will take a strong measure of what Mohler has called “gospel shrewdness” to reach such places.  These schools, like the Ivy League institutions and other leading educational outlets, are intense environments.  A strong culture of tolerance pervades many of them.  Academic credentials are highly valued; faculty are graduates of elite programs, and many students are from prestigious prep schools.  Like ministry to Oxford and Cambridge, these places call for wisdom and discernment.

The need of such schools, however, is remarkably simple: the gospel of Jesus Christ, preached, guarded and exalted in local congregations that care for God’s people and offer haven in a secular world.

Are our hearts not stirred within us as we read of the Kellers’ work in the UK?

Are enough young planters and future pastors thinking about their ministries with “gospel shrewdness?”

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Doing Big Things: City to City Church Planting in Paris

One of the most encouraging developments in our day is church planting in global cities.  My buddy Freddy Wyatt, for example, is planting the Gallery Church in Manhattan, a work that I love (featured recently in the New York Times).  Aaron Coe of the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention) is doing high-level thinking and strategy in this area.  The NETS program is targeting cities like Boston and major college campuses like Harvard and Dartmouth.  How can a believer not be excited and moved to prayer by efforts like these?

Another hugely encouraging program is the City to City initiative connected with Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Tim Keller.  This video gives you a feel for the CtC plant in Rome.  Watch it, get inspired, and pray for efforts like this.

Or maybe you won’t just pray.  Or maybe, like Keller and Freddy, you’ll discern that you yourself should do big things in joyful service to a great God.  Maybe you’ll launch out into a global city, taking on the incredibly challenging and exciting work of bringing the gospel to dark places.

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Fresh New Books: Trevin Wax on Counterfeit Gospels

I love book dedications, you know, the few words at the very beginning of a text that record in whose honor the manuscript was written.  Books are such an obsession for me that I don’t just love the main body, but the ephemera–the introduction, acknowledgements, dedication, and more.

For example, authors typically disclaim that though some have reviewed the book, all errors are their own.  The funniest admission of error I’ve ever read was from Oliver Crisp, who said in a book about Jonathan Edwards that all errors belonged to an earlier version of his temporal self.  But I digress.  One of my favorite dedications comes from Tim Keller, who said in his Counterfeit Gods dedication to his three sons that they can spot a counterfeit.  The Keller boys are not alone in this regard.  So can Trevin Wax.

Wax is an editor at LifeWay Christian Resources of a fantastic-looking curriculum.  His latest book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope (Moody, 2011) displays this discernment in spades.  I really enjoyed Trevin’s work to show variations on the true gospel: the therapeutic gospel, the judgmentless gospel, the activist gospel, the churchless gospel, and so on.  This is writing and thinking that the church needs.  Trevin writes with passion and clarity, and I commend his work to you.  This would be great material for a small group Bible study.

Trevin shows that he understands the times.  In his section on the judgmentless gospel, he writes that

“The judgmentless gospel may be the most attractive counterfeit being proposed today.  The entire tide of our culture is turning toward a type of pluralism that would deny the reality (and even the need) for divine justice.”

He is, of course, spot on. There is much more like this in the text.

Trevin offers a metaphor for the gospel as “three-legged stool” that has stirred up some discussion on the blogs (see here and here).  I think the dialogue is constructive, and metaphors can be tricky things.  It is clear from material like this that Trevin believes that the gospel announcement, as he calls it, has the preeminence in our witness (and “gives birth” to the church).  I commend that view.  Though all won’t agree with every idea he puts forth–and what book merits total agreement from all readers?–readers will find this a provocative, discerning, and generally helpful text.

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Why Johnny Can’t Preach: Collin Hansen on BibleMesh

The latest issue of Christianity Today has a great article on cutting-edge discipleship material that seeks to address the lack of theological and biblical knowledge in the church.  Entitled “Why Johnny Can’t Preach” and written by CT’s Collin Hansen, the piece sheds light on BibleMesh, an online discipleship tool that I have mentioned before (and for which I write).

Hansen sums up the contemporary problem:

Americans love their Bibles. So much so that they keep them in pristine, unopened condition. Or, as George Gallup Jr. and Jim Castelli said in a widely quoted survey finding, “Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don’t read it.”

He offers some words on computer-based Christian training:

Computer technology has long been a boon to high-level biblical studies. Scholars can instantly search archives of ancient manuscripts, essentially turning their offices into world-class libraries. Pastors likewise benefit from popular software that aids original language studies and sermon preparation. But the gap is widening.

“At this rate,” Emmanuel Kampouris says, “the Bible will be just a historical artifact for seminarians.”

BibleMesh is seeking to address this major issue:

BibleMesh hopes to remedy the problem of fragmented biblical understanding with a personalized learning tool that tracks what users have studied and where they are weak. The site will help users memorize Scripture and remember facts, names, and places from the passages they have read. Another component allows pastors and small-group leaders to shape their own courses. Later channels will teach church history and biblical Greek and Hebrew.

“Every church intuitively knows it needs a discipleship program that goes beyond the preaching event,” Thornbury says. “I hope BibleMesh will be Sunday school curriculum 2.0. It’s an update on what used to be done in Sunday school: taking Christians through the Bible.”

The article then goes on to consider other special initiatives on the discipleship front, including David Platt’s efforts in Alabama to spur his congregation on in learning and living out the Bible.

This piece is encouraging; one hopes it will foster a greater understanding of various groups and movements (including BibleMesh, which debuts June 2010 with an original, Christ-centered narrative of Scripture by Tim Keller) that are seeking to build in God’s people a love for the Word that will result in transformed living and greater glory to God.

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Mohler on the “Metacities” and Their Massive Implications for Missions

Theologian Al Mohler just wrote on the rise of “metacities”, stratospheric cities featuring around 20 million people with unvarying density, little infrastructure, and little sustained planning.  The trend is highly noteworthy.

Mohler comments as follows:

As Stewart Brand argues, we are becoming a “city planet.” Vast populations are moving into huge international cities, drawn by the hope of a better life. As Brand notes, cities have always been wealth creators, and the exploding populations of the largest cities draw even more inhabitants with the hope of securing an economic future. “At the current rate,” Brand writes, “humanity may well be 80 percent urban by mid-century. Every week there are 1.3 million new people in cities. That’s 70 million a year, decade after decade.”

This represents a truly incalculable transformation of human life.

The metacities include Lagos, Mumbai, Shanghai, and Mexico City.  Many are in the global South.  I learned from Mohler’s article that New York City, seemingly grand beyond scale, is actually already dwarfed by many of these cities.

Mohler highlights the missiological challenges of these sprawling environs:

These new metacities will shape the future and, by extension, all of us. The Financial Times produced this important report with primary concern for the future of the cities as engines of economic development and political innovation. Christians must look to this report with a sober acknowledgment that the church is falling further behind in the challenge of reaching the cities. The emergence of these vast new metacities will call for a revolution in missiology and ministry.

This much is clear — the cities are where the people are. In the course of less than 300 years, our world will have shifted from one in which only 3 percent of people live in cities, to one in which 80 percent are resident in urban areas.

Read the whole piece.

The call of Tim Keller of NYC’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and others to the cities of the world seems spot-on from this article, which as noted above is based on a recent Financial Times piece that is not available without subscription.  It’s encouraging that Redeemer’s church planting outfit–Redeemer City to City–targets not simply American cities, but global cities.  Much more work on this front is needed.  Tons more.  Many thousands of planters and missionaries more.

Can you imagine a 20-million person city?  Really?  Well, there are many of them.  That’s a mind-boggling reality.  There are serious challenges before the church of the twenty-first century–and, as Mohler and Keller point, serious opportunities.  Maybe church planters need to look beyond their hometown and their favorite locale to the massive metacities in which untold millions of people work and live and struggle.

These metacities, after all, are populated primarily not with slick young professionals but with men and women and children living subsistence lives.  In reading this piece, I really wonder if we are not seeing a massive transformation of missions.  Historic missions often have involved–at least as many of us think of them–modern people going to premodern settings.  Surely, much of the world still lives in such settings, but this is rapidly shifting.

In the future, if the Financial Times article is correct, missionaries and church planters who have a massive vision of God and His work in the world will need, perhaps, to prioritize the teeming global cities to which once agrarian people are flowing.  Tons of missionaries are still needed for agrarian, isolated settings, but many must go to the metacities–not to make a name for themselves, not so that they can fall in with the upwardly mobile, but so that they can minister to hordes of lost sinners who swarm into cities in search of  hope they cannot find without the gospel.

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Keller’s Relaunched Redeemer Church Planting Center

Just heard word of this.  Sounds cool.

Redeemer Church Planting Center is now Redeemer City to City. Please visit our new website. We hope you will download resources, write a blog, or support our ministry online.

Looks like this new site will be of much help to church planters and others who are interested in church planting.

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New York Magazine on Tim Keller

Tim Keller gets a four-page profile in New York magazine, one of the town’s most respected (and read) publications (be careful on the site).  Here’s a quotation about Keller’s love of the city:

New York itself isn’t the problem, Keller says. “I basically revel in New York,” he says. He and Kathy maintain an out-of-towner’s love of museums, concerts, and restaurants, and like to explore neighborhoods they don’t know with their son Jonathan, an urban planner. The problem, Keller says, is a culture that values success above everything else. “There is an enormously sick pressure to perform and do well and make money. Companies essentially force people to make work more important than anything else.” Orthodox religious faith, he says, “is a hedge against the idolatry of success and what people are doing—almost selling their souls. I don’t have a Bible verse that says you’ve got to live the rest of your life in New York. But I say slow down and try to actually enjoy the city. People use the city to get ahead. And I’m saying no, have your life here.”

Keller is conscious of the fact that while he is reproving us for our workaholism, he himself is putting in hours that could stand comparison to those of the most driven hedge-funder. “The people who know me best don’t think I’m a hypocrite,” he says. “They see me as one of them. A fellow struggler.” He says his faith was only strengthened by the tough-minded rationalism he faced when he came to his adopted hometown. “I talked to a lot of sharp New Yorkers who had a lot of tough questions,” he says. “I very often said, ‘Gee, I don’t know why,’ and I had to think and read until I could get back to them.”

(Photo: Anthony Suau)

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