Tim Keller recently shared some thoughts on how to do ministry in New York City well, and while his insights are clearly pertinent to the culture of New York, they also have a great deal of relevance to the average church leader.
“I was recently asked what are the core element [sic] of doing ministry in New York today,” said Keller in a thread he tweeted Wednesday, Dec. 15. “I said we need to focus on: a) reordering the loves of the heart with the gospel, b) loving the city in word and deed, c) contextualizing and culturally engaging without compromise.”
I was recently asked what are the core element of doing ministry in New York today.
I said we need to focus on: a) reordering the loves of the heart with the gospel, b) loving the city in word and deed, c) contextualizing and culturally engaging without compromise,
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) December 15, 2021
Tim Keller on Ministry in NYC
Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. In 2017, he stepped away from the pulpit, but continued to do ministry in the area. In June 2020, Keller announced he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He has since posted updates on his health, as well as on the spiritual lessons he has been learning throughout his cancer battle.
Several parts of Keller’s Twitter thread, which went all the way to point “n,” focused on the need for church leaders to be thoughtful in their demeanor and language as they present the truth. The pastor encouraged those in ministry to preach “to both Christians and non-Christians at the same time,” as well as to use “language that is accessible, not ‘insider’ pious-talk or unnecessary technical doctrinal-talk.”
It is also important, said Keller, to speak “about non-Christians when they are not present exactly the way we talk to non-Christians when they are present.” He pointed to Acts 17 and 1 Corinthians 1:22-23 as examples of how to reason with unbelievers and show them “that their best aspirations are idolatrous but their true needs can be fulfilled in Christ.”
Keller directed believers away from “constantly arguing about topics where Christians differ” and “being sectarian and separatist.” Those in ministry should rather be open to learning not only from other believers but also from non-Christians because all people are under God’s “common grace.”
Ministry in New York, said Keller, needs to prioritize “deeds of mercy and justice,” “surmounting racial barriers” and pursuing “a loving multi-ethnic community.” “Calls for justice,” said Keller, should go hand in hand with “vigorous, active evangelism.”