A Scandinavian perspective on Tim Keller: A pioneering missionary for a secular age
The Manhattan preacher gained a global audience with his expository, life-oriented, and Christ-centred preaching. He was culturally open, dialogical, and contemporary in his communication.
21 MAY 2023 · 15:51 CET
The well-known American pastor Timothy (Tim) Keller died peacefully at his home in Manhattan on Friday 19th May after three years battle with cancer.
Keller was highly valued by Christians around the world as an urban missionary, a preacher, an author, and an entrepreneur.
With his wife Kathy, Keller founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York in 1989. Amid a deeply secular context, this church became a dynamic mission station. Through his thoughtful preaching, deep social engagement and holistic understanding of vocation, Keller gained a special hearing among young secular sceptics.
Tim Keller was the Manhattan preacher who also gained a global audience with his expository, life-oriented, and Christ-centred preaching. He was culturally open, dialogical, and contemporary in his communication, with a clear pastoral intention. Keller himself formulated his motto as a preacher as follows: “Be faithful to the biblical text, always preach Christ, build bridges to the culture, and speak to the heart!”.
As a high-profile evangelical preacher, Keller also became a best-selling author. His many publications range from a series of books on apologetics – via several titles on Christian spirituality, communication, and ministry in a secular culture – to a comprehensive handbook on urban missions. Several of Keller’s books were included in the New York Times bestseller lists, including The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, and Prayer. His qualities as a preacher are naturally reflected in his writing. Here, he was able to develop even more fully his gift of communicating key insights from a variety of sources in an accessible and independent way.
Tim Keller became a dynamic entrepreneur with several strategic initiatives. Together with prominent theologians John Piper and Don Carson, he established The Gospel Coalition resource network for Reformed churches and leaders. With his home church in New York as a platform, the Redeemer City to City network was established with a missional focus on major cities around the world. Through this global network, hundreds of churches have been planted. Among many other initiatives, the New York congregation’s diaconal arm (Hope for New York) and its Centre for Faith & Work should be mentioned.
With Keller’s passing, the global church has lost one of the most high-profile evangelical communicators in our time. He was Gospel-centred as a preacher, unifying as a leader and strategic as a missionary. Keller was an outstanding apologist who showed the clarity and power of the Gospel for a secular age. But above all, he was a rare communicator of God’s undeserved mercy to us in Jesus Christ.
Many of us here in Norway are deeply grateful for the rich legacy of Tim Keller – a legacy that both engages and challenges us. May God continue to bless Keller's completed lifework.
Lars Dahle, Associate Professor at NLA University College Kristiansand, Executive Director of Damaris Norway, and Lausanne Catalyst for Media Engagement.