30 September, 2023

Remembering Tim Keller: 6 Christian Church Leaders Discuss His Impact

by | 24 May, 2023 | 0 comments

TIM KELLER (Image courtesy of Redeemer City to City’s Facebook page)

Timothy J. Keller, renowned pastor, speaker, and best-selling author, died Friday, May 19, at 72.  

Keller started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989. New York magazine called his move to the city “close to a theological suicide mission—to create a strictly conservative Christian church in the heart of Sodom.” 

In his 2008 book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Keller said some people “were incredulous when I explained that the beliefs of the new church would be the orthodox, historic tenets of Christianity—the infallibility of the Bible, the deity of Christ, [and] the necessity of spiritual regeneration (the new birth).” The church grew to more than 5,000 by 2007.  

According to an article in The New York Times, Keller stepped aside from his senior pastor position at Redeemer in 2017 to mentor other pastors through an offshoot organization, Redeemer City to City, which influences urban ministries globally.  

Keller has had an influence on many church leaders around the world, including those from Independent Christian Churches. Christian Standard asked several of those leaders to share how Keller impacted their lives and ministries.  

_ _ _

Dave Ferguson—Lead Visionary of NewThing, President of Exponential 

I first met Tim back in 2008 when he spoke at one of our early Exponential conferences. He was gracious enough to give me and my brother Jon 90 minutes the night before to talk about church planting with him. From that first meeting I was impressed with his depth of wisdom both as a theologian but also a global practitioner.  

Tim taught us how to think. He taught us how to pastor. He taught us how to lead with integrity. He taught us how to create movement through church planting. And in these final days he taught us how to die. Some of his last words were, “I can’t wait to see Jesus. Send me home.” 

I am grateful for the life of Tim Keller. 

_ _ _

Darrel Land—Senior Minister, Redemption Christian Church, Jasper, Indiana  

I cannot think of anyone who has impacted my teaching more than Tim Keller. Rarely would I teach a biblical passage without listening or reading his thoughts on that passage. He was brilliant and yet taught with such humility.  I never met him but hired a former staff member of Redeemer at Redemption and was pleasantly surprised to learn that what you saw and heard on the platform was genuinely him. He will be missed, but his influence and teaching will live on for generations to come. 

_ _ _

Dave Stone—Chairman of the Board, Spire 

Tim Keller impacted my life and ministry through both his preaching and his writing. While he was deeply intellectual, he had the ability to take complex spiritual truths and put them down on a shelf, where someone like me could understand them.    

He was a man who touched people’s lives, whether he was serving in the hills of West Virginia or in a megachurch in the cosmopolitan area of Manhattan. He relied on substance and not flash or fluff.  

One time, he graciously allowed me to interview him for a project. It was supposed to be a 30- to 45-minute meeting, but he generously invited me to keep staying longer. When I left, at the two-hour mark, he said, “I think I’d like to ride the elevator down with you and then walk to wherever you parked on the street.  Sometimes here in New York City they like to tow cars if you’ve run out of time on your meter.” He came down and walked a couple of blocks with me just to make sure my car was still there. It was.  

Tim Keller was a true Christian gentleman, always willing to go the extra mile, even for a young preacher that he did not know.  

_ _ _

Bobby Harrington—Point-Leader of Renew.org and Discipleship.org 

In February 2018, I had some one-on-one time with Tim Keller in Memphis, Tenn. We had a very interesting talk about Jesus’ method of making disciples and Robert Coleman’s book on that topic. “I believe Coleman got it right,” he said. “The way Jesus made disciples is the wisest and best way we can make disciples today.” 

_ _ _ 

John Whittaker—Preacher, Teacher, and Pastor, Bible in Life 

Tim Keller stands out to me as the thinking-man’s pastor, which is why he was a perfect fit for Manhattan. (Center Church is like a grad school course in practical ecclesiology in book form!) His books and preaching were littered with references to philosophy, literature, and history. But it was never for show, and it never felt forced. It was just a natural part of who he was and it was always aimed at helping people hear the text and experience the gospel. And that’s what stands out the most: he always aimed to point people to Jesus and the gospel. That shows up in his books, and it was an intentional facet of his approach to preaching (he had a whole philosophy he used to teach concerning how to do this). That’s one of the key things I learned from him—somehow, no matter the text, do your best to connect the message to Jesus and the gospel because that’s what changes lives. 

_ _ _

Mark Moore—Teaching Pastor, Christ’s Church of the Valley, Peoria, Ariz. 

Though I never met him, he was one of my theological mentors. His combination of critical thinking and compassionate inclusion made him a model for making the ancient gospel necessarily relevant to contemporary culture. His legacy will live on through our preaching and teaching that he informed. 


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