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Monday, March 21, 2016

"Loving the City" (Tim Keller)

TITLE: Loving the City: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Center Church)
AUTHOR: Tim Keller
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (288 pages).

[This book is extracted from Part Two of Center Church and expanded with contributions by Daniel Strange, Gabriel Salguero, and Andy Crouch]

In 2012, popular preacher and prolific author, Tim Keller published a book about growing Christ-centered churches in cities, entitled, "Center Church." It is written to help church leaders in urban cities to develop a theological vision to enable their churches to be gospel-centered. Since then, Center Church has been updated and re-published into three smaller books. They are:

1) Shaped by the Gospel
2) Loving the City
3) Serving a Movement

"Loving the City" is the second abridged edition from that book with some additional material from various respondents. It comes out of Center Church's chapters on gospel contextualization; city vision; and cultural engagement. On Gospel Contextualization, Daniel Strange reflects by first contextualizing Tim Keller himself, that Keller is 1) made in God's image; 2) writing to a particular context; and 3) expanding and deepening the Christian mission; 4) delightfully "imbalanced" in the way that is intriguing and interesting. He shares lots of similar theological foundations. He asserts that contextualization is not simply about communication. It has a lot to do with "living, worshiping, culture building, and theologizing." He makes a good point in stressing the problem of overusing "contextualization" and replace it with something else. It is a push toward making the idea of "contextualization" more meaningful for more people.

On City Vision, Gabriel Salguero, President of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition writes from a Latino context. He brings us back to the question "Who is Jesus Christ in and for our cities today?" It is a helpful starting point in contextualizing the gospel for our cities we live in. We must be careful not to confuse the "descriptive" portion of the urban context with the gospel "prescriptive" stance. We are to avoid the either/or and embrace the both/and perspective. He accuses the Western model of church being too "flat" and is largely ignorant of the global culture. He also cautions us about "idolizing the center" as too much emphasis on anything can easily make it an idol.

On Cultural Engagement, we have Andy Crouch reflecting on how some models are useful and how they are deficient. Instead of models, he proposes stories. Stories of creation, fall, Jesus, and the final revelation. These four movements and stories reflect the thrust of the Bible. Keller calls Crouch's contribution more as a proposal and a project rather than a review or response to his work.

Strange, Salguero, and to some extent Crouch has helpfully given us a summary of the salient points of Keller's book. It follows a general pattern of largely affirmations and some slight re-wording or small differences in perspectives. By and large, the contributors do not have a lot of negative feedback to give Keller. Readers will appreciate this volume especially with the way the authors have interacted and contributed. In a subtle way, they have shown us how to do church and to interact respectfully.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Zondervan and  in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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