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Monday, March 28, 2016

"Serving a Movement" (Tim Keller)

TITLE: Serving a Movement: 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 Three of Center Church and expanded with contributions by Tim Chester, Daniel Montgomery, Mike Cosper, and Alan Hirsch]

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

"Serving a Movement" is the third abridged edition from that book with some additional material from various respondents. It focuses on "movement" which is about missional communities; how to integrate and connect people to the city; and a gospel ecosystem for the Church to effectively serve. Containing parts six, seven, and eight of Center Church, it is supplemented by several respondents, namely, Tim Chester, Daniel Montgomery, Mike Cosper, and Alan Hirsch. As I have previously reviewed Center Church, for this book, I will look at the additional material such as the reflections and responses.

Tim Chester, author and pastor of The Crowded House, critiques Keller's tendency to paint missional under the weight of "earning the right to be heard." For Chester, the proclamation of the Word and the sacrificial service cannot be connected too tightly. The heart of mission is about proclamation in all situations, not just sacrificial service. He also takes issue with Keller's reductionist manner of describing evangelism. For Chester, the better approach would be to see evangelism and social action to text and context respectively. He is also more sympathetic to the attractional church model, something that Keller has previously critiqued. Keller chooses to respond to the reductionistic accusation; the concern about form; and the clarity of the gospel.

On Integrative Ministry, Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper, pastors at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, offer some reflections on various church trends from the 1980s to the present. They commend Keller for helping them see the gospel not as a "entryway" but as a "rallying point" to call both believers and unbelievers back to God. By integrative, they mean the Church's integrated ministry ought to depict the "complexity of the gospel." This is asserted by having ministries that move the church forward on the basis of its mission. They note that Keller's view of ministry is similar to Gregg Allison's "functional ecclesiology" which is an ecclesiology based on what a church does. Instead, Montgomery and Cosper propose an ontological approach that see the existence of the Church beyond mere activities but God's ultimate purpose. In other words, Church activities are ways to enable us to live out our calling and identity in Christ. It is not mere connecting but edification. They apply Keller's ideas to their own church and share how they have been positively influenced by Keller. They give a helpful chart that compares and contrasts Keller's approaches with theirs. For me, it is simply looking at gospel ministry from a different angle. Keller responds with two basic disagreements: 1) ecclesiological basis; 2) distinction of doing and being.

Alan Hirsch, founding director of the Forge Mission Training Network reflects on the movement dynamics and sees movement more of a mindset rather than a model. He prefers to look at paradigm changes and proposes a missional ministry for missional movement. While Keller proposes a tripartite view of ministry (with Jesus as prophet, priest, and king), Hirsch anchors his paradigm on Ephesians 4:1-16 to highlight APEST (Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher) and emphasizes the importance of apostolic movements. Keller responds to Hirsch APEST by bringing in Calvin who himself taught four kinds of ministers: Deacons, Elders, Teachers, and Preachers.

The reflections by Chester, Montgomery, Cosper, and Hirsch show a healthy and profitable engagement with the ideas generated in Center Church. Keller has graciously responded and the resulting interactions lead to a wonderful iron-sharpens-iron situation. While I am tempted to say that there is no one right answer, I would prefer to say that the various approaches are for the general benefit of all. Whichever is most appropriate to any Church setting, go ahead and use it. However, I caution church leaders from simply taking either one of the contributors' ideas without first establishing their own unique church situations and contexts. Maybe, one idea is most appropriate today but another tomorrow. We do not know. It is only when we actively engage, reflect, and interact that we will learn what is better for now and for the future.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


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

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