The Best of Timothy Keller’s Center Church… So Far

imagesOver the last few weeks (ok, since December…really), I’ve been slowly making my way through Timothy Keller’s book Center Church– a masterpiece of ecclesiology and missiology.

Part of my slow pace is because much of Keller’s ideas need time to sink in to see how they are best applied within the context of the reader but also the holidays and a new baby takes away a lot a free reading time.

Currently, I stand about halfway through the book and I want to highlight the top ten quotes of the book (so far) that can be digested and applied whether you are doing ministry in a city or urban environment, on a farm or anywhere in between. These quotes also speak to those who are not in ministry but are just trying to fully understand the gospel and its implications in the world.

On the Gospel

1. “We are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.” (48)

2. “When the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look unique. People will find in it an attractive, electrifying balance of moral conviction and compassion.” (51)

On Preaching Toward Revival

3. “Preaching then, must not simply tell people what to do. It must re-present Christ in such a way that he captures the heart and imagination more than material things. This takes not just intellectual argumentation but the presentation of the beauty of Christ.” (77)

On Culture

4. “Every human culture is an extremely complex mixture of brilliant truth, marred half-truths, and overt resistance to the truth. Every culture will have some idolatrous discourse within it. And yet every culture will have some witness to God’s truth in it. God gives out good gifts of wisdom, talent, beauty, and skill completely without regard for merit. He casts them across a culture like seed, in order to enrich, brighten, and preserve the world. Without this understanding of culture, Christians will tend to think that they can live self-sufficiently, isolated from and unblessed by the contributions of those in the world…The doctrine of sin means that as believers we are never as good as our right worldview should make us. At the same time, the doctrine of our creation in the image of God, and an understanding of common grace, remind us that nonbelievers are never as flawed as their false worldview should make them.” (109)

On Contextualization within a Culture

5. “Proper contextualization means causing the right scandal- the one the gospel poses to all sinners- and removing all unnecessary ones.” (111)

6. “To contextualize with balance and successfully reach people in a culture, we must both enter the culture sympathetically and respectfully and confront the culture where it contradicts biblical truth.” (119)

7. “When we enter a culture with care, we earn the ability to speak to it. Then, after we challenge a culture’s belief framework, our listeners will feel destabilized. Now, in this final stage of contextualization, we can reestablish equilibrium. Having confronted, we now console, showing them that what they are looking for can only be found in Christ…We must retell the culture’s story in Jesus.” (130).

On the Gospel in the City

8. “You can’t reach the city from the suburbs, but you can reach the suburbs from the city.” (159)

9. “The city will challenge us to discover the power of the gospel in new ways. We will find people who seem spiritually and morally hopeless to us. We will think, “Those people will never believe in Christ.” But a comment such as this is revealing in itself. If salvation is truly by grace, not by virtue and merit, why should we think that anyone is less likely than ourselves to be a Christian? Why would anyone’s conversion be any greater miracle than our own? The city may force us to discover that we don’t really believe in sheer grace, that we really believe God mainly saved nice people- people like us.” (168)

On the Church and Culture

10. “No church can be all things to all people. There is no culturally neutral way of doing ministry…As soon as it chooses a language to preach in, or the music it will sing, it is making it easier for some people to participate and more difficult for others.” (174)

If you are in church ministry, let that last quote sink deep within your heart and mind. Let it shape the way that you do ministry and church. By what your church is doing, in its ministries and worship services, who can participate easily and who would have a difficult time participating? Are you reaching the people your mission statement says you want to reach? Are you reaching the people that Jesus Christ would reach?

Find more information on Center Church on the publisher’s website.

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Timothy Keller. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, MI, 2012.

One response to “The Best of Timothy Keller’s Center Church… So Far

  1. Pingback: Millennials, We Need to Help Close the Gap | ___(untitled)___:

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