Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Center Church by Tim Keller

Center Church: doing balanced, gospel-centered ministry in your church by Timothy J. Keller, Zondervan, Grand Rapid Michigan, ISBN 978-0-310-49418-8

I love this book! Dr. Keller has given a wonderful resource to the church. Any leader or pastor who wants to become clearer and more relevant to the people they are trying to reach would be helped by this book. It is not a book to speed read or skim through. It is a book that requires reflexion and thought, hard thought especially to apply to your specific situation. Dr. Keller argues for a theological vision and then builds a matrix one can pick up and apply with effort to ones own place and time. Dr. Keller starts out asking a few essential questions;

  • What is the gospel and how do we bring it to bear on the hearts of people today?
  • What is this culture like and how can we both connect to it and challenge it in our communication?
  • Where are we located, and how does this affect our ministry?
  • To what degree and how should Christian lay-people be involved in civic life and cultural production?
  • How do the various ministries in a church, word and deed, community and instruction, relate to one another?
  • How innovative will our church be and how traditional?
  • How will our church relate to other churches in our city and region?
  • How will we make our case to the culture about the truth of Christianity?
Next Dr. Keller fleshes out the answers in a clear and concise manner, making it simple for leaders to develop their own answers for their own situations. This is building what Dr. Keller calls a “theological vision” which he defines as “a faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history.”

The one minor objection I had for this book (I now see it as an advantage) was that there are many large sidebars throughout the text. At first I found these distracting but only because I wanted to plodge through as quickly as possible. This is a book meant to be digested, ruminated upon, and reflected. The sidebars are actually rich fields of supporting material by way of story or illustration. And the well footnoted references are worth the price of the book all by themselves.

My favorite sections were: What is the Gospel? The need for Gospel Renewal, and The Gospel and Contextualization. I especially enjoyed Dr. Keller's piece on Biblical Contextualization, he states, Romans 1 & 2 provide the basis for contextualization, the bible takes a mixed view of culture. 1 Cor. 9 speaks to our motive for contextualization, flexibility, ready to adapt. 1 Cor. 1 gives a basic formula for contextualization and shows how to keep a balance between affirming and confronting culture.