There was once a common language for public moral discourse in the West based largely on the Bible. It was assumed that most people knew the basic tenets of Christianity, and if someone walked into a church, the language and customs they found there would be familiar to them.
Today, in our increasingly diverse and "post-Christian" society, we can no longer assume that this is the case. As media headlines and personal anecdotes remind us almost daily, the church in the West is on the decline and losing members fast, especially among the young and urban. Thanks to globalization and spread of urban culture, these challenges are now increasingly relevant not only for ministers in cities, but also in the suburbs and small towns.
For pastors this poses a special challenge. How do we adapt to a "post-Christian" culture without abandoning orthodox theology? How do we communicate the classic doctrines of grace and substitutionary atonement in our globalized culture and context? In a culture that no longer believes Christianity is a force for good, let alone the source of ultimate revealed truth in the person of Christ, how do we adapt our ministries without compromising them?
At Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Redeemer City to City, we have been wrestling with these questions for over twenty years. The result of that long struggle has now been captured in Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, Timothy Keller's long-awaited book on ministry in an urban context, which will be released by Zondervan on September 4. The book will describe three core commitments which have shaped the ministry of Redeemer and informed the training we give church planters:
Gospel-centered: The gospel of grace in Jesus Christ changes everything, from our hearts to our community to the world. It completely reshapes the content, tone and strategy of all that we do.
City-centered: Cities increasingly influence our global culture and affect the way we do ministry. With a positive approach toward our culture, we learn to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic, and underserved places for gospel ministry.
Movement-centered: Instead of building our own tribe, we seek the prosperity and peace of our community as we are led by the Holy Spirit.
Based on these commitments, the book will offer challenging insights and provocative questions. Rather than doing “business as usual” on the one hand, or abandoning age-old theology and doctrine on the other, Keller outlines a way to develop “new” ministry expressions based on “old” theology—how to communicate the classic doctrines of salvation by grace and substitutionary atonement in our urbanized world.
Doing this will require more sophisticated reflection on both the gospel and our culture. It will also require ministry to be much more balanced: emphasizing word and deed, personal holiness and cultural engagement, doctrinal depth and kingdom-centered cooperation.
You can find the trailer, reviews, and related articles at Centerchurch.com, with more materials on the way. Our special thanks to all of the church planters, pastors and network leaders who have helped shape the content of this book.