Timothy Keller is an American author, speaker, and the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York City, New York. Timothy is the author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God.
He was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. However, he learned the most from his nine years as a pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in the small blue-collar town of Hopewell, Virginia. The congregation there loved him, suffered through his earliest days as a pastor, and taught an intellectual northerner to be clear. His second church was Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons.
Question: How do you attract churchgoers in Manhattan?
Keller: We have a fairly diverse congregation but my guess is that our demographic looks young but Manhattan is a young demographic. So, I’m not sure, look I’m old and I’m not sure that actually I have ever pitched to young people or sought young people. I’m actually just communicating my message in a place where there are a lot of young people so that there they are.
Question: How has Redeemer expanded since its inception?
Keller: We in Manhattan, we have actually started about 10 or 11 what we called daughter churches, churches that span right out of Redeemer to start church in another parts of the city. In other cities, we started probably another 60 churches in various forms. And the model is very, very Orthodox in your beliefs, so when you actually ask me what they believe, it’s very historically traditional, but in the expression of it, the communication of it and the attitude toward the whole city, very engaged, very open, servant-hearted, very much seeking the peace and prosperity of the whole city, so not tribal. I’ll put it like this, here’s the model. Secularism I think tends to make people selfish. It tends to make people say, well, basically I have to decide what’s right or wrong for me. Religion tends to make people tribal like we have the truth. I’m trying to find a way of helping people understand the gospel of Christianity that on the one hand gives people a truth that is more important than their own individual happiness. So, they’re living for something more important than fulfilling their own needs but doesn’t turn them into a little [tribal] people feels like we’re right, everybody else is wrong and so you can all go to hell unless you join us. So, I’d like to get away from the selfishness and the tribalism. And that approach to Christianity, yes, I do think it goes very well in urban areas. There are a lot of young people looking for meaning in life, but also an attitude toward the city which is one of service, not one of a fortress mentality.
Question: Is the Redeemer Church strictly Presbyterian?
Keller: We’re pretty traditionally Presbyterian but I think the average person who comes wouldn’t think of themselves as a Presbyterian. We don’t beat people over the head with how different we are from Lutherans or Methodist or Baptist that’s all. If you come in to the church far enough, you’ll find that our traditions, our way of governing many of our theological distinctives are perfectly Presbyterian.