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Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City Hardcover – September 8, 2012
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About the Author
Timothy Keller is the founder and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God. He has also mentored young urban church planters and pastors in New York and other cities through Redeemer City to City, which has helped launch over 200 churches in 35 global cities to date.
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Keller sets out to communicate one central message which is summed up in the subtitle: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry in the City. Center Church is encyclopedic in nature. It covers every subject conceivable and is a helpful tool in every pastors prospective tool chest.
The discussion about gospel contextualization (chapter 7) is deeply encouraging and highly instructive. The author notes, "Contextualization is not - as is often argued - 'giving people what they want to hear.' Rather, it is giving people the Bible's answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.."
Keller warns against the temptation to use contextualization as a clever means of compromise (which I find many pastors doing). He adds, "The call to contextualize the gospel has been - and still often is - used as a cover for religious syncretism. This means not adapting the gospel to a particular culture, but rather surrendering the gospel entirely and morphing Christianity into a different religion by overadapting it to an alien worldview."
Center Church is filled with helpful instruction on doing gospel ministry in the city. It is a long read but worth plodding through for the treasures along the way.
Highly recommended for pastors who love the gospel!
Keller has combined 25+ years of church planting and pastoral ministry in NYC, along with his extensive reading of many of the classic works like "Outgrowing the Ingrown Church," by John Miller and "Missionary Methods: Saint Paul's or Ours?" by Rolland Allen and formulated a thoroughly Gospel-drenched, missional, philosophy of ministry.
If you are looking to get all Willow Creek on us and "Rethink the way you do church", then don't run and buy 20 books from the past on Ecclesiology and missions, etc... instead just buy this one. Chances are, any book you would buy Keller has already read, and incorporated the best of the material from that books and included it in this one.
The list could go on, but those are just a few words to explain this book.
As a pastor, there is no book, outside the Bible, that has helped me more in regards to a proper mindset in ministry.
God put this book in my lap at the exact right time. I have been pastoring for almost 10 years, and everything about this book clicked with me. Keller was able to say with his words, what I saw with my heart but was unable to put in words, in regards to ministry. This book literally confirmed the work God had been doing in my heart over the years.
I am forever thankful to God for this book being in print and for Him bringing it into my life.