Editor’s Note: For 18 years, FPA’s Founder and Artistic Director Max McLean sat under Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. With Tim’s passing in May, Max offered these thoughts on his impact personally and on the wider Body of Christ.
Tim Keller – the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City – passed away in late May following a long bout with cancer. Heaven gained a brilliant servant-leader who was ready to meet his Savior face to face.
We lost a transformational preacher, writer and thinker. For Sharon and me and many reading this, we lost our pastor.
Tim ministered to us from 1999 until he retired from the Redeemer pulpit in 2017. I came to Redeemer during a particularly lean time in my life. His ministry – following Jesus’ dictum to “feed my sheep” – deeply nourished my soul. He engaged my mind, softened my heart and inspired my imagination. Tim was also God’s instrument for much of the C.S. Lewis work I have been a part of over the past 20 years.
My debt to him remains to this day.
Tim and his wife, Kathy, founded Redeemer in 1989. It was an unlikely move. Following seminary for both of them, they served a church in rural Hopewell, Virginia. They followed that with Tim as Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia. In 1987, a group of New York Christians asked him to consider planting a church in the middle of Manhattan. After wavering for two years, he and Kathy felt God calling them there.
When Redeemer opened its doors, it was estimated that less than 1 percent of the city’s population attended Gospel-centered churches. When Tim retired in 2017, that number had grown to 5 percent. Tim and Redeemer were a part of the boom in church planting in the city since 9/11 as well as the exponential growth in ethnic churches in the city.
Tim wrote 31 books that have sold 6 million copies in 29 languages. After his retirement, he started the New York campus of Reformed Seminary and led City to City, which has helped plant over 1,000 churches in 150 cities worldwide.
Throughout the time I knew him, one thing never changed: his belief that “the Gospel changes everything” and his commitment to sharing it with all comers. Certainly, his principles and actions played a formative role in FPA’s desire to reach an intellectually diverse audience with art, theatre and film from a Christian worldview.
On the day Tim passed away, his son Michael Keller wrote, “Dad waited until he was alone with Mom. She kissed him on the forehead and he breathed his last breath. We take comfort in some of his last words. ‘There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest.’ See you soon Dad.”
See you soon, Tim.
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