Timothy Keller’s recent work, Center Church (CC), is a substantive book on ecclesiology and philosophy of ministry. It has received a lot of attention since it was released last September. With its graphic, glossy hardcover, and double columns throughout, the 395-page volume has the look and feel of a textbook. I believe that is what it was intended to be—a textbook for pastors (particularly the urban ones) to maximize their fruitfulness for the sake of the gospel. Keller’s popularity and acceptance within mainstream evangelicalism have positioned this book to hold significant influence on the American church for some time to come.
After thoughtfully considering this book and weighing it against Scripture, I have a few concerns. In spite of areas of agreement, I found the heart and soul of the book to be biblically off-center. I fear that the theological vision of CC will cause more harm than good in American churches. I don’t regard the differences that I see between CC and the Bible as minor or preferential. In fact, I’m convinced that with nothing but the sufficient Word of God, no one would arrive at this theological vision. Where CC falls short of the biblical ideal will not be of minor consequence. Regardless of what this evaluation may appear to be, my primary reason for writing it is that I’m convinced that this vision is unbiblical. I am sure that Keller wrote this book with sincere motives. I offer this critique with the sincere motive of love for Tim Keller, pastors at large, the people of God, and the unbelievers in every community where they serve. I desire to edify and highlight a biblical vision that must not be lost or else the church will suffer impotence and lose even more influence than it already has. I write out of sincere desire for the church of God to rest firmly on the Word of God, and think discerningly about the way that Christ is building His church. I am convinced that we can’t improve on God’s ways, and I consider it a step backward for the church to go in any direction, theologically and methodologically, except that laid out in Scripture.
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