I have been reading books about the church for almost thirty years now. Most of the best material is being churned out by Mark Dever and the boys at 9Marks. Tim Keller’s, Center Church is a welcome guest in the growing list of books on ecclesiology.
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 over-adapting 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!