A Visit to Redeemer

I mentioned last week that I had the chance to visit Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. If you have read this blog for long, you probably know how much I appreciate Redeemer's pastor, Tim Keller, and his ministry. This was my first opportunity to attend a service, although I did attend an Open Forum at Redeemer last year.

Redeemer meets in three locations at five different times on a Sunday. We attended the 10:30 AM service at Hunter College. Four preachers share the load, although Keller does most of the preaching. I've noticed that there is no longer a way to know who is going to be preaching at what service, so you never know who is on at the service you choose. There's wisdom in this, although I'm curious to know how much Redeemer is successful in dealing with those who really want to hear Keller. At least they're trying. (The other speakers are not Keller - nobody else is. But they are solid, and I appreciate listening to them.)

We arrived shortly before the service, and had the same problem we encounter everywhere: trying to find out where the children's program meets. This is a fairly common problem when we visit other churches. We eventually found it, but it took a bit of work and a few bad directions.

In one sense, Redeemer seems to break all the rules. There are no big signs outside. The facilities are simple but suitable. It was hard to find the children's program. The music in the morning services is classical (jazz in the evening), and done very well. There is no sound and light show. The worship leader and Keller wore suits. This is about as far as you can get from the seeker movement. Although Keller has a large following, he doesn't draw any attention to himself. This should not work, and yet Redeemer's impact in the city and the world is increasing. The congregation is young, and the church is growing.

It's not that these things work against Redeemer. I know enough of their philosophy to understand that everything I just described (except our problems finding the children's program) is deliberate. Redeemer knows what they are about, and they also know what they want to avoid.

As the service continued, and especially as Keller spoke, it was hard to pay too much attention to the church or the speaker. Our attention was directed to the gospel. That sounds like a cliche, but it's true. Keller talks about sermons being like Sunday School lessons until they get to Jesus, but when they get to Jesus, watch out. The service and the sermon got to Jesus, and I wasn't thinking about Redeemer much at that point. I think they'd be happy with this.

We could have stayed last week for the Open Forum in the evening. They only happen a few times a year. We would have had to drive all night to get home, but we were still tempted to stay. We didn't, but I've just downloaded Keller's talk to my iPod, and I can't wait to listen to it.

I doubt that Redeemer is looking for tourists to invade their services, but if you're in New York City you may want to check them out. If not, you can always subscribe to their sermons. I think we have a lot to learn from them.

Simeon Trust Preaching Workshop

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Last week, Richview had the privilege of hosting a Simeon Trust preaching workshop. Some 35 pastors gathered from Wednesday to Friday for "spring training," as David Helm put it. Spring training is where veterans on the verge of entering the Baseball Hall of Fame, as well as rookies trying out for the team, come to relearn the basics.

Ian Clary reflects on the workshop:

I know that I often speak in exaggeration, but I can honestly say that this was one of the best conferences I've ever attended. Practical, soul searching, biblical, affective, encouraging. I was very blessed to have been there and I learned a lot.

The conference theme this year was "preaching Luke." The speakers were David Helm from Chicago and David Short from Vancouver. Both men are solidly Reformed, rooted in the biblical theology school of Graeme Goldsworthy, Peter Jensen, D. A. Carson and Paul Barnett. Connected with Proclamation Trust in Britain, these guys rub shoulders with the likes of R. Kent Hughes, Dick Lucas and J.I. Packer (Short is Packer's pastor!).

...As time went on, it was exciting to see the "aha" principle take effect. The guys were getting it and getting into it!

I highly, highly recommend that if a Simeon Trust workshop comes within a five hour radius of you that you attend one. You will not be disappointed! Your preaching will improve and your congregation will love you for it. Even if you've been at the game for thirty years, you will still benefit from a gathering such as this!

We've already started talking about planning another workshop next year. You may have missed this one, but I encourage you to consider this in your conference plans for next year. You won't be sorry.

Not Only Endure in the Ministry

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John Miller on endurance in pastoral ministry through repentance and praise:

One thing that can be hard for a pastor is just the enduring. After you are in the pastorate for a decade or more, you begin to see many weaknesses and sins in yourself, many failures in the ministry, and become increasingly aware of the resistance in God's people to change. As our insights grow, so do our temptations to increase in despair.

As a friend in Christ I would urge you to resist that temptation. Frequently take time to look over the church, your ministry, your family, and give God thanks for each good thing you see. So not only endure in the ministry, but blossom with thankfulness and praise.

Perhaps you have heard me say this before, but I like to think of repentance and praise as allied to each other - both forms of sanity. Repentance is a return to God as my center. Praise is the lifting up of God in honor as my center...What a simple thing it is to humble the heart and return to sanity by repentance and praise. (p.56)

Gospel Ecosystem

I love Toronto. I'm part of a church in the city, and I'm also part of some networks of people who also have a heart for the city. I've posted before about longing for a gospel movement within Toronto, and I'm seeing some encouraging signs - but I hope for more.

That's why I was interested to listen to this podcast interview of Tim Keller. Tim connects some of the pieces in describing what it will take to see a gospel movement or ecosystem within cities. This is bigger than a church or churches growing; it's when churches are growing faster than the population growth, leading to a growing influence on the culture of the city.

Tim mentions six factors he's observed that are in place in a gospel movement, in which the church is growing faster than the population growth and is influencing the culture:

  • reproducing churches
  • a leadership pipeline through campus work
  • faith-work initiatives
  • justice and peace initiatives
  • educational institutions
  • leaders in each of these areas working together

The whole interview is worth hearing, but if you want the gospel ecosystem part, start listening around 16:46.

Near Utopian Conditions

I've been reading The Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton, a novel based on true events. I'm glad I listened to Ian Clary and started reading this book.

I enjoyed reading about these "Rules for Office Staff" posted in a bank in 1854:

  1. Godliness, cleanliness and punctuality are the necessities of a good business.
  2. The firm has reduced the working day to the hours from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  3. Daily prayers will be held each morning in the main office. The clerical staff will be present.
  4. Clothing will be of a sober nature. The clerical staff will not disport themselves in a raiment of bright color.
  5. A stove is provided for the benefit of the clerical staff. It is recommended that each member of the clerical staff bring 4 lbs. of coal each morning during cold weather.
  6. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission from Mr. Roberts. The calls of nature are permitted and clerical staff may use the garden beyond the second gate. This area must be kept clean and in good order.
  7. No talking is allowed during business hours.
  8. The craving of tobacco, wines or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to the clerical staff.
  9. Members of the clerical staff will provide their own pens.
  10. The managers of the firm will expect a great rise in the output of work to compensate for these near Utopian conditions.

And you thought your workplace was bad!