Four Things a Pacesetting Pastor Should Do

Jack Miller, in his book Outgrowing the Ingrown Church (which has had significant influence on Tim Keller, along with many others), suggests four permanent elements a pacesetting pastor should labor to make permanent fixtures in the life of a local church:

Preaching and Praying

…the supreme importance of preaching the gospel clearly and boldly, and his need to recruit people to pray regularly that this might take place. Preaching in the United States and elsewhere in the modern world tends to be strongly moralistic and legalistic rather than Christ-centered. Often the emphasis is on doing, without a foundation being laid in the grace of a God who welcomes sinners to Himself unconditionally. In other words, the pastor can unintentionally short-circuit the welcoming process by depressing the people with joyless preaching that concentrates on doing things rather than on relying on Christ for help to obey the will of God.

Reorienting Worship Service

…emphasize the importance of orienting the worship service around God’s welcoming person and grace….choose singable hymns that focus on Christ’s resurrection and ascension. —– …use songs and music that focus on our sins…but do so to bring people to an honest appreciation of divine grace in its surpassing abundance.  —– …emphasize testimonies of church members and new converts to make all aware that God’s gospel of grace is active and challenging people by faith in their midst.

Outward Facing

…labor to make every organization in the church develop what our church calls an “outward face” toward the world. The deacons should plan their work so as to get involved with the forgotten people in the community: the elderly in nursing homes, the sick, the unemployed, the people in prisons, the dying. The elders should not act merely as an official board, but also plan times of shared hospitality to which they invite non-Christian guests. —–  Every effort should be made to convert the Sunday school into a vehicle for welcoming families from the neighborhood.

Programs That Meet Needs of Community

…develop new programs designed to meet the needs of the community. The church should decide which needs it is most equipped to meet and then pray and organize with a view to meeting those needs. Going with the gospel needs a direction, a planned outlet. Ask yourself what gifts and abilities are resident in the members in the congregation. Then see how these resources harmonize with the needs of people living around you.

—Jack Miller, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church, pp. 90-91. Reformatted for readability.


Repentance: Real vs. Fake


Legalistic repentance: The heart will repent out of fear of consequences and out of a fear of rejection. “Obey or you will be rejected.”


Gospel repentance: You to repent because Jesus died for your sin, so you would not be rejected. In a sense, the gospel says, “How can you treat one like this who paid this cost so that you would not be rejected?”


Legalistic remorse says: “I broke God’s rules,”


Gospel repentance says: “I broke God’s heart.”


Legalistic repentance: Takes sin to Mt. Sinai


Gospel repentance: Takes sin to Mt. Calvary


Legalistic repentance: Is convicted by punishment


Gospel repentance: Is convicted by mercy


Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin—it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings.

But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin—it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us.

—Tim Keller and J. Allen Thompson, Redeemer Church Planting Center Church Planter Manual, p. 190. Reformatted and edited for readability.

TGC and the Local Church: Priorities

This past Sunday I preached at a local church in Minneapolis with a lot of 20-30 year olds. Preaching on Psalm 1, I mentioned how obedience and grace are inextricably linked, and one need only to look at the recent The Gospel Coalition events surrounding Tullian to highlight its importance.

After corporate worship, a young man approached me and expressed concern, even disillusionment, over TGC’s situation. “I love Keller and Tullian,” he said. “It makes me hesitant to commit to these groups when these sort of things happen.”

My encouragement to this young man was simple: hold on loosely to these affiliations, glean what you can, dismiss the dismissable. But remember: you’re not under these groups’ or men’s authority (unless one of these men serve as your local pastor). What’s primary is the local church. Ensure you’re committed to it and are someone who’s under their authority (i.e. biblical, loving, serving, protecting vs. domineering, abusing, unbiblical, etc.)

In the end, ministries like The Gospel Coalition can be very good things. But they should never replace or eclipse the local church as the primary means of grace, influence, honor and love.

The local church is where our priorities should ultimately lie.

What Is Worship? A Working Definition




D.A. Carson, in Worship by the Book, offers a helpful definition of worship, breaking it down into four categories: worship, human worship, Christian worship and corporate worship:

  1. Worship is the proper response of all moral, sentient beings to God, ascribing all honor and worth to the Creator-God precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so.
  2. This side of the Fall, human worship of God properly responds to the redemptive provisions that God has graciously made.
  3. While all true worship is God-centered, Christian worship is no less Christ-centered. Empowered by the Spirit and in line with the stipulations of the new covenant, it manifests itself in all of our living, finding its impulse in the gospel, which restores our relationship with our Redeemer-God and therefore also with our fellow image-bearers, our co-worshipers.
  4. Such worship therefore manifests itself both in adoration and in action, both in the individual believer and in corporate worship, which is worship offered up in the context of the body of believers, who strive to align all the forms of their devout ascription of all worth to God with panoply of new covenant mandates and examples that bring to fulfillment the glories of antecedent revelation and anticipate the consummation.

Worship by the Book, ed. D.A. Carson, contributors Mark Ashton, R. Kent Hughes and Timothy Keller. Reformatted for readability.

Introducing God 2.0

Poster for Introducing God

Introducing God recently launched version 2.0 in Sydney, Australia, and is now available online at

Based on Matthias Media’s evangelistic tool Two Ways to Live, Introducing God (IG) combines Alpha-like sociology (i.e. highly relational) but with better theology (i.e. broadly Reformed).

And while Tim Keller asserts there are three ways to live (i.e. religion, irreligion, and the gospel of grace), when push comes to shove there really are just two ways. (And yes, I understand, and even agree with, the overall point he’s making.)

I’m exploring using IG in conjunction with planting a new church in Minneapolis, and am eager to explore the updated version. When I do, I’ll submit a review.

In the meantime Dominic Steele, IG’s creator, gives a good explanation of IG here.

Reading Calvin’s Institutes: A Not-So-Daunting Task After All

Largely inspired by Tim Keller’s confession that he had only recently just read Calvin’s Institutes, last year I attempted to do the same.

I failed.

Okay, I made it through a third of the first volume. But I intend on plugging away at it yet again this year. (Would that I finally finish Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, which I’ve partially read and has been a constant bedside companion for over ten years. I know, shame on me. My wife and kids endlessly mock me.)

Back to Calvin. Here’s some things Keller learned after reading the Institutes:

  1. First, it is not just a textbook, but also a true work of literature.
  2. Second, it is nothing if not biblical.
  3. Third, the Institutes are, I think, the greatest, deepest, and most extensive treatment of the grace of God I have ever read.
  4. Last of all (and here our modern evangelical terminology fails us) Calvin’s writings are astonishingly “doxological.”

Read Keller’s gleanings from Calvin’s Institutes here.

And here’s the reading plan Keller references.

Christians Engaging the City: A Simple Plan

No, this isn’t another Tim Keller quote. (But please, indulge me anyway and keep reading.)

Instead it’s by James Montgomery Boice, once longtime pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Boice exerted a significant influence on Keller in many ways, including his love and vision for the city. Like Keller, he was also balding and was a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. Aside from those three things, I’m unsure of other notable similarities.

This quote comes from his book Two Cities, Two Loves, a contemporary restatement of Augustine’s City of God. Regrettably, Boice’s book is out of print. However, you can pick it up for cheap second-hand at various online booksellers.

If you appreciate Keller, then thank God for Boice’s influence on him. Reading his take on Christians and the city seems as if it was written by Keller himself (and this was back in 1996, long before Keller had the ear of the wider church). Boice succumbed to cancer and died in 2000.

Here’s Boice’s simple and workable plan for how Christians should engage the city:

  1. We Must Live in the Cities—Not every Christian needs to live in our cities, but far more should live in them than do now. They should live in them as their mission field of choice….since we want to be ahead of the times rather than lagging behind them, we should probably lead the way with an even higher percentage of Christians relocating to the urban areas. Many thousands should move there
  2. We Must Be Organized as Christians Living in the Cities—…it is not enough merely to have Christians living in the city, as many undoubtedly do already. They must also know each other, meet together often in informal ways. talk about the cities’ problems and what might be done, and actually  work together to help others.
  3. We Must Be a Community in the Cities—It is only as a community that we can model what we want. It must be Christian, because we want to model the unique qualities of life that being a Christian brings. 
  4. We Must Have a Vision for the City—We must have a vision for what a city can and should be.

And while we’re working on it we should not think that the world is utterly opposed to us. Society is often less hostile than we think.

So let us not be negative. The world may yet be waiting to see what Christians can do.

[Reformatted for readability]

Tim Keller Live Webcast for Book on Suffering

Just announced via Redeemer City to City:

Timothy Keller’s anticipated new book, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, will be released on October 1 and explores one of the most difficult questions in life: Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? And how do we handle it in a way that won’t destroy us, but could actually make us stronger and wiser?

Dutton Books will be hosting an event held at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on October 2, 7-8pm EST, livestreamed to select bookstores and via The Gospel Coalition. The event will include a talk by Timothy Keller and a Q&A in which viewers are invited to participate in sending questions. More information to be announced. The video will also be posted and available for viewing afterward.

Update: Watch the 45 minute recorded webcast here.

Visit the book page to pre-order the book, watch the trailers, or download the introduction free.