Changing the City with the Gospel Takes a Movement

When a church or a church network begins to grow rapidly in a city, it is only natural for the people within the ministry to feel that God is making a difference in that place. Often, however, what is really going on is “Christian reconfiguration.” When churches grow, they typically do so by drawing believers out of less vital churches. This can be a good thing if the Christians in these growing churches are being better discipled and if their gifts are being effectively deployed. Nevertheless, if this is the key dynamic, then the overall body of Christ in the city is not growing; it is simply reconfiguring. Reaching an entire city, then, takes more than having some effective churches in it, or even having a burst of revival energy and new converts. Changing the city with the gospel takes a movement.

When a gospel city movement occurs, the whole body of Christ grows faster than the population so that the percentage of Christians in the city rises. We call this a movement because it consists of an energy that extends across multiple denominations and networks. It does not reside in a single church or set of leaders or in any particular command center, and its forward motion does not depend on any one organization. It is organic and self-propagating, the result of a set of forces that interact, support, sustain, and stimulate one another. We can also call it a gospel ecosystem. Just as a biological ecosystem is made of interdependent organisms, systems, and natural forces, a gospel ecosystem is made of interdependent organizations, individuals, ideas, and spiritual and human forces. When all the elements of an ecosystem are in place and in balance, the entire system produces health and growth as a whole for the elements themselves.

Can we produce a gospel city movement? No. A movement is the result of two sets of factors. Take for example, a garden. A garden flourishes because of the skill and diligence of the gardener and the condition of the soil and the weather. The first set of factors—gardening—is the way we humanly contribute to the movement. This encompasses a self-sustaining, naturally growing set of ministries and networks, which we will look at in more detail below.

But the second set of factors in a movement—the conditions—belong completely to God. He can open individual hearts (“soil”) to the Word (“seed”) in any numbers he sovereignly chooses. And he can also open a culture to the gospel as a whole (“weather”). How does God do this? Sometimes he brings about a crisis of belief within the dominant culture. Two of the great Christian movements—the early church of the second and third centuries and the church in China in the twentieth and twentieth first centuries—were stimulated by crisis of confidence within their societies. The belief in the gods of Rome—and belief in orthodox Marxism in China—began falling apart as plausible worldviews. There was broad disaffection toward the older “faiths” among the population at large. This combination of cultural crisis and popular disillusionment with old ways of belief can supercharge a Christian movement and lift it to greater heights than it can reach in a culture that is indifferent (rather than hostile) to Christians. There can also be catastrophes that lead people of a culture to look to spiritual resources, as when the Japanese domination of Korea after 1905 became a context for the large number of conversions to Christianity that began around that time.

In short, we cannot produce a gospel movement without the providential work of the Holy Spirit. A movement is an ecosystem that is empowered and blessed by God’s Spirit.

What is the ecosystem that the Holy Spirit uses to produce a gospel city movement? I picture it as three concentric circles:

First Ring — Contextual Theological Vision

At the very core of the ecosystem is a way of communicating and embodying the gospel that is contextualized to the city’s culture and is fruitful in converting and discipling its people, a shared commitment to communicating the gospel to a particular place in a particular time. Churches that catalyze gospel movements in cities do not all share the same worship style, come from the same denomination, or reach the same demographic. They do, however, generally share much of the same basic “DNA”: they are gospel centered, attentive to their culture, balanced, missional/evangelistic, growing, and self-replicating. In short, they have a relative consensus on the Center Church theological vision—a set of biblically grounded, contextual strategic stances and emphases that help bring sound doctrine to bear on the people who live in this particular moment.

Second Ring — Church Planting and Church Renewal Movements

The second layer is a number of church multiplication movements producing a set of new and growing churches, each using the effective means of ministry within their different denominations and traditions.

Many look at cities and see a number of existing churches, often occupying building that are nearly empty. It is natural to think, “The first thing we need to is to renew the existing churches with the gospel.” Indeed, but the establishment of new churches in a city is a key to renewing the older churches. New churches introduce new ideas and win the unchurched and non-Christians to Christ at a generally higher rate than older churches. They provide spiritual oxygen to the communities and networks of Christians who do the heavy lifting over decades of time to reach and renew cities. They provide the primary venue for discipleship and the multiplication of believers, as well as serve as the indigenous financial engine for the ministry initiatives.

Third Ring — Specialized Ministries

Based in the churches, yet also stimulating and sustaining the churches, this third ring consists of a complex of specialty ministries, institutions, networks, and relationships. There are at least seven types of elements in this third ring.

1. A prayer movement uniting churches across traditions in visionary intercession for the city. The history of revivals shows the vital importance of corporate, prevailing, visionary intercessory prayer for the city and the body of Christ. Praying for your city is a biblical directive (Jer 29:4-7). Coming together in prayer is something a wide variety of believers can do. It doesn’t require a lot of negotiation and theological parsing to pray. Prayer brings people together. And this very activity is catalytic for creating friendships and relationships across denominational and organizational bounderies. Partnerships with Christians who are similar to and yet different from you stimulates growth and innovation.

2. A number of specialized evangelistic ministries, reaching particular groups (business people, mothers, ethnicities, and the like). Of particular importance are effective campus and youth ministries. Many of the city church’s future members and leaders are best found in the city’s colleges and schools. While students who graduate from colleges in university towns must leave the area to get jobs, graduates form urban universities do not. Students won to Christ and given a vision for living in the city can remain in the churches they joined during their school years and become emerging leaders in the urban body of Christ. Winning the youth of a city wins city natives who understand the culture well.

3. An array of justice and mercy ministries, addressing every possible social problem and neighborhood. As the evangelicals provided leadership in the 1830s, we need today an urban “benevolent empire” of Christians banding together in various nonprofits and other voluntary organizations to address the needs of the city. Christians of the city must become renowned for their care for their neighbors, for this is one of the key ways that Jesus will become renowned.

4. Faith and work initiatives and fellowships in which Christians from across the city gather with others in the same profession. Networks of Christians in business, the media, the arts, government, and the academy should come together to help each other work with accountability, excellence, and Christian distinctiveness.

6. Systems for attracting, developing, and training urban church and ministry leaders. The act of training usually entails good theological education, but a dynamic city leadership system will include additional components such as well-developed internship programs and connections to campus ministries.

7. An unusual unity of Christian city leaders. Church and movements leaders, heads of institutions, business leaders, academics, and others must know one another and provide vision and direction for the whole city. They must be more concerned about reaching the whole city and growing the whole body of Christ than about increasing their own tribe and kingdom.

When all of these ecosystems elements are strong and in place, they stimulate and increase one another and the movement becomes self-sustaining.


This article is an excerpt from Tim Keller’s new book, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City, released today by Zondervan.

  • Wesley

    Seriously, the wisdom God has granted to to our brother TKO is continually evident to me. Two things stand out to me particularly:
    1. The part about new churches helping to breath life into older – perhaps even older and dying – churches. I think this idea has great merit for, as he says, new churches often produce converts at a greater rate than old churches, but those same new converts will both go to and send people to the old churches as well.
    2. Love what he has to say about Christian leaders across the city mobilizing and putting ‘tribe’ on a second shelf for what should be the first shelf of helping to grow the body of Christ and increase the Kingdom of God. This is one of the reasons i feel TGC and T4G are so essential b/c they can help us to move beyond the tribe-mentality and see the greater need of seeing lost people hearing the gospel. It doesn’t mean denominations are a bad thing, it just means they should not be primary.

  • ian de ocampo (@rsdeocampo)

    Like mentioned above, I go to a megachurch (here in the Philippines) that drew a lot of members from older churches during the peak of its growth. Our church was well known to have a strong discipleship program and good preaching.
    The problem grew when the focus became inwards. We built a huge building and multiplied programs to keep people coming back. We needed to use our facilities, so everything done inside the building. We weren’t going beyond our four walls. It came to a point that leaders were fighting.
    Long story short, the turmoil resulted to a negative growth.
    Today our church has regained it’s momentum. We have new leaders, and a vision to reach our city and beyond.
    Our youth ministry is currently preparing for a missions conference focused on prayer for the unreached. Youth leaders from different churches and denominations joined us in this vision. So what you said about prayer above resonates in our context in Manila. “Prayer brings people together. And this very activity is catalytic for creating friendships and relationships across denominational and organizational bounderies. Partnerships with Christians who are similar to and yet different from you stimulates growth and innovation.”

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  • TimA

    What a complicated 3 ring +7 specialty driven dynamic this is. Is God’s revealed gospel transformation plan really this complicated? Can you imagine the number of hired experts required to manage and push this institutionalized endeavor? In my opinion Tim’s opinion that the rapid spread of the gospel in the N.T. times and in China was God bringing about “a crisis of belief within the dominant culture” is a grossly contrived assumption. Maybe he is unable to see that in both these situations the institutionalized form of church was absent. The church was not perpetually dependent on hired experts to dominate the expression of truth. Church function and evangelism was for every believer driven by their Spirit driven walk with God every day -all week. They came prepared to articulate their faith like a good “royal priest” is prepared to “proclaim the glories of Him who called you from darkness to life.” This is a very simple – supernatural dynamic that actually demonstrates the “filling of the Spirit”. The “filling” is “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” Eph. 5:19-20. This is actually the DNA God has revealed to us. This does not happen when gatherings are dominated by platform driven experts. It could be Tim has never seen this kind of royal priest driven gathering and rapid reproductive disciple making and evangelism, even tho it is in his N.T. and is taking place in China now. It could be no one in his city has seen this in action. If God did not need hired experts in the N.T. or in China for a “movement” of the gospel, does He need them in New York? No, unless “teachers” don’t want to “fully train” their students to be “like them”. Luke 6:40

    Can you see from your own church life example how being driven to “invest” hundres of millions of Pesos in building protestant cathedrals for crowd oriented gathering and one-way communication Bible lecturing leads the church into selfish mode, because now believers are consuming 80-90% of their “giving” just to meet? When your treasure is locked up in yourself, your heart will also be in the walls. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” What you described is an importing of American style church rather than importing a Bible style of church. The saints in China are prohibited from doing American style church so they can only do Bible style church – believer driven gatherings. Heb. 10:24,25.

    • Ian de Ocampo

      Yes I do think our church is a “western import” type of church, I think it’s hard to avoid that in a city which is multicultural and has open access to information.

      I’ve been to countries where the church is restricted, and yes the stuff up there is a bit complicated. I don’t think he’s denying that. But I think what Keller presents is an analysis of what happened without the church necessarily knowing that they’re doing it.
      Keller mentions, “this third ring consists of a complex of specialty ministries, institutions, networks, and relationships”
      All seven elements might not be present in a single church, but when two or three or five are showing up in several churches in a city, then you will see a movement.

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  • Tim Keller

    Hi TimA —

    I think you must have missed my most basic point. I’ll take some responsibility for not being clear enough. In no way do I think a movement like I describe can be “managed and pushed” by a group of “hired experts.” My point was exactly the opposite. I wrote: “It does not reside in a single church or set of leaders or in any particular command center, and its forward motion does not depend on any one organization. It is organic and self-propagating, the result of a set of forces that interact, support, sustain, and stimulate one another.” And when you talk about what is happening in places like China now, indeed I have seen it, and I’m just describing what it looks like.

  • Christopher

    “Setting out deliberately to popularise, to adapt, to reach the greatest number is not illegitimate or always useless. But it infallibly condemns you to mediocre, insignificant, popular work. This law no more admits exception than the law of contradiction itself”. — Henri de Lubac

    The apostles had a better idea. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer”. — Acts 2:42

  • Tim Keller

    Hi Christopher —

    Everyone adapts to listeners in order to be understood. That’s why when you go to a new country you preach in the hearers’ language not your own. And if the apostles had not made their teaching accessible to the people–if they had not made it ‘popular’ enough for the average non-believer to grasp and free from insider language–the listeners would never have been able to grasp it and devote themselves to it. After all–the NT was written koine Greek, the common tongue, not literary Attic. The NT itself is popularized, but that doesn’t mean it was ‘dumbed down.’

    • Wesley

      I appreciate this clarification. We simply must lose our knee-jerk reaction to the word contextualization, immediately assuming we are talking about dumbing/watering down the message of the gospel. I’ve heard you speak on this subject before about “adapting to the listeners” in our preaching: can you expand a bit on this or suggest a few good resources on the process involved in doing that?
      God’s peace – appreciate your ministry very much!

    • Christopher

      Dr. Keller,
      Not sure I agree with your methods, although I absolutely agree with your aims! Here’s my take: The Kingdom of God is not supposed to be MADE accessible, it is only open to those whom God chooses. It is accessible to those who are supposed to get in. Is it possible to make it accessible to those who are never going to have the ears to hear? Of course intelligible speech is important, as well as all the other requirements of clear communication, I am just assuming that these are not what we are talking about.

      But I am not convinced that what you suggest is what the apostles actually did, as we have no example of the “secret” stuff that precedes the easy stuff (tongue in cheek on that one) they showed to the church. Even Paul’s address on Mars Hill is no easy message, but contains some very subtle dialectics.

      About the Koine thing: OK, OK, but even Luke was caught up in the Attic literary revival and used the language in that manner. He is an anomaly in this regard, and maybe he gives proof to your point: reach your audience; although in his case it was an elevated style, not a common one. Perhaps in the outworking of the ministry what you say and what I am saying will look just about the same, but truly your dream pattern seems quite LARGE in comparison with the four-fold approach of the apostolic church.

      Thanks for the reply.

      Kind regards,

      PS- my wife is enjoying your book, The Reason for God. She nearly split her side laughing when she read about the guy was almost apoplectic.

  • Tim Keller

    Wesley —

    There’s a major part of Center Church dedicated to the subject of contextualization–several chapters actually. So hope you can get it.

  • Darren Blair

    As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as the Mormons?

    I typically do most of my missionary work over Dungeons & Dragons.

    When games happen, I’m simply “the old man of the group”. (Yes, I’m going grey at 28.)

    In other words, I’m one of them.

    I’ve seen entirely too many people put on a big show of being “Christian”, either talking about Jesus, boasting of their own Christianity, parading around with all the Jesus junk (I refuse to use the word “kitsch” as it would denigrate the word; where I live, you can sometimes get crosses from vending machines!), or some combination of the above, but *not* backing it up. They talk a good game, but they don’t ever back it up. In fact, religious discrimination and religious bigotry take place in my area more often than most people realize.

    As you can imagine, given the negative examples presented by most “Christians”, it usually surprises folks to find that the guy who just spent the past two hours slinging dice with them is also religious: it means that there’s someone who *won’t* reject them for being different.

  • Tim Keller

    Hi Christopher —

    Paul’s speech on Mars Hill was not an example of popularising–it was the opposite. It was taking the gospel to sophisticated intellectuals. So you are right that it was very subtle. If you want an example of Paul speaking to blue collar pagans go to Acts 14. Acts shows Paul changing up his message for each audience, but always working (sometimes more gradually than the others) to convey the gospel.

    • Darren Blair

      Even before Mars Hill, though, you had Jesus with the Parables.

      People seem to forget that Jesus’ primary audience were blue-collar members of the various Jewish communities*, with some low-level scholars as a secondary audience, and the parables were ways of him getting the gospel message to people in a fashion that they could understand.

      These weren’t people who could handle an advanced theological discussion. They could, however, understand such concepts as “seeds in poor ground”, “a Samaritan helping out a Jew”, “the leaders of the day being fancy sepulchers”, et cetra.

      Too often, I see modern-day mainline Christians miss this point; either they produce walls of text that contain elements well over the heads of a generalist audience, or they aim so low on the totem pole as to club people over the head with their message. That’s assuming, of course, the person has even prepared their presentation to begin with; I’ve encountered far too many mainline Christians who don’t even understand the religion they claim to believe in.

      Given that I’m already regarded as a heretic anyway just for being Mormon, I’ll go ahead and make another “heretical” suggestion: anyone who feels compelled to witness should be encouraged to either take a course in public speaking or a course in personal selling so that they can be at their best.

      *Something I occasionally point out to people is the fact that Jesus himself was a carpenter from Podunkville while a lot of the leadership of the day anticipated a military leader from a prominent family.

      What’s more, look at who Jesus surrounded himself with as his inner circle: a government tax collector (Levi / Matthew), a man who might have been a religious terrorist (Simon Zealotes; note the surname), and several professional fishermen. Rather than picking from among the high-end muckety-mucks of his day, including the “religiously educated” (re: the Pharisees and Sadducees), Jesus went for a diverse group of professionals, tradesmen, and laborers.

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  • Mark

    Honestly, to me this sounds like a bunch of socio-cultural gobbledygook that would have made the apostle Paul himself go bleery eyed. How does one evaluate, or by what standard does one evaluate whether or not Keller’s model even makes sense sociologically? Call in the experts? Additionally, one of the things that disturbs me about the missional church movement which Keller is big into is there seems to be a real lack of effort to even try to make a biblical argument for it’s postions and models. I think the Bible does give a model for growing Christ’s kingdom.

    Here’s a comment by Darryl Hart.

    • Darren Blair

      I’m going to take Tim’s side on this one.

      You see, psychology, sociology, and anthropology lie behind virtually everything else we have.

      Even a token bit of understanding about the topics can help people understand so much else.

      For example, marketing is, for all intents and purposes, “applied psychological warfare” since the goal of the marketer is to persuade the audience to do / not do a specific action. (just for reference, I have an MBA; marketing was my minor during my undergrad)

      Believe it or not.

      • Mark

        I have more interest in anthropology, sociology, psychology, etc. than you might think. Problem is all the good ASP etc. in the world cannot save even a single person. One can have a very successful movement by the world’s standards and yet it can be an empty idol in term’s of Christ’s kingdom which is a supernatural and Spiritual kingdom. People are fully capable of doing fabulous things which are nothing but dead idols. A church’s financial and numerical success are not indicators of the work of the Word and Spirit. The world’s religions can appear very successful to Christ’s kingdom. It takes the Word and Spirit to transfer people from this present evil age into the age to come.

        • Mark

          I meant very successful compared to Christ’s kingdom.

        • Darren Blair

          By the same token, you can have God’s kingdom on Earth, but it’ll do society no good if society doesn’t know about it.

          • Mark

            So? I never proposed that there is no need of Christian witness. I am fully aware that Christ commanded his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples and the world would know him because of the love his disciples had for one another.

            • Darren Blair

              As someone who’s been on the receiving end of a fair amount of “Christian witness”?

              Far too many people approach witnessing in the same fashion a football player approaches a rival quarterback, only to wonder why it’s not working.

              They don’t understand that they’re just turning people off by being too aggressive about it.

            • Mark

              One could say the same thing about some Mormons.

  • Tim Keller

    Hi Mark —

    1) This might use some sociological language, but what I’m describing are things that tend to occur, in one form or another, to one degree or another, in the history of revivals–across different centuries and different cultures. 2) To be fair, this blog post is just an sliver from a 400 pp. book. It would be more fair to say I make no “effort to even try to make a biblical argument” for my positions after reading the book.

    • Mark

      Tim, I am surprised and honored that you would reply; not sure the post deserved it. Granted I have not read the book. I have read your articles on the missional church and also on your theology of the city. I’ve also read a number of other articles on the missional church movement. I’ve also read your King’s Cross & Reason for God. I feel like I find myself caught in a dialectic between enthusiasm and concern.

  • Tim Keller

    Mark —

    Thanks for your kind words. Most of the articles you’ve read by me on those subjects were written before the internet. They were handouts to be used in instructional settings where a lot of other content was being conveyed at the same time, formally and informally. They were not meant to be stand alones. This book, however, is written to be a more complete presentation, along with Biblical exegesis and argument behind ministry approaches. We’ve spent years carefully growing all that we do here out of the Biblical teaching on the nature of the church. It is inevitable that many people won’t agree with how I reason from the Bible, but, with all due respect, I don’t think it would be warranted to say that we are not even trying. I hope if you do get a chance to read the book, it might allay some concerns and help you escape the tension of your dialectic!

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  • chris hutchinson

    Darren Blair,

    You will want to evaluate your comment on why Jesus taught parables with the reason why He Himself said he taught in parables in Mark 4:10-12:

    “And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.'”

    In other words, Jesus taught in parables in part to conceal, not reveal the truth. Why would He do that? Well, when you can answer that, you will be getting closer to the Kingdom — the Kingdom of unmerited grace. Blessings as you seek it.

    • Darren Blair

      Nice veiled insult, but I’ve heard a lot worse in my time and so it’s not gonna bug me.

      One of the benefits of being Mormon is the Joseph Smith Translation, which sheds new light on certain topics.

      This is one of them.

      JST Matt. 13:10–11 – For whosoever receiveth, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance; but whosoever continueth not to receive, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.

      Jesus didn’t use parables simply because he wanted to obfuscate what he was presenting. Rather, it was a gauge to see just who was listening. The spiritually aware – and even some who weren’t – would receive a lesson about the gospel taught on their level. The rest would be stuck scratching their heads.

      As you posit it, though, Jesus was a right jerk who didn’t seem to care whether or not the audience understood (at best) and perhaps even *wanted* people to remain ignorant (at worst).

      And yes, I know what it is to have to present things in “layman’s terms”. I have an MBA and participate in multiple somewhat complicated hobbies, meaning that not only do I have to frequently break things down for people, I often find myself having to translate for others as well.

      For example, a few months back I had to translate something from Legalese into Net Speak; a fellow editor over at found a key legal decision concerning the toy industry, but he was having the darndest time wading through it until I got involved. (“This is the judge telling them that their argument doesn’t work because of…” ; “This is the judge telling them that their actions contradicted their argument” ; “This is the judge telling the CEO to go shove off” ; et cetra.)

  • Neville Carr

    Enjoyed article. A comment on your first (theology) and third ring (specialised ministry 4):

    I’m doing some research on why most products of theological seminaries (ie. pastors and preachers, ministry leaders, missionaries, Christian education and leadership training programs) fail to draw on the seminal material in Genesis 1,2, which provides a prototype for community-building via marriage (1.26, 2.24 -‘be fruitful, multiply’), economic and ecological activity (2.15 – ‘work, guard the soil’) and science, education and communication (2.18,19 – naming the animals).

    Why is it that redemption theology seems to take such precedence, when creation-restoration and -renewal is the overriding narrative of Scripture? The two bookends of Gen 1,2 and Rev 21, 22 make it clear that God set about his redemption plan purely because humans messed up his creation – family and community, work and culture, health and environment.

    I suspect that until the dominant centripetal mindset of church-centered, clergy-driven ministry is replaced in seminaries and congregations alike, by a centrifugal, culture-transforming and people-equipping one, I fear little change at a macro-level can occur.

    Any comments?

    • Darren Blair

      Sadly, there are a variety of factors that are keeping mainline Christianity locked into redemption theology, prosperity gospels, and cheap grace.

      1. First and foremost, you have the laity itself. In far too many congregations, the laity are content to have someone they trust – like their minister – just spoon-feed them information. They do minimal research on their own, and so eagerly propagate any errors and misguided notions that their minister gives them.

      One of the more frustrating elements of being Mormon is that all too often, whenever a mainline Christian tries to “save” us, they’ll do so using arguments that are obsolete… and then go into deep denial when informed that the arguments are obsolete, as they refuse to believe that their pastor could be wrong. This crops up so often that it’s becoming something of a meme –… .

      2. In many instances, the pastors themselves suffer from a sort of “crippling over-specialization”. They get so locked into what their teachers and ministers teach them that the outside world seemingly falls by the wayside. As a result, when confronted with something outside of the realm of religion, they don’t know what to do with it because they don’t have any sort of first-hand experience. This can lead to panic and frustration, if not total fear.

      For example, take the anti-Dungeons & Dragons craze. Anyone who’s ever actually read the manuals and/or sat in on a gaming session would realize that most of the hype being spread by folks like Jack Chick is false. But because the same people who are the loudest fear-mongers are also the most hesitant to actually work with it, the hype keeps circulating.

      3. In other instances, the ministers go in to it thinking that matters like “making money”, “science”, and “education” are the enemy. Some misunderstand the Biblical teachings on money, and so feel that any sort of economic activity above a blue-collar level (if not a subsistence level) is sinful. Others misunderstand science, and perhaps even fear for their ability to “shield” their children from outside influences, and so attack not only science but everything that seeks to teach it.

      For example, one of the counter-cult ministers I deal with is a factory worker by trade. The chair of the labor union he’s a member of has put it into his head that all management is parasitical by nature and that anyone who *isn’t* working on the assembly lines “doesn’t actually contribute to the success of the company” and merely represents overhead that can be eliminated. Because of this, he spends a lot of his time railing against perceived injustices committed by various white-collar types; in many instances, however, he’s just wasting time fighting against shadows and his own imagination.

      4. Sadly, you’ve also got ministers who are in it for the money and prestige.

      Some are basically con artists who talk a good game, raking it in from their appearances and books but heading for the hills when someone calls them out. An example of this is D. J. Nelson, who claimed to have a doctoral degree in Egyptology and to have done extensive field work. An investigation by pro-Mormon authors Robert & Rosemary Brown discovered that it was all fake; none of the people who he claimed to have done work for had ever heard of him, and the degree itself came from a diploma mill. Once the cat was out of the bag, Nelson’s career tanked.

      Others are Jim Jones types who just want their personal fiefdom. They want the power that goes with being famous, and anyone who gets in their way is just a speed bump. For example, author Martha Beck actually tried to sue everyone who criticized her book, including her own brother-in-law: .

      So yeah.

  • Tim Keller

    Hi Neville —

    I hope you might read the book, because in it I resist the direction you are going in your post. I would not say that restoration of the whole creation is the ‘overriding narrative’ of Scripture–more fundamental than the individual redemption of sinners. Romans 8 of course talks vividly about the restoration of creation, but verse 21 says, “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” There it tells us that creation restoration happens, yes, but only because of and through the salvation and glorification of individuals. That’s why Doug Moo in his commentary on this verse, citing Chrysostom, writes: “it is only with and because of the glory of God’s children that creation experiences its own full and final deliverance (Chrysostom). As in v. 19, then, the hope of the creation is related to, and even contingent upon, the glory to be given Christians…” (p.517) So rather than saying that our salvation is just part of cosmic salvation, I think Paul’s point is that it is the other way around. Justification-sanctification-and glorification is the heart of the big story of the Bible.

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