Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tim Keller Manual - A frustrating Start

The first part of Keller's church planting manual is a potted history of his church Redeemer Presbyterian. At one level I found it really frustrating; the same experience I had when I read Mark Driscoll's Confessions of a Reformission Rev some time ago.

It's frustrating firstly because I find myself wishing I had their gifts, rather than the ones God has given me. As I read about his planning and pre-plant research I covet Keller's ability to 'see' into the heart of a culture and his ability to find just the right words and approaches to communicate into that culture.

It's frustrating because it reminds me that when you're starting from scratch it is so much easier to get certain things done (despite other massive challenges) and sometimes I miss that. When we started VHCC everyone was on the same page, everyone had bought into the same vision and expectations. There were no passengers, only crew. There was no baggage, there was no cultural change that needed to be affected because you were starting from scratch. Keller got to shape a culture from the ground up with a handful of highly motivated gospel-focussed individuals. He had some stumbles (like having only 3 'growth groups' despite Sunday attendence of 500 for a couple of years), but there was no traditions, so they were easier to fix.

It's frustrating because I find myself constantly going 'what can I copy', but that isn't the way the world works. Keller would bomb in Seattle, Driscoll would bomb in New York. You can't just copy someone elses model and think you will reproduce their history. There is plenty I can learn from Keller's work, but at the end of the day I have to do the hard work of understanding my context, and who God has made me and what he wants to achieve with the bundle of strengths and weaknesses that I am and the bundle of strengths and weaknesses that St Mark's is.

For all that, ultimately reading this potted history of Redeemer is more encouraging than frustrating because God took a balding, nerdish academic who considered himself 'spiritually flabby' (I'll talk a bit about that in the next post) and used him to bring a large number of people to a vibrant faith in Christ. It is encouraging because it is a reminder that our God can do whatever he wants to do. It is encouraging that he could do it in our part of the world through us. But it is also just encouraging that he has done it in that part of the world with Keller.

1 comment:

  1. great post
    I found the same thing - the kind of self loathing wish I was somebody else kind of thing.
    and yes the frustration about NOT starting from scratch - both you and I have inherited something already established- with its own strengths and weakness
    looking forward to more