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Tim Keller is this amazing man who is being used powerfully by God. Some argue, however, that respect for Tim Keller has slid dangerously close to idol worship. I don’t know how real that risk is in reality. Having been a part of the Redeemer community, I’d like to suggest that the greater danger isn’t so much one of idolatry (clinging onto every word he says, exclusive/rigid obedience to all his sermons) but rather that of elitism. Let me explain.

There is no doubt that Keller is super-intelligent and that his erudition shines through in a non-condescending and stimulating manner through his preaching and demeanor. He has become the thinking-man’s pastor; the culturally sophisticated/enlightened person’s pastor. To align oneself, therefore, to the spiritual and intellectual brilliance of such a man has now become a Christian status symbol for all Manhattan yuppies. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, spiritual depth, and cultural savvy will naturally gravitate towards Redeemer, goes the thinking. An unfortunate result of all this is that Keller has become somewhat analogous to the spiritual Mercedes Benz.

At the risk of sounding a little harsh and judgmental, the air of spiritual snobbery of many Redeemerites can be at times nauseating. There is a certain sense of superiority over other Christians who may be serving in smaller migrant churches elsewhere in the New York metro area. A sense that, well, if so-and-so was only smarter or more spiritual or had more cultural-depth, (s)he would be at Redeemer, and not at that little hole-in-the-wall of a church in Chinatown.

I think it’s important to keep in perspective one thing. Tim Keller has been anointed by God to powerfully and deeply reach into a very very very thin sliver of the world demographic. This demographic is smarter, better educated, has more cultural exposure, and more earning power than 99% of America. And in this thin sliver, Tim Keller is used mightily by God; in any other demographic, he might not have anywhere near the success he has now. (Indeed: he had less impact on his former community [in Virginia?]). God has used an intelligent/cultural/professorial man to reach a very specific intelligent/cultural/well-educated community. Tim Keller is not necessarily more spiritual than the pastor of a small church in Flushing. And nor is his congregation any more spiritual than the group of ragmuffin immigrants who love dim sum and Jesus.


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