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Dear Tim:

Let me just say it: you’re my hero.

Of course, you already know this. The same way that you must know there are thousands of people just like me who, notwithstanding your sermons about idolatry, idolize you. It’s not because of your looks, which seem to be a rough cross between Homer Simpson and Terry O’Quinn. Nor is it because of your annoying habit of lifting your pinkie finger in the air as you preach.

You’re my hero because, quite simply, you are the only preacher I can listen to these days. The only person who can break down the gospel into bite-size portions while still inspiring, challenging, and motivating a staid heart soaked in cynicism. Your sermons constantly tease, surprise, inspire, challenge, and illuminate. So different from the other big-names out there – the Pipers, the MacArthurs – who are either dogmatically simplistic or simply dogmatic in their predictable sermons.

Moreover, you have planted an amazingly successful church in arguably the most influential city in the world. Because of you, literally thousands of yuppies who either would never have been caught dead in a church or who would have eventually dropped out, have come, listened, and been transformed. Redeemer is an incredible church among the movers and shakers not just of the city, but of the world. Only heaven will reveal the full impact of your work and church.

And yet I hold this against you: you have not chosen a successor. Unfortunate as it is to have to say it, there will be a time when you will not be around anymore. And anyone who knows even a little bit about Redeemer knows that to lose Tim Keller would be to lose not only the captain of the ship, but also the rudder, the sails, the mast, the lifeboats, the…you get my point. Put bluntly: Redeemer church is the Tim Keller church. Lose Tim Keller and you’ll lose Redeemer church. We know this from from the plummeting church attendance during the summer when you take your much-needed sabbatical, the same time when most subscribers choose to freeze their MP3 sermon subscription. And even though you have built up a team of associate and assistance pastors around you, their cumulative abilities do not hold a candle to your singular charisma, native intelligence and sparkling presence. Once you are gone, they will not be able to sustain the church, much less cause it to grow. New Yorkers – especially young, hip, single people in their 20s – are incredibly fickle and transitory people; they will not stomach a long search process for a qualified pastor. They will jettison this sinking ship quickly. And for a church about to take on Manhattan-sized mortgages, that would be catastrophic. That is the cutting truth.

Redeemer needs a successor to you. Not the day after you are gone. Redeemer needs one now, yesterday, already. Someone who, in the post-Keller months and years, will serve as a smooth transitory bridge, a recognizable face, somebody already sewn deep in the fabric of Redeemer and Manhattan. Somebody who can now, at the very least, preach full-time in the summer months in your annual absence (why squander those precious months to second rate talent?). Somebody who would be able to ease your preaching load a little, because you are not getting any younger but the load is getting heavier. Somebody who will serve side-by-side with you, whose stature in evangelical circles would be almost as renowned as your own, whose ability to transfix minds and illuminate truth would be comparable to yours. And because gifted pastors like this do not grow on trees, I deeply believe that you need to start seeking out someone right now. It’s high-time to bring someone else on board.

Some cynical friends have wondered if perhaps you like the spotlight a little too much to share it with someone of comparable talent. Perhaps you are afraid that someone might come in and steal your thunder. That is why, these friends say, despite having the financial means and an increasing need, Redeemer does not bring on another dynamic preacher. They wonder, notwithstanding your claimed dislike for attention, you hire only second-rate staff around you, all the better for you to shine in. For surely, they argue, a church like Redeemer in the greatest city in the world would be able to have the pick of the litter, the very best of the up-and-coming pastors, or even evangelical household names.

I know their suspicions simply cannot be true. But as I watch the church become increasingly dependent upon you, as I see how so much of the church is being mortgaged under the specter of Tim Keller, I have to wonder if the church is setting itself up for a catastrophic fall.

With many more children on the way, with hefty mortgage bills coming in, it’s time for this house to bring in another breadwinner.


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3 Comments

  1. Ouch!

    • Longing for Holiday
    • Posted February 15, 2008 at 10:37 pm
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    When we started Redeemer, Tim discussed over and over again how we would have find a way for Redeemer to continue after he retired. He knew that the church would be associated with the preacher (and Tim isn’t the type who is a spoltlight monger). One of the reasons for the immediate emphasis on small groups and the eventual selection of East and West side worship sites was so that we could build community that would outlast time. The fact is, it’s hard to find a successor when you are Tim Keller. I too have gotten to the point that there are very few pastors I can listen to: Keller, Crabb (not a pastor, but almost), and Piper are about it these days. Redeemer has been dependent on Tim since day 1. But the fact is, Tim is dependent on Christ and Christ will find the replacement in due time. After all, He’s the One who picks kings…

    • Longing for Holiday
    • Posted February 15, 2008 at 10:38 pm
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    that is outlast Tim, not outlast time… LOL


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