Thursday, February 26, 2009

I am an idiot, Tim Keller is not

I don't know if you've ever had the experience of asking a question and it all coming out wrong? I had that. I was at a day conference in London where Tim Keller was the speaker. He was excellent. The theme was influencing the city, following on from Mark Driscoll last July talking about that.

Keller was very balanced, he went out of his way to say that we need churches anywhere there are people, so rural, village, suburban, urban but then went on to argue for the primacy of mission to the cities. But one of his arguments for the importance of the city was because Paul went to the cities. I thought that wasn't so strong because Jesus hardly ever went to the city, except when he was heading there for his death.

Our movement does bang on about cities (I'll blog some more on this soon), which is OK because you can't ignore the cities, but what about the rest of us. I'm not even in the centre of my town, I'm in a working class housing estate so am I just a passive recipient of culture from the city?

So during the Q&A (and if the audio comes out you'll hear exactly what I said), I asked a question like, 'how does what you say fit given the fact that Jesus ignored the city except to go and die in one?' I might as well have stood up and shouted, 'Dr Keller, you sir are an idiot and you don't know the Bible' the way it felt like it came out of my mouth. I knew instantly I'd got the tone wrong.

He was very gracious and firmly but politely rebuffed me. Quite right too. It wasn't helped by the questions that followed where Dr Keller helpfully defined city (way more broadly than you might think) and where he clearly affirmed those in village, rural settings.

So a public mistake deserves a public apology, sorry Dr Keller for my misjudged tone of my question. You sir, are not an idiot. I on the other hand.....


Matthew Hosier on 26 February 2009 at 15:28 said...

I was booked in to attend the day, but then couldn't make it. I look forward to listening to the downloads, and would be interested how he defined city.

My take on it is that we must reach the cities, but in the UK the vast majority of people live in some form of suburbia. Most of our 'cities' are suburbs - this is especially true of London where of the 32 boroughs most are outer London Boroughs and are made up of Victorian and 1930's suburbs. Only a few (relatively) very rich people live right in the city, alongside a few more very poor people.

The city churches like Westminster Chapel, Hillsong, Christchurch London, HTB, etc., have a massively important role, and have that whiff of city glamor, but the real challenge is building healthy churches in Kingston and Finchley and the other 'burbs where most of the people actually live.

Is this in line with Keller's definition?

Mark Heath on 26 February 2009 at 16:28 said...

ha ha. At least you had the guts to ask a question. I always keep quiet for fear of making a fool of myself ;)

Phil on 26 February 2009 at 17:31 said...

It has to be a 'both/and' I think, I've got some more posts on this I think. Basically he defined a city in two ways - one a hub, where roads lead to so he gave the example of Inverness as the city of the Highlands even though it's not that big. His second definition is a multi function place where people live, work, eat, engage in arts etc...he made the point that the village has more in common with the city than the suburbs in that respect.

Matthew Hosier on 26 February 2009 at 18:40 said...

That's an interesting and helpful way of looking at it. By that definition Poole/Bournemouth is more of a city than many of the London Boroughs - we eat, sleep, work and play all in one space here - although with 400,000 people we are hardly a village...

I'm going to Seattle next week for the church planting conference - sure there'll be a lot of city talk at that!

iamchris on 27 February 2009 at 11:13 said...

I think it is interesting relating this back to what a city looked like back in the time of the early church compared to how we build our cites today. We no longer build a giant wall around our cities, the outside world is not seen as "no man's land anymore" subsequently I don't think we have the same implication of refuge and "safety in numbers" that Keller spoke about.

Within "the wall" the people would have lived, worked, slept and played, they were just there. There was no commute to the city for work, you were already there. I think the challenge has to lie with where the people are, which I think lies more in the sub's. If you are traveling "through the wall" throughout the working week, you are not going to want to commute to church as wel ust for the sake by being a "city church"

Is not hitting the subs "where the majority of cities workers live" still hitting the cities? And if these guys are then going back into the city through out the week you are then equipping the people who hit the city daily!

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