Thursday Review: Keller on the Gospel in Life

A review of Timothy Keller, Gospel in Life: Grace Changes Everything DVD purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US and Workbook purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US, Zondervan, 2010.

In January I claimed that Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God DVD and workbook was my resource of 2009. I’m pretty confident that his new Gospel In Life DVD and workbook will my resource of 2010.

As the title suggests, Gospel in Life looks at how the gospel is to be lived out in our lives, in our church communities and in the world. So it’s a kind of discipleship programme. It would be great to use for training leaders within your church or with your small groups or as part of a vision-setting programme.

The DVD consists of eight ten-minute talks by Keller. It’s just Keller speaking to camera, but the windows behind open out onto different views of the city and key points are animated on cityscape backgrounds so although its very simple the overall effect is engaging and pleasing. The workbook includes and Bible study and discussion questions for each session plus fairly intensive ‘homework’ involving further reading and a small group project. Here’s the outline of sessions:

1. City – The World That Is
2. Heart – Three Ways to Live
3. Idolatry – The Sin Beneath
4. Community – The Context for Change
5. Witness – An Alternate City
6. Work – Cultivating the Garden
7. Justice – A People for Others
8. Eternity – The World That Is To Come

It’s all here – all the important missional insights we have come to expect of Keller: the focus on the city, the centrality of the heart, the need to live by grace, the significance of idolatry, the importance of cultural engagement, the role of work in mission, the integration of social involvement. If I have a criticism is that, given the constraints of eight sessions of 10 minutes, I was often left thinking, ‘I’m glad he made that point, but I fear people might miss it.’ Also the homework is too intensive for some of the people with whom we work. But you can readily adapt the material.

It’s clearly designed with a Western context in mind, but we went through it on a recent visit to a couple sent by a our church to the Middle-East and it was full of resonances for them in their context. Because time was short we combined sessions 2 and 3, 4 and 5, 6 and 7, and sessions 1 and 8 could also be combined.

One final reflection. I was struck working through the sessions how close Keller’s vision of church and mission is that to ours in The Crowded House. What’s striking is that the structure of his church is so different. Steve Timmis and I have begun refuting the idea that there is a ‘TCH model’ of church – not least because there are different church structures within The Crowded House network, but also because we have never wanted to put The Crowded House forward are the right way of doing church! But we are persuaded by the theology of church and mission that shapes what we do. Listening Keller reinforced this conviction: the principles we share in common matter, the structural outworking of those principles can and should vary in each context. So don’t get hung up on how to do this or that – get the theology right.

The workbook is available from Amazon.co.uk, but not the DVD so UK readers will have get this from Amazon.com.

5 thoughts on “Thursday Review: Keller on the Gospel in Life

  1. Looks great – but will it be readily available in the UK? Our local Christian bookshop found ‘Prodigal God’ resources were very hard to get hold of last year. Will this new series be more easily accessible?

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing this thought. Especially the bit about how Tim Keller’s church and TCH is so vastly different in forms and structure b/c of the context, yet so similar in principals.

  3. I also am struck by your comment about common theology with different structures. It was a very gracious comment. I love both your work and keller’s! Keller’s church has grown primarily because of his attractional preaching in my estimation, while your church networks seem to grow through more organic growth in community. I am simply curious as to how you see Keller’s attractional model embodying the same mission and theology — it’s somewhat confusing to me bc I sometimes get the feeling that “missional” thinkers think that attractional structures necessarily undermine the mission to make disciples. Would to love to hear more from you on this subject.

  4. Hi Tim,

    What you mention in the last paragraph regarding church structures and models was probably the biggest thing I learnt during my time at TCH last year. I love your comment get the theology right rather than getting hung up on how we do things. These kind of comments enabled me to move from a position I now recognize as paralysis in wanting the structures or models to be just right before getting busy with church planting whatever form that took. Instead I have been able to join with a team of others whose theology is brilliant even if we all sometimes differ on how to work that out in our context. It has in fact brought a richness and great dynamic to our team that can only benefit our church and city.

    And a cause of great humour has they notice me getting twitchy whenever things get a little too “attractional” for me

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