Tim’s Positive, Lasting Impact

Rest in Peace Timothy Keller.

I first heard Tim Keller on a cassette tape in 2001 or so. He was part of a panel discussion on preaching at Westminster Seminary in California with Jay Adams. I’d never heard of the guy before this and his church that was in New York City of all places! Tim’s simple message has stuck with me ever since: Christ is the application of every sermon. It was profound and simple and biblical.

In 2003 I was engaged in a discussion on someone’s blog (blogs were a pretty new thing back then) about church planting. The blogger was critical of Keller’s church planting method and I was concerned. I don’t remember what I said, but Tim emailed me personally. He said, in part, “I noticed your objections seemed substantial and therefore merited some response. I hope this helps a bit. I may be wrong about some of all this but you may be too! That’s why I wrote.” His response to me was a serious, decently long email. He corrected me, a stranger from the internet, with gentleness, clarity, charity, and humility. Another important lesson learned from Tim’s example.

I was at the very first Gospel Coalition conference in 2007 at the Trinity International University chapel. Tim and D. A. Carson started TGC and then wisely turned it over to younger pastors, theologians, and seminary professors. I saw Tim at numerous Desiring God and TGC National Conferences. I’ve always benefited from his talks. I have and have read most of his books.

Somewhere around 2009 I got Tim’s notes from a D. Min. class on preaching that he and Ed Clowney taught at Reformed Theological Seminary. I found the audio in iTunes U and “attended” the class remotely, on my own time. What a blessing to hear Tim and his mentor wrestle though the question: How do you present Jesus from the text? I learned to avoid clumsy metaphors and over-wrought types and instead look for the trajectory of the text. What problem does this text present and how is Jesus the resolution? I remember him saying that that can be especially hard in the Gospels. I learned a lot.

Tim passed way today after a long battle with cancer. Though I’ve never met him personally, Tim Keller has been a huge influence in my life and my ministry and I will miss him dearly. I think the single most important lesson I learned from Dr. Keller was his singular focus on Jesus. I know today he was welcomed into Jesus’ arms, hearing “Well done my good and faithful servant, enter your master’s joy.”

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