The Keller Effect and The Largest Asian-American Church

Tim Keller The Reason for God

I’ve finally gotten around to reading this profile of Tim Keller in a recent Newsweek in the wake of his new book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, which I hope to pick up soon. It’s a decent article that gives insight into the Redeemer experience. Ed Stetzer’s interview with Keller is a great accompaniment to it.

Like many I have benefited so much from his teaching and leadership. I can appreciate Rick Warren and Hybels. They’ve all raised the leadership bar in the church and the way we “do” church. But Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church engages Asian-Americans like no other.

Those of us who minister to Asian-Americans should take a look into what Redeemer is all about. The number of Asian Americans that attend Redeemer services are phenomenal. Worship services are held primarily in an auditorium at Hunter College. As the article points out, there’s nothing sexy here. The congregation is led by chamber musicians and hymns. The service is simply done. It’s a sharp contrast to the high production efforts found in other megachurches that lean more on the experiential.

Standing at the microphone is a man more than six feet tall with a shiny bald head and wire-rim spectacles, looking more like a college professor than a megachurch pastor. This is the Rev. Tim Keller, a Manhattan institution, one of those open urban secrets, like your favorite dim sum place, with a following so ardent and so fast-growing that he has never thought to advertise. He rarely speaks to the press.

The experiential difference in Redeemer is Tim Keller. If anyone has pulpit credibility he has it in spades. His messages are essentially reformed, intellectually engaging and hold a high regard for Scripture. Redeemer is the place for people who are hungry for answers and knowledge. There’s no filler or fluff. They go to hear Tim Keller speak and they get what they want. Perhaps what they may find more appealing about Keller is a more holistic commitment to the Gospel and a God-sized vision for the city. He is engaging the heart of many of the changing shifts that we need to wake up to in the church, increasing urbanization, glocalization, and social justice. Shalom.

The Keller Formula

He is helping other pastors use his “formula,” if you can call it that—orthodox Christianity and challenging preaching, with an emphasis on social justice and community service—in cities like Amsterdam, São Paolo, Berlin and Paris. Keller believes that young urban people too often face an unsatisfactory choice: the dispassionate formality of the established churches or the fire and brimstone of the conservative evangelicals.

The Largest Asian-American Church
That formula resonates with many Asian-Americans Christians and it’s part of a great escape. Many of them who attend Redeemer have migrated from the immigrant churches they’ve grown up with. I’ve heard it said and I forgot where that Redeemer is the largest Asian-American church by the sheer number of Asian-Americans that attend and not because it has set out to be one. I don’t have any hard figures but with five services in a city with one of the highest Asian populations in the country and an inclination for excellent teaching it’s very possible.

Similar to what the article suggests, they migrate because of negative experiences or perhaps that there was something missing from that experience of church. That missing component could be a more holistic view of the Gospel that’s not simply just about personal salvation. They may find the structures of immigrant churches cumbersome and their felt needs not being met. For some, attending Redeemer provides a certain anonymity while getting your dose of God and good teaching. You go, you leave, you’ve done church.

Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Newsweek: The Smart Shepherd
Ed Stetzer On Tim Keller and The Reason for God [1] [2]
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Hardcover)
Reason for God Website


6 Responses to “The Keller Effect and The Largest Asian-American Church”

  1. March 10, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    The large proportion of Asian Americans in Redeemer’s attendance is quite a phenomena. There are many more Asian Americans on the West Coast, just short of 50% of the entire Asian American population nationwide, and yet there isn’t a particular West Coast non-Asian-led church that has this kind of Asian American proportion in attendance. I’d like to think that there are great Bible teachers everywhere; maybe there’s something that’s particular about New York City and its churches?

  2. 2 HQ
    March 18, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    LT, your comment on Dr. Keller’s “holistic commitment to the Gospel” reminded me of this sermon I recently listened to: Pastor Dr Timothy J Keller sermon Gospel Centered Ministry. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6426224583918141996&hl=en where he unpacks characteristics of the Gospel and its implications on ministry. Even though full-time ministry is not my current vocation, just the unpacking of the Gospel really does reveal the manifold wisdom of God, which makes me stand in awe.

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[american born chinese pastor]
seeks to be that third place for those who are american born chinese [abc] in ministry.
here we may explore issues unique to the chinese church and doing ministry in that context
expand the intersection of asian american culture and christian faith
or simply expose what goes on in the mind of this abcpastor

this may be a bit ambitious or even naiive but i do hope that through the posts we can bring together different faith communities, passions for the advancement of the Gospel and the equipping of the body of Christ.

if you are an abc pastor or have any suggestions or would like to contribute to make this space evolve, just comment.

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