When Churches Build Cities, Where Do the Non-Christians Live?

Thanks to the Allies, I went to discover what Austin Stone is. It turns out it has a lot less to do with Austin, Texas than with TKNY:

The Austin Stone is a Church for the City. We’re much more than a church to attend, but a community centered on the person and mission of Jesus Christ. We’re actively working to build a great Austin, renewed and redeemed by the gospel.

It could be that Austin Stone inspired Keller and Redeemer NYC, but if I were a betting man, I’d put money on the Yankees influencing the Don’t-Mess-with-Texas-Texans.

Of course, the website reveals nothing all that shocking after two decades of TKNY. But I do have to wonder why Christians who say they want to build cities to be great don’t seem to think about Jews and Muslims and Roman Catholics, not to mention skeptics and jazz musicians, who may also be living in a particular city and also want to promote the town but not on evangelical Protestant grounds.

This is a classic case of theonomy-lite. It sounds inspiring. It may even sound hip, though urbanism is hardly cutting edge these days. But this vision has no awareness of how believers and unbelievers might live together for a common good that is not explicitly Christian.


30 thoughts on “When Churches Build Cities, Where Do the Non-Christians Live?

  1. They keep choosing locales that are already ostensibly ‘hip’. Is it all a plan to appropriate the ‘hipness’ already inherent in the city and take credit? Even here in San Antonio, they appropriate the already monied and young urban artsy downtown loft dweller and claim to be; ‘for them’. If I was a hipster, thankfully I’m not, I’d smell a fraud. But the hipster, being who he is, already expects and anticipates that everything IS for him. So maybe it’s a just a matter of using…..errr….being ‘for’ each other. god bless their little soul patch hearts and may they be happy together.

    I am gonna apply for that artist in residence position though, I can wear a fedora or a toolbag skull cap with capris if you pay me enough.


  2. I’m I missing something? I don’t see a Keller connection here. Sure there may be some ministry similarities here but beyond that I don’t see it. Austin Stone does not appear to be PCA(not in the PCA directory) & the leadership there don’t seem to have reformed influences. Besides Keller is not really known for cutesy hip name for churches. These guys may or may not be more influenced by SBC or DTS.

    There just seem to be some similarities & overlap in ministry philosphies more than anything else. Many of Keller’s ideas have been seen in other churches long before he began them in NY. For example New Life in Philly, Perimeter PCA in Atlanta both started long before Redeemer NY.


  3. How cute — the church named like a wrestler has campi and clever little core values formula: wX/iC/gT/mD. Get it? They do appear to be immersionists, but this has Keller DNA scattered about the scene.


  4. There’s a church in downtown Des Moines that is committed to changing the city and the renewal of all things. When things like this come to Des Moines you know they’re pretty well played out.


    Our church was also downtown for several years. We tried to get a Bible Study going where we also would provide a meal. No takers. Now we’ve moved near Drake University into the second sanctuary of a Lutheran Church. I saw some of our kids talking to a strange neighbor lady on Sunday morning as they played precariously in the driveway as an elderly lady attempted to drive her car out of the parking lot. I’m not sure if they were attempting cutting edge urban ministry or not.


  5. So will members be called Austin Stoners? Sounds more Beavis and Butthead to me than hipster… back to the Sigur Ros listening marathon while I pensively fiddle with my soul patch wondering why my Tom’s shoes are taking so long to come. Zappos has gone sooo downhill.


  6. Jed, that’s a fair question. Particularly if you ‘knew Austin like I know Austin’. Be careful with the fashion faux pas, it’s a religious gateway.


  7. Church-named-like-wrestler appears to have been around for about 10 minutes, but man, they’re experts on everything! And don’t tell me they don’t believe in some sort of regulative principle. They have rules and training for everything. You can learn how to “pastor your band”:


    (Austin Stone Worship Note: This post is the third in a series developed from content from our Worship Leader Development Program, and the first in a three-part post from Aaron on this topic, part 2 of this post can be found here and part 3 here. The first post in the Worship Leader Development series can be found here, and the second can be found here.)

    I’ve been leading a band for over 10 years. I’ve made countless mistakes over the years, but now more than ever I see the crucial role of a worship leader to not just pastor their flock, but to also pastor and shepherd their band. We’re going to take a three part look at everything this entails…


  8. How many black people does a congregation have to have to “change their city”?

    Is having those black people the evidence or the instrumental condition of being judged in the future as having changed the city?

    Is having works of obedience the evidence of justification or the necessary result of “union” (with justification being another result)?

    How many works of obedience will a person need to be justified “according to works”?

    Ever notice how it’s always the other fellow who has “the theology of glory”?


  9. The prospects for such believers to take over an already existing city seems pretty bleak.

    On the other hand, there is a lot of wide open space in Texas for believers to move to in order to attempt to form such communities voluntarily. Libertarianism permits theocratic pluralism. If you want to form a Catholic, Amish, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon or whatever fundamentalist community, you can do so on property and freedom of contract grounds.

    I don’t think any American court should voluntarily enforce brutal punishments. But then again, when the rubber hit the road in Puritan Mass., they banished Roger Williams instead of executing him.

    That’s exactly what a Manhattan co-op — the quintessence of privately agreed to tyranny — would do if you violated their “rules.”

    And I agree, such a religiously homogeneous city would be boring. They could work; but are not dynamic. See the Amish. I would never want to live there. But if the lights ever go out; they will continue to function.


  10. There’s a great dissertation for someone in tracing the origins of this “redeem the city” nonsense. I don’t suppose it goes back as far as Babel and Jericho.


  11. You’ve had a Keller, FV, emergent, even Romish(see emergent and FV) presbytery faction of the PCA in Austin for years now. Now they’ve got a PCPC funded, Keller inspired seminary in Austin. Redeemer Seminary(shock on the name, I know). Austin being a tech heavy city since the explosion of Dell combined with the already UT dominated college vibe, has made Austin hipster central on roids for a good while now. It’s fairly easy to hang your ‘for the city’ shingle with the monied and hipster templated and just ride their coattails to cool. If I was an Austinite hipster, I’d look past these guys as ‘so 15 years ago’ and be riding the next wave to come.


  12. Btw, PCPC(Park Cities Presbyterian Church) who fund most everything RUF and Kellerite in Texas is a monied church in the heart of Highland Park in Dallas. Think Dubya rich and domiciled. The Redeemer vision for all it’s post modern dialect, is generally nothing more than rich white urban chasing cool mixed in with some white guilt that they throw money at to assuage. This is often true all the way down to pulling the rich white conservative PCUSA and Methodist contingent over sometimes with the brick or stone downtown building to boot. It’s a pretty sweet gig.


  13. One of our local Redeemerites showed up at presbytery dressed like Judge Smails from Caddyshack. I couldn’t figure out if was genuine, ironic, or just bad taste. But is sure was white. Most of these guys strike me as former frat boys.


  14. “BAvant, here’s the connection. The church is FOR THE CITY.”

    Yes but thats not much more than what I said that there are ministry similarities & philophy overlap between Keller & the Austin Stone church. Keller is not the only one who has promoted the idea the church FOR THE CITY, You imply a direct connection without providing one. Is Redeemer Seminary the connection? If so I don’t see it on their website.

    This group could just as easily be inspired by Mark Driscoll & Acts 29 church planting network. Just because they are transformational dosn’t mean there is a direct link to Keller.

    The one thing you have in common with the Baylys is a “great love” for Tim Keller.


  15. C-Dubs, it’s southern frat boys in the PCA. It’s fun to go Delta Tau Chi on them. You get responses such as; ‘well, I never’, and ‘(insert southern monied family name) don’t behave that way.’ etc. It’s an endless source of quips and puns and jr. high recess sorting.


  16. I MAY BE A CYNIC, but I’ve always believed that Redeemerism and U2 church is a manipulative marketing strategy which also helps the straegizers and participants feel good about themselves. As eccleisology it reeks.


  17. David Byrne concurs that Des Moines is not that hip:

    “Rock Star Byrne’s Review of D.M. Scene a Mixed Bag”
    By Joe Lawler
    The Des Moines Register, 7-17-13

    If David Byrne ever gives up the life of being a famous globetrotting rock star, he’s got a job writing travel brochures for Des Moines.

    After spending time in the capital city for the 80/35 Music Festival earlier this month, the former frontman for the Talking Heads took to his blog to give a three-part review of Des Moines. It was generally positive, but not entirely so. Byrne wrote he thought Des Moines was “maybe an ideal place to grow up or raise your kids,” which he said garnered mixed reactions from members of his musical entourage.

    “The town isn’t particularly hip, but I sort of counted that as a factor in its favor — kids would have to discover what they thought was cool for themselves. Or make it up. Or come to the conclusion that trends does not a life make,” he wrote. “I did stop at a cool coffee shop (Smokey Row), and two cool restaurants (Proof and HOQ), and there’s the custom bike shop (Ichi Bike) I visited and such, but overall it doesn’t seem a place in thrall to trends.”

    Byrne also discussed doing some research into this idea, emailing back and forth with a professor at the University of Chicago over whether Iowa’s history has helped it survive better than other mid-sized cities. He ended up discussing Iowa’s resistance to the Know Nothing Party, communal colonies like Icaria, Amana and New Buda, our history with state-controlled alcohol and some background on African-Americans in Iowa. And, of course, the Des Moines music scene.

    “The Grateful Dead cover band (Dark Star Orchestra) playing by the riverside the other night, and one or two of the bands playing before us were all vaguely jam bands, so there may be some cosmic mind altering activities going on here and there, but it doesn’t seem to be sad or desperate the way music scenes can be in some towns — they’re often a creative reaction to hopelessness and a sense of frustration,” he wrote.


  18. If I was an urban church planter I would have the praise band write Christian lyrics to all the songs on Talking Heads’ “More Songs About Buildings a Food” album. That would get the attention of city dwellers.

    “Artists Only” would be especially important since all city dwellers are, by definition, artists. Well, except for the poor people who don’t shower much and the investment bankers who retreat to the suburbs at night (they don’t count).


  19. Chortles – One of our local Redeemerites showed up at presbytery dressed like Judge Smails from Caddyshack

    Mr. Haverkamp – That’s a peach, hon!

    Mrs. Haverkamp – That must be the tea…


  20. Fedora, without the fedora. White shoes, light slacks, pastel plaid shirt, excellent tan. Horrible.


  21. Darryl, as long as there’s that much money in play it won’t fade until the richies mood changes. I know too cynical.


  22. Erik, “The town isn’t particularly hip, but I sort of counted that as a factor in its favor — kids would have to discover what they thought was cool for themselves. Or make it up. Or come to the conclusion that trends does not a life make.”

    David Byrne grasps something the Christian urbanists don’t. He must be reading the Bible (says the neo-Calvinist).


  23. Sure I like Keller but thats not the point.

    The one thing this post has in common with the Baylys is to find something you don’t like & then attach it to Keller.

    I just don’t see anything here to connect the Austin Church directly to Keller. Similarities with Keller? yeah. But all of Keller’s ideas are not original with him & this group may have a Driscoll connection(who is very popular in some circles) or just a Southern baptist connection. The website is not specfic in its affliations. I’m just wondering is there a connction that I’m missing from the website or are they just some similarities in how they view reaching the city & culture.


  24. BAvant, the point of the post is that the idea that the church if FOR THE CITY is not biblical. Turns out Keller has a similar view of the church (don’t shoot the messenger). Last I checked, this FOR-THE-CITY jazz was deeply embedded in certain wings of “conservative” Presbyterianism. Lo and behold, Keller made FOR-THE-CITY popular to those Presbyterians. And since Oldlife is about Reformed faith and practice, Keller becomes a target.

    That you don’t object to FOR-THE-CITY is likely an indication of your regard for Keller. You like Keller. That is a point.


  25. I guess my objection was that the Austin Stone church was linked directly to Keller. When you look at Austin Stone (which is a cheesy name to begin with. Not usually something you can accuse Keller of) there’s no way to tell their theological influence/denominational affliation/etc. Its a very vague site. Yes like Keller they say they are FOR THE CITY & maybe Keller has had some sort of influence but I can’t tell.
    On most Redeemer influenced churches its easier to see these connections. Austin Stone looks more like a broadly evangelical Baptistic church that share some of Keller’s concerns; they may know very little of Keller.
    You said there must be a Keller connection but I can’t see one. I mean criticize Keller all you want. He can take it I’m sure. I imagine there’s lots within Redeemer & other PCA churches you can use for ammunition. But it seems like using Austin Stone is a bit of a straw man when other than some overlapping philosphy its barely recognizable as a church Keller would be involved in.


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