Real or Fake Spin

Sarah Pulliam Bailey reports that hipster-urban church planting may be responsible for Donald Trump:

In recent decades, white evangelical leaders made the American city their mission field. If you wanted to change hearts and minds, you had to go to cultural centers of power, such as New York City or Washington, where the population was growing. Now some evangelicals are wondering if that shift has caused them to overlook the needs and concerns of their counterparts in rural America.

Donald Trump’s victory put the spotlight on white, rural voters, many of them evangelicals, who were drawn to his “Make America Great Again” message. Even as exit polls suggested that 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump, some evangelicals in urban and suburban areas said they didn’t personally know other evangelicals who vocally supported the president-elect. Although three-quarters of evangelicals are white and lean heavily Republican, they are a huge and diverse group, accounting for a close to a quarter of all Americans, with Latinos making up the fastest-growing segment.

Trump carried nearly 93 percent of rural, mostly white evangelical counties, according to political scientist Ryan Burge.

So does she interview the guru of The City Company of Pastors, aka Tim Keller? You bet:

Ahead of the election, Keller, who leads Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, said that, aside from best-selling author Eric Metaxas, he did not know one evangelical openly supporting Trump.

Keller made his own shift from a rural church to eventually lead one in the country’s largest city and a global church-planting network called City to City.

“Cities have a cool factor, a starry-eyed cool factor,” he said. “Young evangelicals are not motivated to go to places that are not very desirable places to live.”

Keller said young pastors could learn quite a bit by starting at a small-town church in rural America. Pastors at larger churches in big cities tend to specialize in areas such as ministries to women or children, while rural pastors usually do a little bit of everything, he said.

So now Keller has even more credibility because he started as a country pastor? Why are religion reporters so naive?

Why are readers more discerning that religion reporters?

I like Keller, but his thoughts in this are completely self-serving. How is the church failing rural parts of America? Simple: millennials.

No mention that he has spent the better part of a decade saying that we need to focus on cities, that cities are where you change the world, that cities are the fulcrums of culture, that cities are where you find the most people and get the best harvest, that God wants you to love cities, that God is asking, ‘Why aren’t you moving there?’

Does Ms. Bailey think Keller won’t return her calls if she writes a critical story? Surely, a pastor would not be that vindictive. Or perhaps sanctified celebrity carries the same afflictions as unredeemed celebrity.

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22 thoughts on “Real or Fake Spin

  1. I’ll probably start laughing once I stop crying…

    “In recent decades, white evangelical leaders made the American city their mission field. If you wanted to change hearts and minds, you had to go to cultural centers of power, such as New York City or Washington, where the population was growing. Now some evangelicals are wondering if that shift has caused them to overlook the needs and concerns of their counterparts in rural America.”

    IF ONLY SOMEONE HAD BEEN SPEAKING OUT ABOUT THE DANGERS OF THIS.

    Sweet Harambe, y’all.

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  2. “Keller said young pastors could learn quite a bit by starting at a small-town church in rural America. Pastors at larger churches in big cities tend to specialize in areas such as ministries to women or children, while rural pastors usually do a little bit of everything, he said.”

    #RememberwhenPaul said to specialize your ministry when you started pastoring in The City (TM)?

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  3. It seems winsome and clever and embracing all the way up to the point you start to ask tough questions, and then it bares it’s teeth. But, I have noticed that as his group gains more and more political power they are less afraid to exhibit their naked ambition. Btw, I need in excess of forty million to make my real estate play as well. Paypal works.

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  4. “No mention that he has spent the better part of a decade saying that we need to focus on cities, that cities are where you change the world, that cities are the fulcrums of culture, that cities are where you find the most people and get the best harvest, that God wants you to love cities, that God is asking, ‘Why aren’t you moving there?’”

    Hmmm, interesting. Perhaps this is why religious history so often bases an entire national narrative upon the experiences of the big cities. When I did my senior thesis research in Warwick, UK, I found that, in that particular town, the local narrative differed greatly from the national one (as historians have presented it). Keller’s position provides at least one possible reason for why historians have avoided looking at local religious history when writing national narratives (in the case of England, specifically). Historians have some archival dumpster diving to do!

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  5. Note that Keller says young pastors should be “starting at a small-town church in rural America.” Is that a Freudian slip betraying an idea that you want to start in rural areas but the real gig and glory is not to end there but to go to the city?

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  6. I don’t know about the Freudian part but it is a betrayal of the idea that the ‘real’ people and the ‘real’ spirit of god and the ‘real’ ministry is happening in the big cities and you need a really big budget and at least one CEO pastor with an executive team(marketing, accounting, operations, HR) to really be in it for god. Otherwise, you’re just taking up space and writing up minority reports.

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  7. As an elder at a church in a rural, Southeastern part of the United States, I agree with this assessment. The majority of the congregation I serve are blue-collar workers. And if you have ever read Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, the description of his family is an accurate description of the members (or their extended families) that we serve. All of the other churches in my area are either 1. fundamentalist, legalistic Baptist churches, 2. charismatic, non-denominational churches, or 3. generic moderate to liberal Methodist or Church of Christ churches. And all of them are dying. And none of them are really engaging in expository preaching. There are a small handful of people in my church who did not vote for Trump, but every single one of them has a white collar job. The vast majority of the blue collar folks were very vocal supporters of Trump.

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  8. So, now you’ve gravitated to RE development in the city which is just about the pinnacle of the marriage of power and politics-see Trump. Now what? There isn’t a way this doesn’t end up as prot liberal blue blood practice of religion. And, btw(just in case you missed it), that’s already being done and been on the downside of that trajectory for fifty years. Somehow this is ‘new’ and gospel transforming. At least with the RC’s, you have poor monastics(though less and less) who actually live in and among the culturally marginalized trying to execute a social gospel. I’ve never seen that sort of ‘gospel activism’ with the blue bloods. It’s all therapy and virtue signalling. Which, as it turns out, really does make you guilty of being blind to your WP. So, not WOKE. Bubble indeed.

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  9. Narratives matter more than facts:

    The reason nobody trusts the media is because the media hasn’t been pushing facts but narratives. To claim that they will now suddenly discover “doing their jobs” as an answer to what ails them is cute. The media always do a better job of skeptically covering Republicans than Democrats. How many times have people joked that we need a Republican in the White House so journalists can remember what it is they do.

    Narrative theology wins!

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  10. And the problem compounds in the PCA as the Kellerites lean more and more on culture transformation to maintain relevance and inspire followers. It not only has the effect of indoctrinating their congregants in a false narrative but they end up not having anything new to say. So, they list more and more toward high church and liturgical(advent season) for props. I’ve listened as these guys(TE) capacity to come off script is more and more impaired. I’m confident they wouldn’t know how conclude a sermon much less craft a sermon series apart from the culture transformation and social justice.

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