What If Redeemer NYC Were Big Enough?

Some big changes at the most influential PCA congregation IN THE WORLD!

Here is the text of yesterday’s announcement:

The Center for Faith & Work (CFW) is pleased to announce the newest phase of its fifteen-year history as its staff joins Redeemer City to City (CTC) and continues to serve the Redeemer churches and New York City, while over time broadening its reach to global cities.

“Redeemer is changing with CFW because Redeemer is now not one church, it’s a family of three churches, which means it’s immediately looking outward to bless the whole city,” says Redeemer’s founding pastor Tim Keller. “Redeemer has become centrifugal; that is, it’s starting to push out to start new churches and help others start new churches. And so Redeemer is actually looking outwards, just like CFW will be looking outward, beyond Redeemer. They’re both making the same change at the same time. If CFW stays locked in Redeemer alone, then I don’t think a lot of its wisdom will be as available to the world. This is why now is the optimal time to do this.”

So apparently, Redeemer NYC is too New York to be of use to the rest of the world, unlike Redeemer CTC which is apparently global in orientation and structure. Do the folks who are New York Presbyterians really mean to imply that understandings of vocation in New York are parochial and cannot work in other parts of the world, unless integrated into a global organization? Since Tim Keller recently explained his worries about nationalism, what must he make of metropolitanism, something like the hyping of the Big Apple above the needs and realities of the rest of the world?

As the announcement explains:

Throughout its existence, CFW has encountered New Yorkers of all backgrounds facing a decidedly more global vocational culture. In our quickly changing world, the need for new tools, curriculum, and communities that help Christians wisely and meaningfully bring their faith to bear at work, across all spheres, is paramount.

City to City provides a developed network and infrastructure to strengthen CFW in its three-fold aim of equipping, connecting, and mobilizing Christians around the world in faith and work integration. City to City ensures a centralized effort towards that global expansion, while continuing a close and collaborative relationship with the Redeemer Presbyterian Churches.

So being a Christian banker in Beijing is decidedly different from banking on Wall Street?

Aside from vocation, this announcement raises questions about organizational footprint of Redeemer’s operations and Keller’s alliances. Are we really supposed to believe that Redeemer NYC — whichever congregation — was too inflexible a platform for the Center for Faith & Work? When did ecclesiology or administrative restrictions prevent Redeemer NYC from expanding its reach, or starting new programs? Heck, I suspect the PCA’s Mission to the World could have incorporated the work that the Center does if New York’s administrators had decided to work with PCA missionaries and their offices in different parts of the world? Is the Center’s activity really so special that the PCA’s structures can’t handle it? After all, the reading list available at the Center’s website is very, oh so very neo-Calvinist, with Al Wolter’s Creation Regained occupying the “advanced” understanding of vocation:

Few contemporary books have been cited as often by those who are writing about taking up callings and vocations faithfully. This this serious little book walks us through the key Biblical themes of the goodness of creation, the seriousness of the fall into sin, the decisive redemption gained by Christ, and the implications of working out the promised hope for a creation-wide restoration. With the keen eye of a philosopher and the passion of a Bible scholar, Wolter’s offers one of the definitive, concise books about a Christian worldview. One of the most important books for those of us in CFW and highly recommended to understand a uniquely Christian view of cultural and vocational engagement.

Granted, the neo-Calvinists never took root in NYC after the English displaced the Dutch colonists about two-thirds into the seventeenth century. But what is distinctly global about a set of readings that come largely from Christian Reformed writers living in North America and published Dutch-American editors in Grand Rapids?

And what about The Gospel Coalition? Is it parachurch chopped liver? Don’t the Allies have branches all over the world? If Redeemer can partner with TGC on The New City Catechism (TGC has a link at it’s menu page), why can’t the Center for Faith & Work collaborate with the Coalition in it’s own Faith & Work work?

The word that comes to mind is marvelous. But the marvel experienced here is that anyone in Presbyterian ministry has time for all of these structural niceties even when the bells and whistles of Presbyterian polity don’t seem to be all that important.

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30 thoughts on “What If Redeemer NYC Were Big Enough?

  1. “Granted, the neo-Calvinists never took root in NYC after the English displaced the Dutch colonists about two-thirds into the seventeenth century.” — Does Keller identify with Stuyvesant?
    My immigrant ancestor, an Englishman, moved to New Netherlands in 1652. His community was allowed to plant a church for themselves because their Puritanism was deemed close enough to the Dutch Reformed faith. By the time Nicolls sailed into New York, I guess you could say the Old Lifers won New York.

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  2. ” But the marvel experienced here is that anyone in Presbyterian ministry has time for all of these structural niceties even when the bells and whistles of Presbyterian polity don’t seem to be all that important.”

    There is no there, there.

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  3. Far be it from me, a Baptist, to even attempt to understand Presbyterian ecclesiology, but if this sort if thing was happening in our world, anyone who had ever served on a finance committee would understand what is motivating all this: control over the Benjamins. Sharing revenue from the Redeemer empire with the PCA? Ain’t about to happen.

    BTW, the Wolters book gets a lot of love from the skinny jeans type recent grads of some of our seminaries.

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  4. Whatever happened to old fashioned preachin’ and teachin’? Like they used to do in the Ol’ Timey days using the Ol’ Timey Bible. When Redeemerites talk about “Faith and Work” they most assuredly do not have in mind postal workers, truck drivers, security guards, retail cashiers, auto mechanics, deli workers, etc. No sir. What kind of Reformed Metrosexual Missional would be caught dead such a dreary job? No room for cultural engagement in delivering mail or making sandwiches.

    Does Keller actually know anyone who doesn’t work in The Arts? Does he have any friends who are licensed electricians or welders? Does he know anyone who can’t fit into a skinny jeans, hates Starbucks, drives a van, and does not have a M.A. from NYU?

    Does Keller know anyone who doesn’t know who David Brooks or Michael Gerson is? Does he know anyone who’s ever had to file a worker’s compensation claim for worksite injuries?

    He really needs to get out of Manhattan more often.

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  5. I don’t know all the details, but I imagine the main impetus for the move has to do with Redeemer dividing into three particular congregations. Three different sessions overseeing the Center for Faith and Work would inevitably lead to confusion, disagreements, and possibly financial difficulties or disputes. So from an administrative and logistical standpoint, this makes perfect sense. FWIW, Tim Keller is the chairman of City to City, and is obviously accountable to the local churches, the presbytery, and the PCA. David Kim, the director of the Center for Faith and Work, is likewise a PCA TE, and is accountable to the same groups.

    As for why not join Mission to the World: the reason is because City to City is not a mission agency. Their vision is not missions, but specifically church planting in cities with local pastors. City to City’s role is training and equipping, not sending.

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  6. Andrew Alladin – your comment is basically “reverse” class discrimination. So a pastor must know electricians and welders to have a legitimate ministry? Where is that found in Scripture or Confession? Why is a ministry focused on educated, professional urban people any less legitimate than a ministry focused on rural and suburban people?

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  7. Curt, you plant a church, create a buzz, become the dandy of NYC reporters, and join a parachurch organization that features your catechism, I’ll make you my obsession.

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  8. vv, you mean that missionaries don’t plant churches? Are you kidding?

    And on your organizational point, like it was all that clear and streamlined when one session was overseeing three cites and churches in other parts of the world? Are you kidding?

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  9. vv, if Redeemer is focused on one group, what makes its leaders think they can expand around the world to all sorts of people? See a little challenge to logic there? It’s like BMW going into fast food.

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  10. DGH – I never said missionaries don’t plant churches. I said City to City focuses on training and equipping pastors already in a city rather than sending people from New York. A mission organization by definition sends people. City to City does not.

    When did the Redeemer session ever “oversee” churches in other parts of the world?

    I’m sure each local church or network of churches tailors their ministry to their congregants. No one is saying the Redeemer NYC focus is appropriate for the churches in Marrakesh or Ho Chi Minh City.

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  11. VV,

    So a pastor must know electricians and welders to have a legitimate ministry? Where is that found in Scripture or Confession? Why is a ministry focused on educated, professional urban people any less legitimate than a ministry focused on rural and suburban people?

    I don’t think he’s saying that. I think he’s calling into question whether the F&W initiative is really what it claims to be. If it claimed to be only focusing on urban professionals and artists, that might be something different.

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  12. Robert – CFW is a ministry of Redeemer and was geared to serve Redeemer congregants, the extremely vast majority of whom are professionals and artists. Since, they are “going global,” so to speak, it will be interesting to see if CFW broadens its scope.

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  13. VV – I attend one of the Redeemer churches and the congregants are overwhelmingly young, white or Asian, college graduates – they would fit the description of Creative Minority, the latest TGC inspired buzzword. This is Redeemer’s core demographic. When you focus your ministry on elite urban professionals that’s what you get. But Redeemerites shouldn’t get to lecture White Evangelicals on the virtues of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity when they’re leaving out the black and brown immigrant security guards, cab drivers, retail cashiers, and bus drivers in CFW workshops. And we’re not even talking about the boring, non-creative, dirty jobs that middle-aged whites do that keep The City running. Nothing for them in CFW workshops either.

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  14. Move over Redeemer CTC; Southern Baptists comin’ atcha:

    The SBC community, both through its teachers and scholars, but also through its various ministries, including the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, International Missions Board, and North American Missions Board has shown me that there is a whole world to learn from and engage with outside of my local community.

    One major advantage that most denominations have over independent churches is that established denominations have more access to focused ministries that promote consistent theology and worldview. The reality is that these non-denominational churches, apart from smaller coalitions and collections of pastoral or missionary partnerships, have very few leaders with enough influence and resources to move seamlessly from the local to the global.

    Within the SBC, I have found that the current approach to church life and Christian witness being promoted by our leaders is both refreshing and motivating. Men like Al Mohler at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Bruce Ashford at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary give me hope that the next generation of leaders within the denomination will be well equipped to speak, write, and teach for the glory of God and the edification of the church. These are men, among other men and women, who I trust to direct the church toward radical discipleship, distinctly Christian moral and ethical worldviews, and renewed affection for the scriptures.

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  15. The City to City church planting initiative I know of here in England gives the impression of being stuffed with highly educated and admittedly jolly decent types. All the descriptions of Redeemer seem to be weirdly replicated in this city church, along with an obsession with contextualized theology. If folks think OL is irrational about TKNY and it’s management style affiliates, then spare a thought for poor hobbits world wide who are seeking Presbyterian practise and are up against this thoroughly non Presbyterian church model.

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  16. D.G.,
    And I thought that at my age, thre were no more big dreams to be had. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I don’t mind parachurch organizations within a certain context that includes a limit on size. I think branching the Redeemer name out past the city goes outside the context with which I am comfortable.

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  17. DGH – to my knowledge the Redeemer session never oversaw City to City. I could be wrong about that, but my understanding is that it was a separate entity founded by Redeemer, but not under the auspices of Redeemer. How is that murky?

    Andrew Alladin – I find it amusing that you “attend one of the Redeemer churches,” for which you seem to harbor great disdain. There are plenty of other church options in NYC now – you can thank Redeemer for that. But your criticism is misplaced, and your description of the congregants explains why. Since you attend Redeemer, how many “black and brown” (what does race have to do with it?) security guards have you seen attend? How many plumbers? Electricians? Factory workers? Do you even know of an adult without a college degree at Redeemer? The point is why would Redeemer – or any church – have a ministry for people who don’t attend the church? Seems like a great waste of resources, no? When a large contingent of “black and brown” taxi drivers show up, then maybe the Center for Faith and Work should expand their available resources to minister to them. Until then, what’s the point?

    And the relative lack of black and Hispanic Redeemer congregants is not a bad thing. The church services are held in the heart of Manhattan, and particularly wealthy and educated parts of Manhattan at that. The offices are located a block from Times Square and a few blocks from Rockefeller Center. So of course educated, professional people attend! And what’s wrong with that? How many white Wall Street types do you think attend the local Iglesia Pentacostal in Spanish Harlem? How many Asian software engineers do you think attend Mother African Zion Methodist Episcopal Church? Do you think any of those types of churches have ministries for academics and opera singers? I doubt it. Churches minister to the needs of their congregants, which is exactly what Redeemer is doing at CFW.

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  18. Did Paul advocate “ministries for academics and opera singers”? Or paid jazz bands and offertory ballet dancers for that matter? Pragmatic-programmatic pandering “ministries” are so very middle-class evangelical.

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  19. vv, “it was a separate entity founded by Redeemer”

    Since Redeemer is “overseen” by elders, and since the elders “founded” CTC, how is it independent? Something independent would not need Redeemer’s session to found it.

    But if the session at Redeemer is not overseeing things — what we all think — then it’s not murky.

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  20. cw – sure he did – see 2 Timothy 4:2, especially in light of 1 Corinthians 12. What is a specific ministry but a way to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort” congregants to help them fully utilize their gifts in a Christ-centered way?

    DGH – you’re making this way more complicated than it is.

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