The extended First Things interview with Tim Keller is great.

One of the more interesting bits, for me anyway, was this exchange:

KELLER: [T]he seeker church is a church in which you have sort of low participation, there’s a talk, there’s good music—but it’s not really a worship service. You’re not trying to get people engaged. You are targeting nonbelieving, skeptical people as the audience. That’s considered a seeker church. And I would have always said that Redeemer is the kind of church in which we’re trying to speak—it’s a worship service, but we’re trying to speak in the vernacular. We’re trying to speak in a way that doesn’t confuse or turn off nonbelievers. We want nonbelievers to be there. I think that a lot of ministers would never say, “We expect nonbelievers to be constantly there, lots of them there, incubating in the services.” And we do. We do expect that. In that sense we’d be a seeker church. But now I’m afraid I don’t think it’s a good word to use, because when people hear “seeker church” they’re thinking something else.

I found that if you define megachurch as anything over two thousand people, then yes, then we are. But here’s four ways in which we’re not a megachurch, or we don’t do things people associate with megachurches. One is, we do no advertising or publicity of any sort, except I’m trying to get the book out there so people read it and have their lives changed by it, but Redeemer’s never advertised or publicized. And the reason is, if a person walks in off the street just because they’ve heard about Redeemer through advertising, and they have questions or they want to get involved, there’s almost no way to do it unless you have all kinds of complicated programs, places where they can go. But if they come with a friend who already goes there, their questions are answered naturally, the next steps happen organically, the connections they want to make happen naturally . . . We do not want a crowd of spectators. We want a community.

Secondly, we do almost no technology. We don’t have laser-light shows, we don’t have Jumbotrons, we don’t have overheard projectors, we don’t have screens. We don’t have anything like that. Thirdly, we have a lot of classical music, chamber music—we are not hip at all. We don’t go out of our way to be hip.

FT: There’s praise music in the evening services.

KELLER: Yeah, but it’s jazz. It’s toned down. It’s much more New York. It’s certainly not your typical evangelical contemporary music. We actually pound into people that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city. So we pound that into them, that we’re not a consumer place, that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city.

So no publicity, not at all hip, almost no use of technology, definitely consider it a worship service, do not do much in the way of pat answers and how-tos in the sermons but really have people wrestle with the issues—but we do it in such a way that the interests and aspirations and hopes and doubts of non-Christians are constantly addressed. When a person who doesn’t believe comes they’re often surprised at how interesting, intelligible, nonoffensive the thing is. So it’s relatively subtle at this point.

(HT: Rob H.)

Print Friendly

Comments:


4 thoughts on “Keller: "In that sense we’d be a seeker church."”

  1. Daniel says:

    I like his thoughts. The thing that bothers me is this (seeming) trend toward legalism in regards to music styles. I know it’s popular to bash the modern worship music movement but I think if you have a solid worship music leader, he/she can wade through the garbage that’s out there and get some good stuff to his/her congregation and really help teach through the songs (even with loud guitars & drums – sometimes dynamics even help get the point across).I’m not saying Keller or anyone is legalistic about it, just a trend I’m noticing. Otherwise, I like what he has to say – especially this:”We actually pound into people that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city. So we pound that into them, that we’re not a consumer place, that we’re not here to meet your needs but to serve the city.”

  2. Jared says:

    Daniel, I agree with you on the use of technology, but I don’t find Keller’s statements reflecting a trend toward musical legalism. I think he’s just being honest about his own church’s failure to be “hip.”I’d be curious to know where you’re seeing that trend, also. In most of the influential places where the seeker thing is eschewed, the music is still at least contemporary. Most of my reading, anyway, seems to find an emphasis on renewing God-centeredness in worship, not renewing old musical styles.I personally don’t believe style is always neutral, but I do think congregations should employ styles that best contextualize the gospel to their communities.

  3. Daniel says:

    “I personally don’t believe style is always neutral, but I do think congregations should employ styles that best contextualize the gospel to their communities.”Absolutely. I think that’s why Keller’s church is the way it is. They are in NYC. I think style depends on where you are. Heavy metal worship music doesn’t work well in a community with many elderly people, for instance.When I say I’m noticing a trend toward legalism, I guess it’s as much a general feeling I get in the blogosphere. Maybe I shouldn’t be so easy with my words.Of course, I’m touchy sometimes. :-)

  4. Jared says:

    Of course, I’m touchy sometimes.Me too.No worries.Or, at least, we can worry together.:-)

Comments are closed.

Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

Jared C. Wilson's Books