Here’s the second of two interview I did with Tim Keller at the OICCU mission this year. The first one on CS Lewis and Keller is here.
These interviews were conducted just after he had given a talk about the cross of Jesus and what it had accomplished. The text he chose to do this from was John 2 the wedding at Canaan. Which I thought was interesting choice of passage. I asked Tim about it and he explained that he had been given pretty strict instructions from the mission organisers that he should speak on:
1. Who are we
2. What’s wrong with us
3. Who is the one that puts it right – Jesus
4. What did he come to do about it – Jesus on the cross.
To fulfil the brief for night 4 Keller chose to speak on on John 2 the wedding of Canaan – as an evangelistic text – I asked him why he chose this as his text. He explained that he wanted to try a more narrative approach to exploring the implications of the cross and interestingly the response at the end of the talk from not-yet-believers was “I wish this were true.”
Its also interesting the topics he was given – that this is what has become a pretty typical formula for what counts as the gospel (see my review of the Explicit Gospel and article The Gospel is Bigger than you think). The gospel was a predominantly vertical gospel – talking solely about our reconciliation with God and very little about the transformation that the gospel brings to the whole of life . It is very interesting that this outline doesn’t fit with the rest of Keller’s writings for example: Generous Justice or Ministries of Mercy.
What do I conclude from this?
1) Keller is a very humble man – for a leader of his stature to come and serve the OICCU and really speak to the brief they have asked him to is very generous. He was also humble enough to receive critique and feedback from the other volunteers on the mission.
2) Sometimes those of us who write speakers briefs should allow those older and wiser than us to push back a little and challenge us to reconsider them.
This was a huge opportunity to hear vintage Keller and allow his preaching to help UK Christians to contextualise the gospel for our time. He did some really interesting things – including mixing up the usual mission talk format and offering a more narrative approach to preaching the cross for all of which we must be grateful.