My Tribute to Tim Keller

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Several years ago, I had the great joy of attending my first Together for the Gospel Conference in Indy. I was excited about the meeting in general, but–more particularly–I was ecstatic to sit in one of the first few rows of the conference center and listen to one of my heroes, Tim Keller, bring the Word. His message out of Galatians was life-changing. 

Fast forward to today when I and countless others mourn the loss of this hero of the faith. From a distance, Dr. Keller has helped shape my theology, love for learning, ministry methodology, expository preaching, and apologetics. Still, more than that, his heart and teachings have helped raise my affections for Jesus. Below are a few reasons I so respected this man of God.

He Was Gentle

Keller’s gentle disposition was refreshing in a culture where most people (even pastors) are always angry about something. He demonstrated well how to love our neighbor in word and deed. Though he believed that Christ is the only way of salvation, Tim constantly showed respect to those with differing worldviews. He took the time to engage unbelievers, exemplifying tremendous patience with skeptics and critics of the Christian faith. 

Within the church world, Tim was quite ecumenical; he tended to focus on what Gospel-Centered churches have in common rather than their disagreements over secondary doctrines. It was years before I realized that he was a Presbyterian minister. His identity was not in Presbyterianism but in Christ alone.

He Was Humble

Keller planted a church in New York, now home to thousands of attendees. He has written countless books, many of them best-sellers. He has spoken at many of the most prominent Christian conferences. He has spent time in the company of many dignitaries. His intelligence is off the charts. Yet, despite all these accomplishments (and many others), he always carried himself with humility. He boasted only in the cross. 

He Was Compassionate

Tim had the heart to minister to both the spiritual and physical needs of others. He had a passion for reaching the lost, dedicating much of his time and writings to inviting others to experience the beauty and glory of God through Christ. His heart broke for those far from God.

Keller’s concern for others extended beyond the spiritual; he cared deeply about meeting the physical needs of others and bringing Biblical justice to our world. He engaged the people of New York City and ministered in tangible ways to the needs of others. The secular world took note. 

He Was Thoughtful

In his book, “Know Why You Believe,” Paul Little penned the words, “To be a Christian, you do not have to lose your mind.” This truth was refreshing, particularly after growing up in a culture where every response to skepticism was “because the Bible says so.” Keller was an extraordinarily thoughtful and intellectual pastor. He could engage both the heart and the mind, never shying away from difficult questions regarding the faith. 

Reading and listening to Keller has amplified my desire to be a lifelong learner. He was a voracious reader of multiple genres. His learning did not seem to be about bolstering his ego but about engaging all cultures in Gospel conversation. His intellect afforded him the unique ability to reach well-educated skeptics with the Gospel.

He Was Gospel-Centered

Tim loved the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He constantly reminded his listeners that the Good News is for unbelievers and believers alike; we never outgrow our need for it. He was passionate about reaching the lost with the Gospel and moving believers to glory in it. You would be hard-pressed to find one of his sermons not infused with the Gospel. To him, it was everything. 

I am forever grateful for the life and ministry of Dr. Keller. His writings and sermons have impacted my life and ministry in countless ways. I hope to thank him personally on the other side of eternity. 

According to his son, after a long battle with cancer, Tim wanted to depart to be with his Savior. I can’t imagine the joy he must be experiencing as he is now in the presence of the One he spent his life serving. 

2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (ESV): So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.