‘He made me yearn for Jesus’: Former SBC president JD Greear remembers Tim Keller

Pastor Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, speaks at Movement Day Global Cities at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City on October 27, 2016.
Pastor Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, speaks at Movement Day Global Cities at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City on October 27, 2016. | The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair

Pastor J.D. Greear of Summit Church and a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention recently shared how pastor and author Tim Keller influenced him and his approach to the Gospel.

In a piece published on May 19 for Baptist Press, the date of Keller's passing, Greear wrote about how hearing Keller's preaching “always made me love Jesus more.”

“In every message, there would come a point where he’d just get lost in wonder at who Jesus was,” wrote Greear. “He made me yearn for Jesus, showing me that there was more — so much more — to experience in the love of Christ than what I had settled for.”

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Greear said that American Christianity “lost a spiritual giant,” believing that “tens of thousands of us” have churches and ministries that “will never be the same because of his influence.”

“It was Tim Keller who taught me that the Gospel was not merely the diving board off of which we jump into the pool of Christianity, but the pool itself — that we grow as Christians not by going beyond the Gospel, but by going deeper into it,” said Greear.

The former SBC president said he first came across Keller’s work in 2006 in a podcast series and proceeded to listen to many of his sermons online for the next several years.

“It was Tim Keller who taught me that church multiplication was the primary mission of the Church,” he continued. “It was Pastor Tim who birthed in me the vision that became the defining mission of The Summit Church of the last 10 years: planting 1,000 churches out of our church within a generation.”

“It was Tim Keller who taught me that the Gospel confronts the cultural idols of both the political left and right, and that no political platform fully represents the mission of the people of God.”

Greear also credited Keller with teaching him that “the primary calling of the church is not to be culture warriors winning arguments but missionaries winning hearts.”

“He taught me what it meant to be charitable with those who disagree, to affirm whatever I could, to find common ground, and to show that the Gospel provides a better answer,” he added.

Keller died on May 19 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer, with the renowned pastor leaving behind his wife, three sons, three daughters-in-law, a sister, and seven grandchildren.

“Timothy J. Keller, husband, father, grandfather, mentor, friend, pastor, and scholar died this morning at home,” Keller’s son, Michael, shared in a Facebook post last Friday.

“Dad waited until he was alone with Mom. She kissed him on the forehead, and he breathed his last breath. We take comfort in some of his last words, ‘There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest.’ See you soon, Dad.”

Keller founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City in 1989, a congregation that would eventually grow to have approximately 5,000 average weekly worship attendees across five campuses.

He also wrote several theological works, including The Reason for God, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, The Meaning of Marriage, The Prodigal God, The Songs of Jesus, and The Prodigal Prophet.

Since his death, many church leaders and others have taken to social media to give their condolences, among them Andrew T. Walker, a Christian ethics professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“For me, he stands out as a Christian leader for whom ideas mattered,” Walker said. “I can distinctly recall being in college and reading the Reason for God and being struck at the utter reasonableness of the case he made for Christianity.”

“He was even a cerebral preacher and he did it unbelievably well. There was an authenticity to his preaching that made it more than just head knowledge, though.”

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