Tim Keller gives 3 pieces of advice to pastors in message before his death

Pastor and author Tim Keller giving a video message, which was posted on the website of Redeemer Churches and Ministries shortly after his death on May 19, 2023.
Pastor and author Tim Keller giving a video message, which was posted on the website of Redeemer Churches and Ministries shortly after his death on May 19, 2023. | Screengrab:

Pastor and author Tim Keller gave three pieces of advice to pastors in a message recorded weeks before his death and shared online by the church he helped to found.  

Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City, which Keller founded in 1989, shared a video message from Keller over the weekend that had been recorded several weeks before his death. The video message had originally been directed toward the leadership team at Redeemer.

In the video, Keller offers three pieces of advice that center on passages in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah, which he felt would help to guide leaders at Redeemer, as well as other church leaders.

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The first piece of advice Keller gave in the video was “live on the razor’s edge,” quoting Jeremiah 29:7, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.”

“Engage, but at the same time, be different,” said Keller. “Don’t assimilate and just pick up all the views of the culture; but don’t stay out, keep your skirts clean, denounce everyone.”

The second piece of advice Keller gave was “invest, don’t just consume,” reading from Jeremiah 32, in which Jeremiah bought a field, even though the invasion of the Babylonians and subsequent exile of the Jews was imminent.

“Don’t just come here to consume,” Keller added. “Don’t just come to New York to say, ‘I want to get this on the resume and have an exciting church experience and, you know, go to all the great restaurants.’”

“Invest here. Jesus Christ said, ‘I will build my church.’ He doesn’t just say ‘I will build my church, except in big cities.’ ‘I will build my church.’ So, invest in the church. Invest your time, invest, yes, your money, invest your life.”

The final piece of advice that Keller gave was for people to “forget about your reputation,” quoting Jeremiah 45:5, which reads, “seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.”

“Don’t worry about your reputation, don’t worry about your credentials,” Keller said. “Don’t make your ministry success your identity, so if things don’t go well you just feel like an utter failure.”

“Don’t make getting a big name in New York City your main thing. Lift up Jesus’ Name. ‘Halloweth be Thy Name.’ Forget yourself, forget your reputation. Do what you can to lift up God’s Name.”

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 public post on Facebook 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.”

Many church leaders and Christian public figures took to social media or their websites to give their condolences and note how Keller had influenced their walk of faith.

Grammy award-winning artist and contemporary Christian rapper Lecrae was among them, noting that Keller's spiritual guidance “has been a light in dark places for me.”

“I’ve never expressed how he brought me [through] the worst seasons of my life, how his refusal to be a part of the Evangelical industrial construct was empowering for my soul,” said Lecrae.

“When racism and cancel culture detoured me, Tim Keller was a consistent voice and for a season in 2017 he was the only non person of color I could listen to. He welcomed me to so much and brought me through so much.”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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