My takeaways from the Pastors & Planters Conference

Last week Tim Keller from Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City spoke at several different conferences in Sydney. One of them was the Pastors and (church) Planters Conference. I know not everyone was able to make it, so I thought I’d summarise what I felt were some of the most helpful things I took away.


Before I do, it’s worth mentioning that Keller is an incredible man. He has a unique combination of intellect, winsomeness, and humility all in one. He also has an amazing ability to communicate with secular post moderns in an engaging way. Personally, I am thankful to God for his ministry.

So what did I get from his time in Australia? In no apparent order, here’s four things that stuck out to me:

Gathered vs Scattered- Keller draws a distinction between what he calls the “church gathered” (corporate worship) and the “church scattered” (the rest of the week). Most critiques of Keller will often miss this distinction. A large part of what he is known for is his emphasis on doing justice and mercy. But, says Keller, this is primarily the responsibility of the church scattered. Individual Christians ought to band together and serve the poor, as well as start new initiatives that tackle poverty and care for the oppressed. The “church gathered”, however, needs to focus on making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ.

Discipleship for all of life– Keller argues that we need to do a much better job at training people to integrate their faith with their work. If most people spend 60-70% of their waking hours at work, why are we not equipping them more effectively for this? In truth, I don’t think we ignore this completely, but there’s certainly lots of room to grow. How should people think about their work? How should they be in their work? And what should they do in their work? Mature Christianity has got to involve more than just being on a roster and tithing your income.

Learn from and partner with others- a big theme of the conference was catholicity. That doesn’t mean we should all be Catholics, it means that we should be willing to learn from and partner with those we might not always agree with. In truth, Keller didn’t actually give many practical examples of what this “partnership” might look like on a church by church basis. Rather, he seemed to be encouraging the leaders of different churches to get to know one another. I liked this. While we shouldn’t ignore our own distinctives, humbly engaging with others could go a long way towards breaking down some unhelpful prejudices.

Grace renewal dynamics- according to Keller, true change comes by applying the gospel to our hearts. For example, it’s not enough to say, “Stop being greedy and be generous!” All that does is produce guilt in those who are greedy and pride in those who are generous. Instead, we need to help people to see that though they were poor in Spirit, Christ who was rich became poor to make them rich. In other words, we don’t tell people not to break the “generosity rule”, we show them how the gospel transforms our approach to wealth. Once you see that you have been made rich through Christ’s generosity, it helps you to be generous towards others.

In all honesty, you could get every one of these points from the book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. So if you missed the conference, buy the book and read it! You probably won’t agree with all of it, but it’s a thought provoking read by an outstanding man.

Question: What did you get out of the conference or what is one thing you appreciate about Tim Keller? Leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “My takeaways from the Pastors & Planters Conference

  1. Love those points. I have a question – did he make any comments about whether the church gathered should provide opportunities to address justice & mercy? Or does he think it’s better left to individuals in groups outside of church?

    • Good question Ash. He suggested the church gathered should be discipling people to be those who care for the poor and oppressed… but in terms of providing outlets for people to do that he thought it should primarily be an activity of the church scattered. An example of how this has worked out in practice at Redeemer is that the church gathered (Redeemer Presbyterian Church) created a spin off organisation called Hope For New York to equip the church scattered. Hope For New York is a separate entity to the church and works to recruit volunteers and connect them with existing organisations who are caring for the poor in the city. It doesn’t come under the leadership of the Elders at Redeemer but it was birthed out of the church and their passion to see people serving the poor. Hope that helps