But Keller’s influence is probably not measured best by geography.
He has been a leading voice calling Evangelicals back to the cities. Keller’s refrain: “Whatever has the city by the throat carries the culture” has resonated with many. The result has been a resurgence of effective church planting in the major cultural centers throughout the US.
And Keller was doing mercy ministry when mercy ministry wasn’t cool – at least not cool in the mainstream.
There have always been evangelical advocates and practitioners of ministries of compassion and development. But the leaders of this movement – like John Perkins and my friend Randy Nabors – are unique individuals. And seeing these men as unique few seemed to have followed their lead. People admired them, appreciated them, and at times supported their mission and vision, but even just a few years ago few “normal” conservative evangelical congregations engaged in similar work.
Keller, however, by example and instruction, has been a catalyst for mainstream evangelical churches to engage in a more holistic mission. His first book, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road, has become a manual for those exploring the “how-to’s” and “why-do’s” of mercy ministry. (And it is on my recommended list of “Must Reads”.)
Keller now has a new book on the market, The Reason for God. It is #7 non-fiction book on the upcoming New York Times Best Sellers list. A Newsweek review says: “it as is a high-minded argument against recent popular atheist tracts like Christopher Hitchens’s “God Is Not Great.” Elsewhere the book is referred to as “this generations Mere Christianity.”
I’ve read the book, and I find it excellent. I unhesitatingly commend it to anyone who has a philosophical bent, and/or who is struggling with the authenticity of Christianity. But I also suspect it is not a book for everyone. Christians who are not wresting with the questions posed by intellectual atheists may appreciate Keller’s insights, but may not benefit from his reasoning. It is not that it is difficult reading. It is just that the wealth offered is not something such readers feel themselves needing or wanting. Thus the value is lessened.
On a final note, the Newsweek reviewer expressed some disappointment with the book. She had been to Redeemer Church, where she heard Keller preach. I suspect her expectations were raised to an unrealistic level. Keller is self admittedly a “better speaker than writer”. So it is fortunate that Redeemer has posted the sermon series that spawned the book:
The Trouble with Christianity: Why it’s So Hard to Believe It