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Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City
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Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

4.47 of 5 stars 4.47  ·  rating details  ·  521 ratings  ·  86 reviews
Many pastors struggle to translate their theological beliefs into fruitful ministry in the places they are called to reach. It's not enough to simply know what to believe (theology) or, on the other hand, how to do ministry (methodology)---they need something in between. They need help thinking about ministry in a culture that no longer believes Christianity is a force for ...more
Hardcover, 395 pages
Published September 4th 2012 by Zondervan (first published August 7th 2012)
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Mere Christianity by C.S. LewisThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. LewisThe Reason for God by Timothy KellerThe Great Divorce by C.S. LewisConfessions by Augustine of Hippo
The Christian Intellect
95th out of 460 books — 442 voters
The Trellis And The Vine by Colin MarshallLife Together by Dietrich BonhoefferBrothers, We Are Not Professionals by John PiperTotal Church by Tim ChesterDangerous Calling by Paul David Tripp
Local Church
36th out of 54 books — 24 voters

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Eric Chappell
One of the best books I've read on pastoral ministry. One of Keller's best. Okay, I know what you're saying: "So you too have drunk the Keller Kool-aid?" Yes. Yes, I have. And quite frankly, haters are going to hate. Keller's been in ministry 30+ years, has a relentless understanding and passion for Jesus and the gospel, and is incredibly insightful in connecting the culture's plotlines with the ultimate Story of Jesus in showing how He ultimately fulfills what our hearts and communities long fo ...more
Rick Stuckwisch
I read this book on the recommendation of a friend and colleague in the Holy Ministry. Although it is from outside of my own confession and communion (the author is a Presbyterian), I found the book to be thoughtful and thought-provoking, insightful and well-written. His treatment of the role of cities in the modern world, and his engagement of various theories of and approaches to ecclesiology and evangelism, were informative and helpful. I appreciated his balanced and even-handed discussion of ...more
I have aligned (and again) myself with the missional emphasis in reformed theology and I have also been critical elsewhere (and again). I also recommended highly Kevin DeYoung’s What is the Mission of the Church? (buy) for a balanced critique of the missional movement. While stressing the importance of good works as fruit of our faith, DeYoung is clearly outside of the missional camp. Now I will recommend Keller’s Center Church which also stresses the importance of good works as fruit of our fai ...more
Frank Peters
This is an outstanding book, but requires two warnings: first it is a text book (and reads like one) that was likely designed as the textual material for a course on ecclesiology (or a study on the church), and second the beginning of the book was not sufficiently thought provoking to encourage further reading. As a text book, the material is primarily factual and dense. It would be easy to transform each chapter into a series of powerpoint slides in order to present the essence of the material. ...more
Josh Miller
In my opinion, Keller hits a home-run when it comes to the philosophy of "church." This is not a nuts-n-bolts "methodology" book so much as it is a "theological vision" book. Any person who has a heart for people and for the church would benefit by its contents of church ministry, especially "city" church ministry.

While reading this book on my Kindle, I highlighted 183 different paragraphs and/or sentences that contained nuggets of truth.

Several items stood out to me while reading this lengthy
Joy Matteson
This is one of those books that covers so much territory in theology, Christian ministry, devotional living, and ecclesiology that it's hard to put into one book review. I received this Kindle edition as an ARC from NetGalley, and although it took me some time to get through it, it was well worth reading every page. Keller has taken the time to fully explain how his ministry does church, his theological vision (as he puts it), and how to strike the balance between four different kinds of church ...more
Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, a megachurch in NYC of all places. Because of his success, many have sought to figure out what the structure and model of his church is in order to replicate it. In this brilliant book, Keller explains that his success is not due to any one structure, but rather due to a “centered” approach in his philosophy of ministry. Specifically, Keller discusses how and why a church should hold a centered position in preaching the gospel (a gospe ...more
Reformed theology, it seems, can go two ways: Applying the doctrine of total depravity to epistemology can either leave you with a rigid and uncritical dogmatism (a la Piper and Driscoll) or it can make you genuinely open to receiving God's truth from everywhere. Tim Keller is of that latter sort. It seldom you read something as learned and wise as this book from a pastor. I haven't read that many church manual type books so I didn't quite know what to expect going in, but this book really floor ...more
Ben Williams
Tim Keller has been a highly influential figure in evangelical circles for quite a while. He is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and has written several books including the Reason for God and The Prodigal God. This winter, while thinking through the deacon ministry at our church, I picked up his book Ministries of Mercy and was blown away. As a rooted evangelical, the topic of mercy ministry and social justice have always been associated with liberal Christianity. Howe ...more
David Varney
Comprehensive, balanced and incredibly thorough. Simply the best and most compelling book I have ever read on the subject of church. Irrespective of 'tradition' this is essential reading for any church leader. This book will become a modern classic.
Chuck Bonadies
Great book on how to find a balance in ministry. I found his section the church and culture especially helpful. Keller does a great job of showing the merits and problems of all of the views, and provides a solution in moving forward.


Mike Conroy
This book came at the perfect time for me! This has been one of the most important books I have ever read on church ministry. It is theological and very hands on. Tim Keller walks us through the intense process of how Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC formed their ministry. In order to help other walk through that same process, not to try to duplicate Redeemer, but to discern how God would have us to ministry to the people in the areas that He has called us to serve Him in.

Even when I disagre
Dr. David Steele
I have been reading books about the church for almost thirty years now. Most of the best material is being churned out by Mark Dever and the boys at 9Marks. Tim Keller's, Center Church is a welcome guest in the growing list of books on ecclesiology.
Keller sets out to communicate one central message which is summed up in the subtitle: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry in the City. Center Church is encyclopedic in nature. It covers every subject conceivable and is a helpful tool in every pa
Ryan Linkous
This really is an excellent book that anyone hoping to pastor in a city or church plant anywhere (or even pastor anywhere) must read. Keller wisely addresses many practical, theoretical, and theological issues involved with the city and pastoring a church.

His books is primarily concerned with developing a "theological vision" aka "how to contextualize well." He gives great insights on how to share the gospel well, the importance of the city in the future of humanity and therefore in the future o
Gene Cornett
This is typical Keller applied to a comprehensive approach to church based ministry, especially as it applies to doing ministry in the city. However, he makes the argument early on that because of the pervasiveness of popular culture, more and more suburban and even rural areas and their people take on characteristics of a city mentality. Though listening to it was of tremendous benefit, this was not a great choice for an audible format. Nor do I think an electronic version will do it, so I'm st ...more
Andrew Hoffman
Best philosophy of ministry book I've read.
Why is the Church seemingly struggling so much in relating to culture in the United States? Doesn't this country have a great history in the Christian traditions?

In this book Keller does not seek to directly answer these questions but wishes to bring the focus of the Church back to the Gospel of Jesus. In doing this Keller addresses these issues as well as the historical assumptions of the Church that have brought us to this point in history.

It is the perspective of the Gospel that sets this boo
Bob Allen
Aug 02, 2013 Bob Allen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pastors, church members in cities; missionaries in cities; mission agency leadership
Recommended to Bob by: Ron Copeland
Great read, but not an easy read. You need to digest this book and I'll reread immediately. Very dense 385 pages of content. While the sub-title includes the word "City", the principles outlined in "Center Church" are not urban-exclusive. Many of the principles apply equally to non-urban work, as Keller, himself, states. Things that stood out to me: don't try to take a strategy that worked in one location, either urban or rural, and simply transplant that strategy to a different location because ...more
I love this book! Dr. Keller has given a wonderful resource to the church. Any leader or pastor who wants to become clearer and more relevant to the people they are trying to reach would be helped by this book. It is not a book to speed read or skim through. It is a book that requires reflexion and thought, hard thought especially to apply to your specific situation. Dr. Keller argues for a theological vision and then builds a matrix one can pick up and apply with effort to ones own place and ti ...more
A pastor I know, who served under Keller in Redeemer's early days, once said that Keller's greatest gift was synthesis--his ability to bring together and incorporate so many different ideas into one unified vision. This book is Keller's vision, his magnificent and sweeping synthesis of all his reading, reflection, and ministry experience put all into one place, what he terms his theological vision. It really does do an admirable job of filling a much neglected space between the overly pragmatic ...more
Brilliant analysis and diagnosis of the urban ministry and what our calling should look like. I was really edified by his chapter on contextualization and on movement/institutions. This is written in the North American urban context but there are important and helpful advice for those of us who live in a non-western urban context. Recommended read!
Tim Hatfield
Feb 04, 2014 Tim Hatfield marked it as to-read
Shelves: reading-own
I do, and do not like this book so far.

Appreciate his balance between RH and systematic readings of scripture. The "what is the gospel really?" Question which pits classical reformed soteriology "against" some of the NT Weight (ish) more narratival, God seeks justice and the reconciliation and transformation of the whole cosmos and not just individuals pretty interestingly. He doesn't mention Wright by name but perhaps had him in mind.

Weight is very focused on Gods plan to redeem THE WHOLE cos
Leigh McLeroy
This is really three books in one, and the result of very nearly a lifetime of ministry in a city church and city churches (Redeemer Pres in NYC and plants in its world network). As such, it is dense, rich, and not easily digested--which is no criticism. It should be. It has to be. Book 1 = doctrinal foundation; book 2 = theological vision; book 3 = ministry expression; or, as Keller says, What to Belive, How to See, and What to Do. It is not an easy read, and it is not for everyone. But it migh ...more
Cody Brobst
Super helpful diagrams, good content from Keller that I've heard in other places, but overall makes for a great resource for church planters, ministry leaders, and those simply wanting to have a more Gospel-centered ministry. He finds the balances in the hard places.
David Hardin
Great book that is full of wonderful insights, challenging ideas. Keller has wrestled with the challenge of ministry in post Christian America and has a very helpful vision for engaging it. I only gave the book 4 stars because I think in an effort to defend the gospel he presents a limited definition. Also and more importantly it is massive, and feels like it struggles with identity. I can't decide if it is an introductory book on the meaning of gospel, a theological treatise on the biblical def ...more
Jon Nitta
Without the hype I would easily say this is a marvelous work by Keller. It is a lot to take in particularly as he provides a somewhat academic background to the city, culture and mission. And some portions are covered in previous books. However, the brilliance of Center Church is that it lays out a compelling picture of church both as a movement in the city as well as an institution. My only minor criticism is that he uses the word "balance" quite a bit. My sense is that "tension" might be more ...more
Tim Crabtree
This book is a great resource for thinking about living as a Christian in the place where you are now. And it is proof that I would read just about anything written by Timothy Keller.
Kyle McManamy
This is Tim Keller's philosophy of church ministry developed over 2 decades of ministry in NYC and I can't think of a faith tradition in the Christian spectrum that wouldn't benefit from it. While the book aims at those in city-based churches, all of the principles and insights apply to suburban and rural contexts as well. This is a book I'll reread for years to come and study.

I especially recommend it to those in churches in cities and college ministers (universities are small cities). It's set
Paul Kurtz
I have read this book twice now and I think I will need to read a few more times to really grasp all that is being presented. There is excellent material on the gospel and contextualization of the gospel for those we are trying to reach. The emphasis is on large cities because of their great influence on culture. This seems to make good sense, but is a new concept to me. I was also greatly impressed by the author's argument for the need to be involved in church planting. This is another concept ...more
Great book. One of the most practical books on engaging today's culture with the message of the Gospel
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  • Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission
  • Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry
  • Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission
  • Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
  • The Cross and Christian Ministry: Leadership Lessons from 1 Corinthians
  • Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry
  • The Trellis And The Vine
  • What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done
  • What is the Mission of the Church?: Making sense of social justice, Shalom and the Great Commission
  • Gospel-Centered Discipleship
  • The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters
  • The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything
  • The Church: The Gospel Made Visible
  • The Mission of God's People: A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission
  • Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus
  • Community: Taking Your Small Group Off Life Support
  • What Is a Healthy Church Member?
  • Is God Anti-Gay?: And Other Questions about Homosexuality, the Bible and Same-Sex Attraction
Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and pub
More about Timothy Keller...
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God King's Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus

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“God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises “before the nations.” We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them.” 6 likes
“Even if 80 percent of the population of a country are Christian believers, they will have almost no cultural influence if the Christians do not live in cultural centers and work in culture-forging fields such as academia, publishing, media, entertainment, and the arts. The assumption that society will improve simply be more Christian believers being present is no longer valid.” 3 likes
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