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

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,199 ratings  ·  177 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 g ...more
Hardcover, 395 pages
Published September 8th 2012 by Zondervan (first published August 7th 2012)
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Eric Chappell
Dec 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014-reading
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
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I finally finished this behemoth of a book! :).

It really was a good read and I recommend it to church leaders.

In fact, I bought 8 copies and plan on walking chapter by chapter through the book with my 4 staff guys and 3 interns starting this April. It'll take us the rest of the year to complete.

I'm not doing this because I agree with every concept in the book but because the concepts in the book are worth discussing and comparing to scripture. So many things Keller said were amazingly thoughtf
Introduction (read on Aug. 21, 2016)
13: success vs. faithfulness < fruitfulness
17: middle space between doctrine and practice = theological vision (see 18–19)
20: overcontextualizing vs. undercontextualizing; graph of theological vision
21: name for theological vision is "Center Church"
21–25: Center Church commitments: Gospel, City, Movement

Section 1: Gospel
Part 1: Gospel Theology
Ch. 1: The Gospel Is Not Everything (read in Nov. 2016)
29: the gospel must be proclaimed; we have been psychologically,
Jon Pentecost
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
What to say about this book? Keller is thoughtful and engaging. At the same time, I've rarely had the experience of thinking--that's a really helpful observation, but.... so many times in one book.

Keller shines in explaining how he engages with secular unbelievers in intellectual, edgy New York. His analyses of the different arms of the missional movement and Christian approaches to cultural engagement is excellent, and really useful.

I have two overall general critiques of the book. First, Kelle
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Rick Stuckwisch
Jun 10, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Demetrius Rogers
Nov 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ministry
This might be the best church ministry book I've ever read. It focuses on doing contextualized ministry in urban centers. It reads somewhat like a text book, however it doesn't bog down in tedium. It avoids rabbit trials (aside from perhaps the critique of the two-kingdoms model on pages 212-217). And it doesn't contain a hint of fluff. Chapters 14, 21, 27, and 29 are gold, and the rest of the book is silver refined by years of experience. So much girth, yet chock full of excellent ideas. My wif ...more
Kristopher Schaal
First, let me say that I really enjoyed this book! Keller is obviously brilliant, he has accomplished a ton for the Lord, and he is a very good author. His book forced me to think in a way that few others that I have read recently have. That was one of the best things about Center Church.

There were also MANY (hundreds?) of practical nuggets that I gleaned! My book has highlighting and notes all over it! Keller’s chapters on church planting and ministry in the city are very insightful! And his ch
George P.
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review originally appeared at

Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012). Hardcover | Kindle

Although the majority of Americans continues to self-identify as Christian, American culture is increasingly post-Christian. Evangelical Christians could once assume the broader culture agreed with them about the existence of God, the shape of moral living, and the usefulness of religious organizations
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I did not read this book cover to cover, but firmly believe that everyone involved in Evangelization (a.k.a. all Christians) ought to invest a bit of time absorbing what Tim Keller has to say. The more of his work that I read, the more I am convinced that he is the C.S. Lewis of our time.
Breanna Chov
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
Definitely a long, textbook read. Lots of great wisdom and insight for ministry. In the various chapters, Keller gave perspectives from both ends of the spectrum and then shared what he thought was a balanced perspective.
Josh Miller
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Frank Peters
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
David Steele
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jan 16, 2013 rated it liked it
I am thankful to God for Tim Keller in many ways, including this book, but I do have some concerns—not alarms mind you, concerns.

I generally choke on the phrases “incarnational ministry” and “redeeming culture.” “Missional” and “contextualization,” have a bad aftertaste, but, with qualification, I can swallow them. To be fair, the former phrases are not predominant, but the ideas are still there. Aside from this, and a thread of pragmatism that runs through this book, there is much wisdom here.
David Cowpar
Oct 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am reviewing the European version of this book, which I cannot find on goodreads.

I really enjoyed Keller's ideas and insights, thoughts and visions and methods that he outlines in the book. They make a tonne of sense. However, I feel I actually lost something from reading the European version of this book. Europe is a vast and diverse place and an application of Keller's work in Germany, Poland, France and Ireland will not be the same thing. So many of these sections seemed redundant to me and
Chuck Bonadies
Jul 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.


Sep 21, 2017 rated it liked it
Overall, really good. Easy to read and digest. Keller's concept of 'theological vision' for ministry is great, and the stuff on contextualisation is very insightful. The section on 'The City' is pretty thin and could be left out without doing violence to this otherwise excellent book. ...more
Oct 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A must read for all pastors, elders, and lay-leaders.
Doug Dunbar
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Andrew Hoffman
Aug 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Best philosophy of ministry book I've read. ...more
Zachary Hanje
Nov 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Fantastic resource. Though I have no pastoral experience to compare his ideas and strategies with, I still found it incredibly helpful to think through general ministry in an urban environment.
Scott Guillory
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Been chipping away at this one for a while now. Really great! I think every church planter, church leader/elder/pastor should read this one.
Dominic Venuso
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Begins with Keller's helpful basic gospel stuff (so, if you have read any Keller, not much new).

Second section was about the importance of church planting in the city. I love his point idea that there is more image of God per square foot in the city than anywhere else. Also found helpful his revival vs. traditional church models, where he suggested both are needed to convert cultural Christians and to disciple converts. Also some stuff I'd need to look at more closely about Christ and culture. H
Matt Gass
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd gladly recommend this book to anyone in church leadership even if you aren't located in a city or consider yourself missional. Center Church challenges the reader to think constructively about serving the Lord by serving the people the Lord has placed us among. Consistent with the rest of Keller's writing, this book is intellectually rigorous, penetrating in analysis, and honest towards other points of view. Center Church is more in quantity of all those things than most other works in the s ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I have been pretty well humbled and flattened by this book. Keller, from my own tradition, is clean and surgically precise in his evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of all sorts of ministry models.

One of the best and most noble strengths of the book is the attitude of humility conveyed throughout, which is nearly impossible for any book which attempts to pose as a sort of "how-to" manual, and yet Keller does this, and the result is a willingness to humbly look at one's own blindspots. T
Daniel Nelms
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ecclesiology
Amazingly comprehensive. Keller wrote the most balanced book I’ve yet to read on ecclesiology. Absolutely magnificent! It’s high in theory while being very grounded in the practical. It’s a little biased towards urban ministry (he tried to avoid it, but still, it is). Nevertheless, anyone in any context of ministry anywhere can glean so much from this book.

He is not as Kyperian as I thought he was concerning the church’s relationship to culture. His summary of Niebuhr and Carson’s work on Chris
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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 Redeem

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