I personally met Dr Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church only once in my three years in New York City. He was gracious, and knew well the church plant I was working with (Christ Church NYC), and asked after its health, and its pastor.

But I must have met maybe 40 Sydney clergy types coming through Manhattan in part to see Redeemer. And most were 40-something. (The 20-somethings were going to Seattle!)  I could never tell whether it was because they loved being away from home (energising); or was it being in New York City (enthralling); or was it seeing Tim Keller (magnetic) or was it witnessing Redeemer Presbyterian (stimulating)?

Christianity Today reported last week of How Tim Keller Found Manhattan. Redeemer is a megachurch (although they avoid that word) that meets in three locations on the Upper West and Upper East Side of Manhattan.

It is easy to idealise a church overseas.

But here are some reflections on Redeemer from my experience:

What is unrepeatable:

1. Dr Keller. Face it. You and I will (probably) never be able to communicate like Dr Keller. Dr Keller could sit you in a dark room, and explain to you that this is Disneyland, and you may be tempted to believe him. God has gifted him.
2. The dream start. Redeemer started with large donations and had in place a very motivated and gifted group of evangelists.
3. New York City. Sydney is not Manhattan. Sorry for stating the obvious.

What is repeatable:

1. Redeemer have carefully processed that we live in a post-Christendom world. We can no longer assume that we have the voice of authority.
2. Redeemer is positive towards their city. They seek a generous face, seeking to build, rather than deconstruct.
3. Redeemer seeks to 'exegete' the city. They 'walked the streets' early on to breathe in and consider the needs, drives and fears of New Yorkers. They didn't generalise, patronise, or assume that they knew the needs before they began their project. But when they decided, they were specific.
4. They go deep into the 'soul': what drives and motivates our dreams and fears.
5. They assume that people can be involved in a 'service project' (Mercy Ministry) without sacrificing their commitment to the Gospel.
6. They speak in church as though new people and not-yet-Christians are always present.
7. Tim Keller is positive, insightful, and a good example of the new apologetic. He has clearly identified and articulated certain 'defeater beliefs', and he systematically goes about answering them.
8. They are positive to the professional worker, and they place value on work.
9. They are positive towards other denominations, wanting to work with them to plant new churches.
10. They have created a simple and captivating vision (although worth examining): 'Renew the city socially, spiritually and culturally'.

What may need examining:

1. Is the vision the right one? 'Renewing the city socially, spiritually and culturally'?
2. Is it good to affirm work, create networks, and mobilise leaders toward 'gospel-centred transformation for the common good' without explicit evangelistic intentions?
3. It is said of Dr Keller that he 'hits the sweet spot'. Is that worth aiming for?

I was privileged to spend a year specifically learning form the Redeemer Church Planting Network. I made some dear friends in that movement. I intend to develop a little on what I learnt at Moore College's Church Planting Conference on June 25 and 26.