Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Plenary Address at the 3rd Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization

(This was a plenary address given on 20 October 2010 in Cape Town, South Africa. However, since the gospel is preached and the Word is taught throughout this address, you could easily call it a mini- [16 minute] sermon.)

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

Intro: None! Tim’s first word is the first line of his outline. If you’d like to see this brief, 16 minute address, click here. For more about God’s heart for cities, see Redeemer City to City.

I. Why we must reach the great global megacities

II. How we should

III. Why we can

I. Why must we reach cities?

  1. Cities are so crucially important
    1. Culturally: In the last year both The Financial Times and Foreign Policy did major issues on mega-cities. In Foreign Policy we read this: “The 21st century will not be dominated by America, or China, or Brazil, or India, but by the city. In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities, rather than states, are becoming the islands of governance upon which future world order will be built. Time, technology, and population growth have massively accelerated the advent of this new urbanized era. Already, more than half the world lives in cities, and that percentage is growing rapidly. Just 100 cities account for 30% of the world’s economy and almost all of its innovation.
      1. If you want human life as it is lived in this world to be at all shaped by Jesus Christ, we have to go to the cities.
    2. Missiologically: Four kinds of people are there.
      1. Young adults / the next generation go to cities.
      2. The most unreached peoples in the world are more reachable in cities. When they immigrate to cities, they break their kinship ties and are far more (humanly speaking) open to the gospel than they’ve ever been in their previous habitat.
      3. The people who tend to make the films, write the books, and do the business deals are there.
      4. The poor are there. Something like 1/3 of all the people moving into cities today are going to live in shanty towns. And God loves the poor! If you go to cities, you reach the people who God loves at the bottom.
    3. Viscerally: From the heart. In Jonah 4, at the end, Jonah is very unhappy because God has not destroyed the great city of Ninevah, but he’s very happy with a vine that has grown up, and it’s natural and right to love part of God’s green earth. But then the vine dies, and Jonah gets angry and discouraged and depressed. God argues, You’ve been emotionally attached to the vine! Jonah, you love plants, but I love people.
      1. We recognize that creation reflects God’s glory, but in humans you have more of the image of God per square inch than in the whole world.
      2. A missionary friend of mine once quipped that the country is where there are more plants than people, and the city is where there are more people than plants. Therefore, God must love the city more than he loves the country 🙂 That’s exactly what God is arguing to Jonah in chapter 4.
      3. 300 years ago less than 3% of the world’s population lived in cities. Now that number is 50% and it’s growing rapidly. It’s estimated that every two months 8 million people move into the city. That’s a new Bangkok every two months. The church has got to be everywhere there are people, but right now people are moving into the city faster than the church.

II. How We Should

  1. Urban China is different than China; urban Africa is different than Africa. If you’re going to have an effective center city church, you’ve got to contextualize it. Here are some headings for how:
    1. Churches in the city have to be extremely patient with charges of cultural insensitivity.
    2. Churches in cities have to be clear how their faith relates to their job. People in cities have jobs that are much more important to their lives. Dorothy Sayers, “What good is a church that tells you nothing that’s relevant to nine-tenths of your life?” For urban dwellers their job is 9/10 of their life.
      1. An actor came and asked Tim to disciple him. Tim said, “Great!” But the actor asked, “What roles should I take? What do you think of method acting?” Tim said, “I have no idea, because I only know how to disciple people by taking them out of their church world and into my church world.”
    3. Constantly open to disorder and change. You have to live with that.
    4. Intensely evangelistic and famous for its concern for justice–at the same time. You can’t afford to not have that balance.
    5. A commitment to the arts. Churches outside the city do not usually need to be as attentive to the arts.
    6. Cooperative with other denominations and traditions in a way that they can afford not to be outside of the city.

III. Why We Can

  1. Many of us are defeatist about this. Here’s why we can:
  2. In Genesis 18, God visits Abraham and says, “I’m going to destroy these cities.” Abraham approaches and does three remarkable things:
    1. He prays for an unbelieving city–this is extremely rare in the OT. He doesn’t just ask for Lot, but for the cities.
    2. He essentially endangered himself for their sake by approaching the holy God to spare the city AND asking for these cities to live even though they are a threat to him.
    3. He makes a theological case, acting as a representative, a high priest, saying, “Is it possible that the righteousness of the few could save the undeserving many?”
    4. But, in the end, Abraham didn’t get his prayer, did he? As high priest, he was turned down. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed; they didn’t have the high priest they needed…
  3. …but we do.
    1. Abraham prayed for people who might have killed him, but Jesus Christ, the ultimate high priest, prayed for people who DID kill him.
    2. Abraham risked his life for these unbelieving cities, but Jesus gave his life for them.
    3. Most interestingly of all, Abraham had a theological concept that the righteous few might save the unbelieving many, but Jesus Christ is the reality,  the only righteous one.
  4. When Jesus becomes your high priest, you and I can become the priests that the cities of this world need.
    1. We should pray for them, as our neighbors.
    2. We should sacrificially lay out our lives for them.
    3. Most of all, we should offer the righteousness of Jesus Christ for them, that they may be saved.

Application: We can be the priests that our cities need. Look at the cities. Look at the mass of them. Why are you not moved? Let’s go to them.


About davestuartjr
Dave Stuart Jr. is a full-time teacher who writes about becoming better, saner teachers at He is a follower of Jesus Christ, a husband to Crystal, and a father to Hadassah, Laura, and Marlena.

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