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On Charging Money for Sermons

I recently had a conversation with a friend who thought it wrong that Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City (Tim Keller’s church) charges for sermons. I have several thoughts on this:

  • First of all, I agree with “Robbie” who left a comment to a blog post once, saying, “The reason that Redeemer charges money for the sermons is that every year 1/3 of the congregation leaves due to starting a family or job. Many people are new Christians who do not believe in tithing, if they do it is very little. So the “profits” from sermon recordings go to the gospel ministry.” If someone were to visit Redeemer this weekend, they would find a church that meets in rented spaces and uses a music stand for a pastor’s podium and whose preachers use a corded microphone on a microphone stand (gasp) to amplify their voices. When the sermon mp3s begin by saying, “The net proceeds of the sales of Redeemer recordings are used to support the ministries of Redeemer Presbyterian Church,” they’re not kidding.
  • Second, why do we gladly spend $5 on a healthy meal but begrudge $2.50 for a sermon that will be food for us emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and relationally?
  • Third, as part of their 20-year birthday, Redeemer released 150 free sermons that thoroughly communicate the “DNA” of Redeemer’s message. It’s a categorized, tagged resource that allows people to get manifold looks at the gospel.
I know many will quote Matthew 10:8 here, saying, “Freely we have received the gospel, so we should freely spread it via free sermon audio.” Be careful of context in such Scripture use!
What do you think? Leave a comment.
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Tim Keller Video Notes — “Researching Your City”

In a short Q & A video, a church planter asks Tim Keller to discuss how one can learn the cultural narrative of his or her city. This can be applied on a larger scale–to one’s state or nation–and on a smaller scale–to one’s workplace or family. Here is Keller’s response:

  • You can start by studying it’s history. It’s amazing how much the history of your city continues to play itself out. NYC for example was started just to make money. Boston was started by the Puritans, who had an ideal. Pennsylvania was started by the Quakers, who had an ideal. Almost every other colony was started by people who had an ideal of what a human community should look like, but NYC was started strictly to make money. Period. And it’s still playing itself out.
  • As well as history, you should also talk to urban planners and anthropologists to understand the people groups inside your community.
The more we understand the people with whom we work and live, the more we are able to minister the gospel to them with compassion and understanding.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #6: Hope for the Church

Sermon preached on November 1, 2009.

The teaching is based on Hebrews 10:19-25.

Tim Keller preached this message. Dr. Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is also an author of the books Ministries of MercyThe Reason for GodProdigal GodCounterfeit GodsGospel in LifeGenerous Justice, and King’s Cross.

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.

Introduction: The purpose of the 10-year plan that we are embarking on is to train, equip, and send–this hasn’t been Redeemer so much.

 

Outline:

I. The Irreplacability of Christian Community

II. The Character of Christian Community

III. The Secret of Christian Community

 

I. Irreplacability

  • an aggregation is like a bag of marbles; a congregation is like a cluster of grapes, organically connected
    • church is not a place to come and get taught and counseled
    • v. 25 Pastors have used this to say, “Come to church!”–but the spurring on of one another doesn’t happen during worship services
    • v. 21-22–the presence of God is what changes us–so then how do we draw near?
      • We spur one another on! We access the presence of God through each other
  • C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity: “Christ works on us… above all else through each other. We are carriers of Him…”
  • Wesley: the Bible knows nothing of solitary religion

II. The Character of Christian Community–what does it mean to be in community?

1. Considering 2. Spurring 3. Encouraging 4. Working

1) Considering: As a counselor, you take notes because you’re being careful, deliberate; your purpose is to see them grow.

2) Spurring: This is the Greek word “irritate.” It means to sharply contend for someone to make them better.

  • Illustration from Homer: As Odysseus approaches the Sirens, he tells his men to ignore him and row. “Give me what I need, not what I want.” So the question is, have you given this kind of permission to some people in your life? People who you’ve told your sins and who you’ve told to check on you? A covenant is a promise to live in community and make yourself accountable to others.

3) Encouraging: This is the opposite of spurring. You’ve got to have both together. In Greek, encourage means to give assurance, to get in their shoes.

4) Good deeds: In Greek, “beautiful works.” These are practical; as a Christian, you’re not above little things, like making a casserole. Also do these toward the marginal; love those who the world has taught you not to like. No matter where you’re from, the world has taught you to despise some group.

III. What’s the secret of this community?

  • Our mouth waters to think of a church like the one I’ve been describing.
  • The secret, by this text (Hebrews 10:19-25), is the assurance of your salvation
    • v. 19: Confidence is not how you feel at a job interview; look at a little 8 year old coming to tell you something. He doesn’t think of how to do it.
    • In v. 19, we have confidence: we can speak freely to God, like 8 year olds; we can open up.
    • Objectively, you know you’re accepted, you know you’re in
    • Subjectively, draw near, actually experience it
  • J. C. Ryle: “Now assurance goes far to set a child of God free from this painful kind of bondage, and thus ministers mightily to his comfort. It enables him to feel that the great business of life is a settled business, the great debt a paid debt, the great disease a healed disease, and the great work a finished work; and all other business, diseases, debts, and works, are then by comparison small…” (this quote at greater length)
  • C. S. Lewis, “The Inner Ring,” from The Weight of Glory: People don’t realize to what degree they are motivated to be on the inside.
    • You want to hang out with people that make you feel good about yourself. It’s why you disdain some people.
      • It means, finally, that you’ll be serving people for their sake! You won’t be creating cliques any more.
  • Tony Campolo once threw a birthday party for a Honolulu prostitute at 3:30 in the morning–in response, the owner of the dive that hosted the party said, “If there was a church that did this kind of thing, I’d join that church.” (fully story here).

The secret of the secret: Jesus Christ was the high priest who opened the way. The immediate wages of sin is utter aloneness. Jesus on the Cross was getting cosmic aloneness, so that we never have to be alone. We can belong to the church.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: The Gospel, Hope, and the World — Sermon #5: Hope for your Work

Sermon preached on October 25, 2009.

The teaching is based on Titus 2:11-3:9.

Tim Keller preached this message. Dr. Keller is the Senior Pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is also an author of the books Ministries of MercyThe Reason for God, Prodigal God, Counterfeit Gods, Gospel in LifeGenerous Justice, and King’s Cross.

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.

Outline:

I. The passion of hope

II. The case study of hope

III. The reason we can have this hope

I. The passion (or force) of this hope (v. 13)

  • We are people who are eager to do good.
  • In the Scriptures, the Second Coming is never brought up to get us to speculate on the end–it’s to get you passionate about living now.
  • The Second Coming is to fill bad lives with good news
    • Passionate and compassionate Christians want the second coming
    • the second coming accomplishes two things: everyone knows him, and everyone is treated justly
  • “righteous” means to live justly in the world
    • the righteous are those willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community
  • the just person sees their resources as belonging to those around them; the unjust see them as MINE (vv. 3:1-2)
  • righteousness/uprightness is not just about ethical goodness; it’s about the common good as well.

II. The Case Study of Hope

  • At Redeemer, we believe it’s important to teach how to incorporate faith and work
  • If you’re a moralist, you’ll want to know exactly what it looks like to be a Christian artist or teacher
    • But not all things have exacts; some things have trajectories; in this case, being a Christian in your job will have a trajectory along the lines of A) Motivation, B) Proportion, and C) Consolation
  • A) Motivation: Why do you work and take the job that you have?
    • some people take jobs to make money, some to get emotional fulfillment
    • Yet, this passage (Titus 2:11-3:9) asks, “Is my work helping human beings to flourish in some way?”
    • Adam and Eve: a gardener isn’t someone who does or doesn’t touch; it’s someone who gets in the soil and takes raw material to give us something we need, physically or emotionally
    • Writers and actors take the raw material of human experience and create stories that teach or help people in some way
  • B) Proportion: “inordinate desires” v. 3:3
    • Most people don’t come to NYC to have a life; they come wanting to get a self (out of their work, most often)
    • It’s overwork when we don’t feel good about ourselves unless we’re accomplishing something
    • If it’s true that he saves us not because of what we’ve done, then we aren’t justified by work (what we do), but by grace (what he’s done)
      • this means that we don’t need to come to our jobs in search of a self
  • C) Consolation: Not idealism, not cynicism
    • Jesus Christ has given us a blessed hope
      • First, we know it’s not going to get perfect now
      • Yet, we work towards it, because we know it exists
    • E.g., “A Leaf by Niggle,” by J. R. R. Tolkein

III. Why do we have a right to see the Second Coming as a hope?

  • It sounds great to think of the end of death, genocide, rape, graft, etc.
    • If there’s no judgment day, what hope does the world have?
    • If there is a judgment day, what hope do we have?
  • What if all of your thoughts were broadcast around the world for a day–just a day?
      • You would die of shame
  • This is exactly how we are before God

2,000 years ago, a man who would have had no shame from such a broadcast–the God-man–took upon himself the judgment day that we deserve. Jesus entered the city not looking for a self, but to lose himself; in so doing, he purchased us an identity that cannot be shaken, so we no longer have to look to our jobs to give us who we are.

Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Importance of Hell”

(Update: Kevin DeYoung posted a 20-page review of Love Wins.)

When I read on Kevin DeYoung’s blog about the controversy surrounding Rob Bell’s promotional video for his upcoming book Love Wins, I was reminded of a Tim Keller article that I read awhile back, titled, “The Importance of Hell.” (Longer, more detailed version is located here.)

Now, remember: Keller preaches in New York City, where the topic of hell is not merely widely questioned, but widely dismissed as irrational or met with anger. Yet, for a long time, I remember “The Importance of Hell” being directly linked to from Redeemer’s home page.

Keller’s article follows this basic outline, with each point answering the question, “Why is the existence of hell important?”:

  • Because Jesus taught on it more than all other biblical authors put together.
  • Because it shows how infinitely dependent we are on God for everything.
  • Because it unveils the seriousness and danger of living life for yourself.
    • Quoting J. I. Packer: “[H]ell appears as a God’s gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves” (Concise Theology, p.262-263)
    • Quoting C. S. Lewis: “Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others… but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud” (The Great Divorce).
  • Because it is the only way to know how much Jesus loved us and how much he did for us.

Regardless of whether you agree with the finer details of Keller’s teachings on hell (i.e., what is hell like?), I hope pointing you to his article will help you see why this isn’t the evil trick of an evil God, but that without hell we wouldn’t have a loving God at all.

Tim Keller Article Notes — “The Honors of the King”

In a March 2011 newsletter article for Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Tim Keller continues the discussion he began last month (“Backlash and Civility”). His writing addresses the question, “How does the Gospel interact with politics and the public sphere?” It’s a quick read, so do check it out here. Some notes:

  • Winston Churchill once offered to nominate C. S. Lewis for quite an honor–no less than the honorary title, “Commander of the British Empire.” However, Lewis turned the offer down. Why?
  • Though Lewis admitted in a letter to Churchill that the honor suited his personal feelings, he “knew that if Churchill, a Conservative politician, recommended him for the [honor] it would only lend credence to what people believed about the Christian faith, namely, that it was not really about truth, but was rather a tool for non-progressive political interests. Lewis refused to let a political entity reward him for Christian service, fearing it would identify Christianity too closely with one political system” (Keller).
    • That last line deserves repeating, because in any workplace where there are politics involved, Lewis’ example merits consideration: “Lewis refused to let a political entity reward him for Christian service, fearing it would identify Christianity too closely with one political system.”
    • Essentially, Lewis eschewed a coveted national honor for the sake of clearly communicating about God.
  • Because Christianity is filled with many truth claims, there is plenty for any political party to pick and choose from, which means that just about any political party can claim to be the “Christian” party.
  • Therefore, any alliance between churches and political parties should be avoided.
  • Yet “the gospel shapes all areas of life. Christians can and should be involved in government, and their Christian faith will be the driving force behind how they engage in politics as well as how they evaluate many policy issues. Also, [we believe] God’s word and often what the Bible says will have public policy implications that are direct and/or indirect. But Christians must not implicitly or explicitly identify their Christianity with political figures and parties” (Keller).

 

Video Notes — Gabe Lyons / Tim Keller Webcast

Here were some interesting tidbits I noted during the Gabe Lyons (The Next Christians )/ Tim Keller Livestream webcast that took place on February 17:

  • The early Christians did quite well when they were out of power, and eventually they ended up with power, but not by seeking it. A lot of people say, that’s the way we’ve got to go. However, can we even go back and look at the book of Acts as a model, since they were a pre-Christian society (had never been in power) and we are entering a post-Christian society (in which we were in power)? Does our post-Christian “baggage” necessitate that our approach to applying the book of Acts be more indirect?  China can perhaps use Acts as a playbook, but can our use of Acts be as direct (not questioning the infallibility of the Bible, but rather the method of application in reading that book)?
  • A sobering thought: Tim’s understanding of how to reach a culture is that people have to be extremely like the people around them, and yet extremely unlike them. If they are too unlike them, they’ll be seen as too weird and won’t persuade. Before Christ, believers in God were seen as very strange. When Christ came, a lot of those customs that made before-Christ believers different were made optional, thereby eliminating a lot of what made early Christians distinct. However, three things remained that made early Christians distinct:
    • Integrity: If we have this, it will make us stand out. Integrity is not valued highly in our culture.
    • Chastity: Was strange then just like it is now, so this is a wash.
    • Generosity: This is what is sobering–Christian generosity was so unique in pre-Christian society, because there was no philanthrophy, no charities like we have today, no hospitals or orphanages. Now that Christianity has given Western society a social conscience, that social conscience has been secularized and that distinctive of generosity has been taken away.
  • Gabe brought up an additional distinctive: the idea of our work being part of our calling, a part of a higher purpose.
  • A discussion of churches trying too hard to be relevant. What does it mean to be the church in this post-Christian setting? Is trying to  be “hip” enough? Is it just a charade?
    • The seeker church movement to some degree was a strategy to show the world that we are like them, that we’re just like you. It errors on the side of being like the people around them and being afraid to be different. Secular journalist have commented, “At least Redeemer doesn’t try to hide what it is,” referring to Redeemer’s pastor in a suit and  tie, organ playing, standing up for hymns, etc.
    • The idea of combining faith and work is an important part of the message to post-Christian society. Tim gives the example of a musician’s group where both non-Christians and Christians attended. The
    • Churches in general have been focused on providing spiritual support, focusing on evangelizing and discipling within one’s vocation. But what’s been under-emphasized is, how do I actually do my job?
      • Tim: When I gather people to teach them how to evangelize and disciple, I’m the expert whose been to seminary and knows more about the Bible than they do. However, when I want to get together a group of musicians or businessman and talk about how to bring to bear the gospel on our work, I’m not the expert. You’ve got to bring together groups of people and have more of a democratic discussion, developing Proverbs-type guidelines for decision making in various work settings.
  • Why Gabe wrote the book: A lot of people were wondering what it would look like to be faithful in this generation.
  • Tim comments briefly on him starting to write books “as an old man,” kidding that Gabe is now “trapped,” because when you write one book, people ask questions that lead you to think that you need to write another book.
  • What should Sunday morning look like?
    • Gabe: Church services are when the church should gather to encourage and disciple and send people out. We shouldn’t just make church a place to bring seekers to hear the good news, where we rely on “super-pastor” to do that for us.
  • What makes preaching relevant?
    • Tim: Not so much the text  you use, not just the privileged parts of the Bible. I sit down and try to give my people a balanced diet of the Bible: not just the prophets, not just the epistles. I don’t like spending 3-4 years on a book of the Bible, going verse by verse, because it doesn’t give them a balanced diet…. When you’re studying the Bible and getting ready to preach, you tend to hear the answers to the questions you have in your mind. So if you’re mind is filled with the questions of your people, then as you preach the Bible in a very balanced way, relevance will happen.
  • How do we stand out?
    • First, “outdo” those around you for concern about your neighborhood.
    • Second, don’t be ashamed 1) to credit your ways to being a Christian, and 2) to hold to your beliefs on sex.