Tim Keller, Redeemer City to City, and the Rise Campaign

Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer New York (PCA) has announced this week that he will be stepping down as Senior Pastor in order to dedicate his work towards church planting in New York City:

Tim Keller is devoting the next decade of his life to this vision for New York. He will step down from his role as senior pastor to pivot into the strategic role of teaching and mentoring more leaders to do evangelism and church planting in an urban context. This shift will leverage his credibility and experience planting and leading churches in the New York context to multiply a church planting movement in every neighborhood of New York. He and his wife, Kathy, are dedicating the rest of their lives to serve and minister in New York.

This was also the launch of a new campaign, Rise, to raise funds for planting churches and training pastors through Redeemer City to City and the Redeemer City Ministry Program:

All funds donated to the Redeemer Rise Campaign will be stewarded and held by Redeemer with oversight by the Redeemer elders. The below chart represents our target $80M project budget. If funds raised are above or below that total, the elders in partnership with the staff leadership will determine the appropriate allocation of funds to projects and will report back to donors with those plans.

* We want to be sure you’re aware that a portion of any funds you donate to Redeemer as part of the Rise Campaign may be given to Redeemer City to City, a separate organization affiliated with and founded by Redeemer that has developed expertise in church planting and church leadership recruitment and development over the past 15 years; funds given to City to City will be used for planting non-Redeemer churches and for scholarships for potential non-Redeemer pastors. What portion of your funds is given to Redeemer will depend on a variety of factors, including the total amount raised and the purpose for which it is donated, but if we were to raise $80M, it would be somewhere around $22M.

What is Rise? The website details the campaign:

A gospel movement is rising in New York City. Rise is a campaign to accelerate it.

Twenty five years ago, the number of center-city New Yorkers in gospel-centered churches was 1%. Today that number is 5%. By 2026, we believe it can reach 15%.

Rise is the first part of a 10-year vision to accelerate toward a tipping point of gospel-influence in New York City —and through it, the world.

If more New Yorkers embody the gospel in how they live and work, it advances the common good. It will catalyze growth in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, more humane workplaces, arts that promote hope, and less crime and institutional corruption.

The Rise website explains their goal and vision:

Tripling the body of Christ in New York City will take much more than a single church or a single denomination. It will take partnership between many gospel-centered church leaders and the start of many more churches to reach our neighbors. We’ve developed a strategic plan to plant 100 new center city churches in the next 10 years. We need to start with at least 10 churches this year and we need partners to help us fund them.

This is a 10 year vision, beginning this year. Redeemer’s own congregation raised more than $32M to support the project this last Spring. But we’re not done. We are excited to invite you into this vision. Will you join us today?

The movement will take many leaders and will be led forward by a new collaborative partnership between Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Redeemer City to City—both founded by Tim Keller.

They believe that if they can increase the percentage of Christians in New York City, they can bring about significant change for the city:

Our vision is to see the body of Christ in center-city New York triple to 15%—which we believe might amount to a tipping point that does more than change individual lives, but enhances the long-term life of our city for everyone in it.

The vision is an entire city renewed by the gospel.

If a critical mass of New Yorkers express gospel values—mercy, friendship, justice, hope—in our work, lives, and neighborhoods, we believe it will help the city flourish for everyone in it. We can’t reach a tipping point by building a bigger Redeemer. We need a people-driven movement of New Yorkers in every neighborhood rising to embody the gospel in how we live, work, and serve.

In order to do this, Redeemer, through the Rise Campaign seeks to plant churches and train leaders:

In order to grow the body of Christ in New York City from 5% to 15%, church planting is essential. We cannot reach a tipping point merely through the transfer of Christians from other churches—we must welcome and serve those who do not currently profess faith. New churches are shown to be the most effective method of reaching those not already part of a church, attracting three to six times more non-Christians than older churches. New churches are also the most effective way to spark renewal for existing churches. That renewal can catalyze blessing in every neighborhood as churches increase mercy and justice through meeting the needs of their neighbors across the city.

Why do Keller and Redeemer want to plant churches and train leaders? To see New York City flourish:

We’re doing this for our city. Our longing is to see New York—and everyone in it—flourish. We believe the best way to serve the city is to embody the gospel in every neighborhood. The gospel doesn’t just change individual lives; it advances the common good. The increase in philanthropy, mercy, justice, racial reconciliation, integrity, and hope that occurs when more and more people live out the gospel is good for all of society, not just the body of Christ.

If you aren’t familiar with Redeemer City to City, it is a church planting network focused primarily on planting churches in the New York City area and other “global cities”

City to City helps local leaders start gospel movements in cities.
We focus on global cities, and there’s no city more global than New York City.

The Redeemer City Ministry Program came about as a strategic partnership between Reformed Theological Seminary and Redeemer City to City with the goal to provide theological education and practical ministry training in New York City. RCM will prepare ministry leaders in the city for the city.  RCM involves RTS providing a Master of Arts complemented by a subsequent year of practical training called the City Ministry Year provided by CTC.

Redeemer City to City is a leadership development organization founded by Timothy Keller and Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Redeemer City to City has a list of churches it’s helped start or partnered with to plant churches in the New York area. There are over 50 churches listed. Here are some demographics and details about the churches Redeemer City to City has planted or partnered with.

Many of the churches are either Baptist or non-denominational. Among the churches whose websites give their affiliation, there are PCA, EPC (formerly Metro NYC PCA churches), Lutheran, CRCNA, CMA, Evangelical Covenant, and Anglican churches. Several churches have women pastors or elders: Forefront, New Season, Sanctuary Fellowship, Trinity Grace, City Grace, Lower Manhattan Community, River, Trinity Grace Queens, Hope.

Many also have deaconesses, including all of the Metro New York PCA churches listed. Grace Redeemer PCA says of the diaconate:

From the earliest days of the New Testament Church, deacons and deaconesses have attended to the temporal needs of the church.

Many of the churches are credobaptist:

We believe that this body expresses itself in local assemblies whose members have been immersed upon credible confession of faith and have associated themselves for worship, instruction, evangelism and service. We believe the ordinances of the local church are believers’ baptism by immersion and the Lord’s supper.

And congregationalist:

We believe that each local church is self-governing in function, and must be free from interference by an ecclesiastical or political authority and is free to participate with other churches in efforts that are in line with our stated beliefs and purposes.

A couple are charismatic:

We believe that the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit did not cease after the Apostolic church but continue to this day. So we look to the Holy Spirit continually for the power, and direction, and love that we need to be effective witnesses for Jesus in the world.

One, Forefront, appears to be gay-affirming:

As we moved toward the door, he kind of winced, and then he spoke up. “I do have one question. I am a gay man, and my former church asked me to step down from my leadership roles because of it. I believe that God wants me to serve Him, can I do that here?”

Ryan, still seated and without hesitation, responded, “Of course. You can participate fully in our community.”

Eric is now my small group leader, and one of my most trusted and dearest spiritual mentors. He prays for me, speaks wisdom into my life, and teaches me how to listen to the Spirit of God as I lead in Ministry. The conventional wisdom of the American Evangelical culture says that a gay man cannot be a Pastor’s small group leader. But the spirit of God resides in him and flows out from him in profound ways.

We stand with Eric as Jesus stood with the woman in John 8, and now Eric stands with me as Jesus stood with the woman in John 8.

Eric is the love of God wrapped in flesh.

What unites these diverse churches is their love for the city of New York and urban renewal

The values of our church community are drawn out of the life Jesus embodied and our desire to emulate Him, so that Christ’s prayer of renewal “on earth as it is in heaven” may be a reality. Forefront

In fulfilling the great commission, Paul’s strategy was to plant churches in areas of influence to reach as many people as possible. Restoration Community Church

Join us in tearing away the layers of religion that have kept people from church for so many years and discover the joys of TRUE COMMUNITY with the family of God. Sanctuary Fellowship

Through a shared meal, authentic community, and the narrative of Jesus, we are transformed. We live lives of imperfect love and reckless generosity, engaging our neighborhoods in Brooklyn and beyond according to the gospel of grace. Because God invited us freely to his table, all are invited to ours. Hope Brooklyn

We hold a belief that God is at work to heal and renew the world that He created to be good. Our own lives are part of God’s renewal process, and God invites us into the work of making all things new. We do this by pursuing justice, engaging in social and cultural renewal, and being committed to prayer for the flourishing of New York City. Hope Midtown

As a church of Jesus Christ, Redeemer exists to help build a great city for all people through a movement of the gospel that brings personal conversion, community formation, social justice, and cultural renewal to New York City and, through it, the world. Redeemer NYC

Our mission … to create space where New Yorkers of all backgrounds can connect with God through Jesus Christ and move towards him as the center of their lives. We believe this is how we can experience Jesus’ promise of “life in all its fullness.” In John 10:10 Jesus described his own mission this way: “My purpose is to give people a rich and satisfying life.”  He made it clear that we can know God in a real and powerful way, and that this relationship with God is the source of “more and better life than you have ever dreamed of.” River

We believe that God’s unchanging message is so life changing, satisfying, and fulfilling that it must be communicated to each generation in contemporary, culturally relevant language, forms, and styles. Redeemer Montclair

This is consistent with Keller’s prioritization of urban ministry. As Dr. Keller says in his article “Understanding the City”:

Thesis: As much as possible, Christians should live, serve, and be deeply involved in the lives of our largest cities. They need to be involved in the life of the whole city, not just their own particular enclave. If you can live and serve in the city, you should.

The Christian church must concentrate the great portion of its resources on ministry to the city. It is our “reasonable service”. To fail to render it is as foolish as it is disobedient.

For more information on the Redeemer’s Rise campaign, click here.

17 thoughts on “Tim Keller, Redeemer City to City, and the Rise Campaign

  1. Jeff Crippen says:

    So the question becomes – “Just what is Christ’s plan for this world, for New York City?’ As the gospel reaches people, does it unite a city? Is this what we see in, oh, say – Ephesus? Has Christ given us a mission to bring Eden into this present world? Sorry, but put me down as a naysayer. We preach the gospel here, yes. But we look to the Jerusalem that is above, in heaven, not to the one on this earth.


  2. Tiribulus says:

    No conclusion Rachael? I was looking forward to that.

    IF God actually wanted what Keller wants. He certainly would never hire Keller to get it done. Keller’s entire “worldview” is guaranteed to accomplish exactly the opposite of what he thinks it will. His mushy eclectic evangelical(whatever that means anymore) ecumenism does not honor the God of the bible.

    1st Corinthians 1 (caps as per the NASB translators indicating a quotation from the OT)
    18-For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

    19-For it is written,

    20-Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21-For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22-For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23-but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24-but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25-Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

    26-For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27-but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28-and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29-so that no man may boast before God. 30-But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31-so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.”
    The above is the direct diametric opposite of how Keller operates.


  3. Stan says:

    I checked the 5% number, with the safe assumption that it’s the amount of evangelical Christians who attend church weekly. It seems to come from the ARDA, which estimates and tracks practicing church members by US county. If you look into New York (county of Manhattan) and the surrounding counties that make up the 5 boroughs: Bronx, Queens, King’s, and Richmond, 5% is a good round figure to use:


    Pew says 9% of the NYC metro area is evangelical, and the bump could be explained by using self-identification and including suburbs:


    So, 5% is a good estimate of the amount of practicing evangelicals in NYC. But, Keller is undoubtedly excluding mainlines and Catholics, and Catholics are at the very least 20% of NYC. I’d bet dollars to donuts that most of the attendance at these new churches are going to be young Catholics who already have evangelical sensibilities and get bored at mass.

    PS: TKNY wanting to challenge institutional corruption is laughable. Has he repented for endorsing Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church yet?


  4. Rick Saenz says:

    Twenty five years ago, the number of center-city New Yorkers in gospel-centered churches was 1%. Today that number is 5%.

    I’d like to know the numbers behind these numbers: What are the boundaries of center city New York, and how many people live there? Has the percentage of Christians actually quintupled, or is this a movement of center-city New Yorker Christians from non-gospel-centered churches into gospel-centered churches?


  5. SJGIII says:

    I would be surprised if they raise all that money. Aren’t we Calvinists supposed to not presume on tomorrow?

    More than that, I can’t wait until the Redeemer Network starts putting out policy papers. I mean, they’re gonna have to suggest who to vote for eventually, right? We want to renew NYC, after all.

    Oy vay.


  6. Greg says:

    And what has/is/will Metro New York Presbytery (PCA) done/doing/do? Or is this just part of being a mainline, big tent, kind-of-Reformed denomination?


  7. Geoff says:

    What does Keller do with “make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands”? So tired of these big name preachers who blow smoke about how they’re going to transform the city for Christ. He should have kept his pulpit where he could do the simple ministry of calling people to repentance and faith in Christ through the Word. “Keep yourself in the love of God, wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy mixed with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Now that’s a mission/vision I can get behind. Might not be sexy, but it’s solid.


  8. Sue M. says:

    I’m not a part of the PCA or even a reformed church (I’m Anglican), so the ecumenical nature of this church-planting effort doesn’t bother me, although it would be nice if more of the churches considered baptism and Holy Communion as sacrements instead of ordinances ☺.

    What does concern me, though, that Roman Catholics and members of mainline churches are automatically considered non-Christian.


  9. Mark N says:

    I don’t know the answer to that. I *did* do some research into Forefront and discovered it was “southern Baptist” (according to http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2012/03/where-will-tim-tebow-go-to-church-in-new-york.html). It seems to have been considered orthodox/conservative (again, I only have cursory Google results to back this up) and has been going off the deep end ever since late 2015/early 2016.

    They seem to have been present on CTC since at least 2014 (at least using web.archive.org)


  10. Sandy says:

    I realize this is an old post but I thought I’d share my experience with the Rise campaign. I have been greatly instructed and encouraged by Tim Keller’s teaching so when the Rise campaign was introduced I was an enthusiastic monthly supporter. But recently I received a Rise newsletter that listed a “church launch” on page 2 of a church which I know to be a neo-charismatic “church” that preaches a soft prosperity gospel and word of faith doctrine. It was listed in the Rise newsletter as “Every Nation NYC Midtown”. I extensively researched Every Nation last year because my daughter was caught up in it and having attended there once with her I knew there was something wrong. I emailed Rise asking for confirmation and explanation as to if this is the same church (which is not a new launch but a “church” that has been in the city for quite some time but needed money to renovate and pay off the mortgage for a building to my understanding) and asked how Every Nation could possible fit within the reformed orthodoxy. I received no response at all – not even an acknowledgment of my email. I sent a letter to Tim Keller and the CEO of Rise (who is a business man not a pastor) explaining therefore my withdrawal of pledged funds from the Rise campaign. I believe that Rise may be looking to show progress at the cost of careful vetting of churches, pastors and orthodoxy. Very sad to me.


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