Author and pastor Tim Keller, who planted a church in New York City that grew to 5,000 attendees and who pioneered work in urban ministry, died Friday after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72.
Keller and his wife Kathy launched Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989 and watched as it grew to a weekly attendance of thousands. Keller was known for his staunch yet winsome defense of orthodoxy in the liberal bastion of New York City. He defended the exclusivity of the gospel and the biblical definition of marriage and even engaged with critics on social media who disagreed.
He stepped down in 2017 in order to lead another ministry, Redeemer City to City, which plants new churches. His sermons can be heard on the popular Gospel in Life podcast.
He was the author of more than 30 books, including The Reason for God and The Prodigal God. All total, his books sold more than 2 million copies and were translated into 25 languages.
Keller believed ministry within cities was essential to fulfilling the Great Commission.
“We need churches everywhere there are people – but the people of the world are moving into cities much faster than the church is,” Keller wrote in 2017. “Jesus told us to go into the world to make disciples (Matt 28:18-20). If we fail to go where the world is going, then we aren’t heeding our Lord’s command.”
His son, Michael Keller, shared some of his father’s final words.
“Timothy J. Keller, husband, father, grandfather, mentor, friend, pastor, and scholar died this morning at home,” Michael Keller wrote. “Dad waited until he was alone with Mom. She kissed him on the forehead and he breathed his last breath. We take comfort in some of his last words. ‘There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest.’ See you soon Dad.”
Keller had been in and out of the hospital in recent days before entering hospice Thursday. Michael Keller said his father had prayed during his final hours, “I’m thankful for all the people who’ve prayed for me over the years. I’m thankful for my family, that loves me. I’m thankful for the time God has given me, but I’m ready to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see Jesus. Send me home.”
Just four months ago, he appeared on Premier’s Unbelievable podcast, telling them the diagnosis had drawn him closer to God.
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