Out of Context: Tim Keel

"In the modern world, we tend to reduce the complexity and diversity of the Scriptures to simple systems, even when our systems flatten the diversity and integrity of the biblical witness. We reduce our sermons to consumer messages that reduce God to a resource that helps the individual secure a reduced version of the 'abundant life' Jesus promised. And the gospel itself gets reduced to a simplified framework of a few easily memorized steps."

-Tim Keel is the pastor of Jacob's Well in Kansas City, Missouri. Taken from "An Efficient Gospel?" in the Winter 2008 issue of Leadership journal. To see the quote IN context, you'll need to see the print version of Leadership. To subscribe, click on the cover of Leadership on this page.

January 28, 2008

Displaying 1–10 of 11 comments


February 07, 2008  7:20pm

I'm sorry maybe I'm miss-reading this but are we saying that we don't want to systematize God's Word because we want to have our own personal interpretations? I'm sorry but God's word is NOT up for postmodern interpretation. It is important to know what the original author was trying to say. PM's seem to not like the fact that there is a possibility of being wrong. Jesus is going to be separating sheep from goats on judgment day (o crap did he just say judgment!?! can he do that?) and it's not going to open to our interpretation. It's up to His. Get it right. It's important. I promise you.

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February 02, 2008  10:36am

The amazing thing about the Scriptures is that they are simple enough for anyone to understand the basic Gospel message - which is ultimately all you really NEED to know - and yet they are profound and complex enough for a lifetime of exploration and study. We should neither oversimplify the Bible and strip it of its depth and power, nor should we make a great puzzle or system out of it that placates our need to feel like we have mastery over it. The Scriptures tell a beautiful and many-faceted story.

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January 29, 2008  11:04pm

Tim-"And the gospel itself gets reduced to a simplified framework of a few easily memorized steps." I am new to these blogs, so i dont know if Tim will even read this, but ... Please share the scripture references that present the gospel as a calculus problem that is complex I couldn't think of a more simple message than the gospel Gen. 15:6   And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Mark 10:14 "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Rom. 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. I do however think there is a large difference between simple and simplistic, perhaps you are refering to simplistic or "cheap grace"??

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Sam Andress

January 29, 2008  10:12pm

I seem to recall a wild eyed prophet-rabbi that said something to the effect of "see but do not see, and hear but do not hear" and "I speak in parables so that they do not understand." Perhaps we have to come out of the assumptions of the world in which we live–systems, structures, and powers–to be able to see and hear a Kingdom that does not roll into to town on flashy chariots but rather on an ass. Perhaps we all too quickly assume that since the world of the West has a fetish for slick, efficient, and calculated we cannot follow a Jesus who is inefficient, wounded, and uncalculated? As Lesslie Newbigin remarked, the only intelligible proclamation of the Good News in a "plugged-in" post-Christian West, is for the church to be a community that IS the gospel as Jesus IS salvation. Then we will be freed of the notion that Jesus has something to do with being candy for the religious seeker. Rather we will recover the Lion of Judah who came for the sick not the stage preachers and televangelists peddlers.

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Tom Anderson

January 29, 2008  8:04pm

Messages, regardless of depth, are doors to finding God. And hearers, according to their own desire and need, find their own depth. The responsibility for what the hearer takes with him lies with the hearer. Our task is to impart through our preaching and presence need and desire? And to a large degree, it doesn't matter the type of presentation as long as we are before His face with our need and desire.

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Casey Taylor

January 28, 2008  8:51pm

Amen. But guess what. Pastors will keep preaching "consumer messages" as long as it seems to work. Growing churches, it's reasoned, preach sermon series on "organics" or "how to have a great marriage," so we should go and do likewise. People want family-oriented entertainment, that's what churches give them. That's success, right? Pardon the cynical mood but I'm so weary of churches that are so trendy as to water down the gospel. Casey Taylor

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January 28, 2008  8:43pm

But if it's not simple, how will they get it? Help me understand, I'm sure my position is quite naive.

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January 28, 2008  2:24pm

I believe that we need to make the scripture applicable to everyday life. The seeker want it. Needs it. I believe the seeker doesn't care about the greek work of this or that; but want to know how they can take the message and live the word 24/7. Great post. I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future.

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January 28, 2008  1:34pm

this just reminds me why G-d doesn't answer our prayers as spoken or asked for by us...cause we fail to see the greater picture. The only thing G-d promised us, to paraphrase, is an interesting life, with a happy future...nothing about immediate wealth, health, or temporal happiness. In fact, Jesus was quite explicit about the costs of following him in this world. And that involved words of persecution, hatred, death, maiming, poverty, and overall discomfort. Oh yeah, put that in a sermon.

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mike rucker

January 28, 2008  11:46am

oh, excuse me, i must have dialed a wrong url - i was trying to reach the leadership blog site... what? this is it? with reasonable quotes like THIS one? i wish i could get a different perspective on the rest of the world - anyone here in america can certainly vouch for the polar opposites to which we have segregated ourselves on nearly everything the past ten years or so. is everyone else on this tiny planet so divided into us/them camps? two words sum up tim keel's quote: systematic theology. a purely western concept, a series of endless yes/no decision boxes which totally ignores the tension and depth of scripture, choosing rather to make the "gospel" a simple (right...) either/or decision, placing everyone in saved/unsaved camps. as man continues to evolve, it's heartening to see the views of publications like leadership continue to do the same. a dose of humility does everyone good at times like these.

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