This is from the April Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Missio Nexus. These are the best book summaries on the web. Leader’s Edge monthly book summaries and insightful interviews connect you with today’s leading writers in the Great Commission community. You can visit their website here. Access for individuals starts at under $30. The services include:

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Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from the April edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Tim Keller’s book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation



Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City

Author: Timothy Keller

Publisher: Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 2012, 400 pages. ISBN: 978-0310494188

Also available in Kindle (B005JSGB5Q)


Tim Keller offers challenging insights and provocative questions as he outlines a theological vision for ministry – applying classic doctrines to our time and place – organized around three core commitments: 1) Gospel-centered: The gospel of grace in Jesus Christ changes everything, from our hearts to our community to the world; 2) City-centered: With a positive approach toward our culture, learning to affirm that cities are wonderful, strategic and underserved places for gospel ministry; 3) Movement-centered: Instead of building our own tribe, seeking the prosperity and peace of our community as we are led by the Holy Spirit.

 Best chapter

Chapter 13: The Call to the City

“Today, cities are more important than ever before. In 1950, New York and London were the only world cities with metro-area populations of over ten million people. Today, however, there are more than twenty such cities — twelve of which achieved that ranking in the last two decades — with many more to come. All of these new megacities are developing in what was once called the Third World.” Kindle location 4259

“The significance of cities today lies not only in their growing size but also in their growing influence, and this influence is due to the rise of globalization. The technological revolution has led to an unprecedented mobility of people, ideas, and capital. Because of the Internet and other forms of electronic communication, people around the world are more connected than ever before, and Western urban values in particular are spreading everywhere.” Kindle location 4273

“These networked world cities are quickly becoming more economically and culturally powerful than their own national governments. Governments are increasingly losing control of the flow of capital and information and have far less influence than the multinational corporations and international financial, social, and technological networks based in global cities.” Kindle location 4294

Best quotes

All churches must understand, love, and identify with their local community and social setting, and yet at the same time be able and willing to critique and challenge it.” Kindle location 358

“The ancient church father Tertullian is reputed to have said, ‘Just as Jesus was crucified between two thieves, so the gospel is ever crucified between these two errors.’ What are these errors to which Tertullian was referring? I often call them religion and irreligion; the theological terms are legalism and antinomianism. Another way to describe them could be moralism and relativism (or pragmatism).” Kindle location 580

“The gospel is not about something we do but about what has been done for us, and yet the gospel results in a whole new way of life. This grace and the good deeds that result must be both distinguished and connected.” Kindle location 777

“We must never forget that Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14). ‘Truth’ without grace is not really truth, and ‘grace’ without truth is not really grace. Any religion or philosophy of life that de-emphasizes or loses one or the other of these truths falls into legalism or into license. Either way, the joy and power and ‘release’ of the gospel are stolen — by one thief or the other.” Kindle location 1090

“In the end, legalism and relativism in churches are not just equally wrong; they are basically the same thing. They are just different strategies of self-salvation built on human effort.” Kindle location 1607

“Center Church ministry is neither undercontextualized nor overcontextualized to the city and the culture. Because the city has potential for both human flourishing and human idolatry, we minister with balance, using the gospel to both appreciate and challenge the culture to be in accord with God’s truth.” Kindle location 2215

“Every human culture is an extremely complex mixture of brilliant truth, marred half-truths, and overt resistance to the truth. Every culture will have some idolatrous discourse within it.” Kindle location 2862

“Religion (‘I obey — therefore I am accepted’) leads to pride if we are living up to standards, or to inferiority if we are failing to live up to standards. But the gospel (‘I am accepted through Christ — therefore I obey’) makes us both humble and confident at once. And these two attitudes are critical for doing faithful and sound contextualization.” Kindle location 3075

“What I am saying is that the cities of the world are grievously underserved by the church because, in general, the people of the world are moving into cities faster than churches are. And I am seeking to use all the biblical, sociological, missiological, ecclesial, and rhetorical resources at my disposal to help the church (particularly in the United States) reorient itself to address this deficit.” Kindle location 4629

“Urban theorists call this ‘agglomeration.’ Agglomeration refers to the economic and social benefits of physically locating near one another.” Kindle location 4648

“Churches driven by a Center Church theological vision will pursue an integrative, balanced ministry. Because the gospel not only converts nonbelievers but also builds up believers, the church should not have to choose evangelism over discipleship. Because the gospel is presented to the world not only through word but also through deed and community, we should not choose between teaching and carrying out practical ministry to address people’s needs. Because the gospel renews not only individuals but also communities and culture, the church should disciple its people to seek personal conversion, deep Christian community, social justice, and cultural renewal in the city. These ministry areas should not be seen as independent or optional but as interdependent and fully biblical.” Kindle location 8510

“The gospel creates community. Because it points us to the One who died for his enemies, it creates relationships of service rather than selfishness. Because it removes both fear and pride, people get along inside the church who could never get along outside. Because it calls us to holiness, the people of God live in loving bonds of mutual accountability and discipline. Thus the gospel creates a human community radically different from any society around it.” Kindle location 9069

“But Jesus calls his disciples to both gospel messaging (urging everyone to repent and believe the gospel) and to gospel neighboring (sacrificially meeting the needs of those around them, whether they believe or not). The two concerns must always go together.” Kindle location 9399

“Ultimately, though, we don’t look to Paul to teach us about church planting, but to Jesus himself. Jesus is the ultimate church planter. He builds his church (Matt 16:18), and he does so effectively, because hell itself will not prevail against it. He raises up leaders and gives them the keys to the kingdom (Matt 16:19). He establishes his converts on the word of the confessing apostle, Peter — that is, on the word of God (Matt 16:18). When we plant the church, we participate in God’s work, for if we have any success at all, it is because ‘God made it grow.’ Thus, ‘neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow’ (1 Cor 3:6).” Kindle location 10399

“The only way to significantly increase the number of Christians in a city is by significantly increasing the number of new churches.” Kindle location 10604

“A Center Church is both an organism and an organization. Because the church is both a stable institution with inherited traditions and a dynamic movement of the Holy Spirit, we minister with balance, rooted in our ecclesial tradition yet working cooperatively with the body of Christ to reach our city with the gospel.” Kindle location 10935

Best illustration

“The little donkey awoke with a smile on his face. He had been dreaming of the previous day. He stretched and then happily walked out into the street, but the many passersby simply ignored him. Confused, he went over to the crowded market area. With his ears held high with pride he strutted right down the middle of it. ‘Here I am, people!’ he said to himself. But they stared in confusion, and some angrily struck him to drive him away. ‘What do you think you are doing, you ass, walking into the marketplace like this?’ ‘Throw your garments down,’ he said crossly. ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ They just looked at him in amazement. Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. ‘I don’t understand,’ he said to her. ‘Yesterday they waved palm branches at me. They shouted ‘Hosanna’ and ‘Hallelujah.’ Today they treat me like I’m a nobody!’ ‘Foolish child,’ she said gently, ‘don’t you realize that without him — you can do nothing?’” Kindle location 11005

 Best idea

“The gospel alone can give us the humility (‘I have much to learn from the city’), the confidence (‘I have much to give to the city’), and the courage (‘I have nothing to fear from the city’) to do effective ministry that honors God and blesses others.” Kindle location 4706


Keller is at his best in this thought-provoking book on the city. He digs deep into his three main themes. This is a book every urban worker/missionary must read to help achieve balance in both perspective on the city and ministry in the city.


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