Tim Keller wrote a great book called Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. In the introduction, he identifies the path to fruitfulness. The key insight is developing “theological vision,” a phrase he borrowed from Richard Lints (Gordon-Conwell professor, author of The Fabric of Theology).
Lints says, “The modern theological vision must seek to bring the entire counsel of God into the world of its time in order that its time might be transformed.”
And Keller provides eight questions for the development of a theological vision. This is the trajectory of the book overall.
- What is the gospel, and how do we bring it to bear on the hearts of people today?
- What is this culture like, and how can we both connect to it and challenge it in our communication?
- Where are we located – city, suburb, town, rural area – and how does this affect our ministry?
- To what degree and how should Christians be involved in civic life and cultural production?
- How do the various ministries in a church – word and deed, community and instruction – relate to one another?
- How innovative will our church be and how traditional?
- How will our church relate to other churches in our city and region?
- How will we make our case to the culture about the truth of Christianity?
Keller probing list of questions challenges shepherds to lead their sheep not in generally effective ministry, but in specifically effective theological vision – specific to the city. In other words, Keller’s list is all about contextualization (what else would one expect from Keller?).
He develops his own definition of theological vision, “It is a faithful restatement of the gospel with rich implications for life, ministry, and mission in a type of culture at a moment in history.”