In Tim Keller’s book, Center Church, four fronts of local church’s ministry are given a chapter each:
1. Connecting people to God through evangelism and worship. He speaks of a biblical theology of worship; then the historic tradition which was liturgical; eucharist. One’s culture shapes what is most appealing. And one’s temperament is involved as well. Keller thinks churches can be both evangelistic and edifying to believers; he has some good introductory ideas in this section.
2. Connecting people to one another through community and discipleship. He believes in “ecclesial revivalism,” which means nurturing folks into the faith without avoiding evangelism and without becoming just a revivalist service. How so?
* preach for conversions but honor communicant status
* examine candidates for membership
* recover catechesis
* recognize that seekers need process
* realize baptism and reception of members can become much more instructive and a bigger part of worship
* use the anticipation of the Lord’s Supper as a springboard for a season of preparation
3. Connecting people to the city through mercy and justice. This is where Justice comes into the picture, making justice largely a public, secular issue and not enough of an ecclesial issue. Both-and is what I’m suggesting.
4. Connecting people to the culture through the integration of faith and work (Keller’s definition of culture wobbles in focus for me but I see here his focus on vocation). A brief sketch of how faith impacts vocation: motivation, conception of work, ethical standards, re-conceiving how work is done.
Niche churches often specialize but Keller calls us to as much balance as we can achieve.
My critique of this approach by Keller is that I believe the focus of the Christian is the construction of an alternative culture through the local church; his approach is much along the line of Richard Niebuhr’s famous conversionist/influential model found in the Reformed model of connecting church to culture. I suspect #1 and#2 are close to what I am saying for it is there that a “gospel” or “Christian culture” is constructed, though I’d want to focus on the altera civitas, or the church as an alternative society/culture.
Put differently, when folks today mention “justice,” and I see this in lots of authors, including Keller, that term refers to what we do in public. I would contend that we are to participate in the church as a just culture, work hard to make sure justice is done within the fellowship, and then let that just culture be a challenge to the public culture. Not that Christians need to withdraw from culture but that it is a two-fold kind of justice work and not just a public-sector justice.