To achieve unity and combat secularism, we need to lower the walls between denominations and races, said Dr. Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

While denominations are important, there is too much division among Christian churches along racial and ethnic lines, Keller told the audience at Movement Day Global Cities. His topic was “The future of global city gospel movements.”

“Right now there are seven-foot high walls between denominations and races,” he said. “They need to come down by about three feet, but you don’t’ want the richness of that diversity to go away. Every racial and ethnic group brings unique gifts delivered by God.”

Keller’s overarching message is that modern evangelism in a secular society is a challenge and a long-term endeavor.

An urban gospel movement involves, “Christians and churches coming together across racial and denominational lines in a city united by the gospel with a vision to see the urban body of Christ grow in quality and quantity faster than the population,” he said.

Why Cities Matter

Keller emphasized the significance of urban evangelism, quoting Harvard’s Ed Glazer who estimates that “every month, five million people are moving into cities.” In rural areas, there’s typically one church for every 500 people; in cities the ratio is much higher.

“So people are moving to places with far fewer churches,” he said.

Keller stressed the importance of “resilience” during the years ahead. “You will experience opposition and you’ll only be resilient if you expect it,” he said. “If you don’t expect it, you’ll be overthrown by it.”

Keller emphasized that Movement Day followers face unique challenges as they share the Gospel in western cultures. When sharing the words of Jesus with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other religions, “We’re saying, ‘This is the truth, Jesus Christ. This is how we shall be redeemed.”

With secularism, many non-believers reject Christianity as the cause of evil, of oppression throughout the world.

“Post Christian secularism is difficult to do evangelism in and (for now) our Christian churches don’t know how to go about it,” he said. “This is the first non-Christian culture based on the rejection of Christianity.”

The Four Narratives

Keller identifies four narratives advanced by 21st Century western secularism:

Identity Narrative. Be true to yourself.
Freedom Narrative. I should be able to live anyway I want as long as I’m not hurting someone else.
Happiness Narrative. “You’ve got to do what makes you happy in the end.”
Morality Narrative. “No one has the right to tell anyone else what is right for him or her.”

While fighting secularism in the west will be an uphill battle, there’s good news from other parts of the world, where Christianity is growing. “White people are getting more secular, but ‘fortunately’ we’re dying out. We’ll only be 30% of the world by 2050,” Keller said.

“Christianity has become the first truly worldwide religion.”

Combatting Social Media

For older generations, television was considered a threat to Christianity, bringing secular culture into homes. Social media, however, has a much more pervasive impact on youth, who are connected to it around the clock through their phones.

“We face the challenge of disciplining people in a digital, wired, trans-local culture.
The impact of social media is far, far greater than television ever was,” Keller said. “And we (the church) don’t know how to shape young people the way social media does.”

Verse for Meditation

Keller left his audience with three key pieces for scripture for the challenging, often desolate, but ultimately fruitful journey ahead.

Quoting Habakkuk 3:17, he said, “Though the fig tree have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and barren, even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, I will rejoice in the Lord.”

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

And Esther 4:16: “If I perish, I perish.”

Keller’s final lesson was to emulate Esther, who faced the possibility of death with courage, and Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice for man.

“Follow Jesus with the resolve of an Esther.”