Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

Gospel Ecosystem’s to Transform Cities – Tim Keller

The City - Photo by JR Woodward

I had the chance at being at a gathering with other church planters in cities in North America the last couple of days.  I really enjoyed meeting church planters from New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco, Portland, Atlanta, Boston, Memphis, of course LA and other cities as well as sitting on a panel as it relates to kingdom collaboration.  The time was rich.  It was great meeting Tim Keller and others.  I heard about Tim Keller’s thoughts on Gospel Ecosytem’s that he talked about at a gathering in Miami recently.  It is something you should take the time to listen to.

What is a gospel ecosystem?
A system of organisms that sustain each other. An ecosystem consisting of churches, organizations, and various leaders with a vision for gospel ministry is for the transformation of the city. It happens when the kingdom is experiencing genuine growth rather just reconfiguring the church by members moving from one church to another. Movement takes place when multiple denominations and networks sustain each other as they hold to a common vision to see God’s kingdom more fully realized in our cities. Developing a gospel ecosystem that goes beyond any one leader or church and is not dependent on a leader or church. The core of this movement begins with a contextualized way of embodying the good news among various churches in the city. Around that core is a whole network of church planting movements which love one another, work with one another for the sake of the kingdom. Here is what it takes.

Here is an outline of his thoughts on what is vital to a gospel movement in the city

1.  Kingdom-centered united prayer across the churches in the city

2.  Specialty evangelistic ministries, especially campus ministries and youth ministries

3. Justice & Mercy initiatives

4. Faith and work initiatives (especially connecting with artists and cultural influencer’s)

5. Educational and family support institutions

6. Leadership development systems that work toward identifying leaders and bringing those leaders to maturity

7.  Overlapping leaders coming together with a heart for the whole city (business leaders, art leaders, tech leaders, pastors)

When this happens, when enough of the ecosystem is in place, you hit a tipping point and get to an amazing expansion of the church.  The second tipping point is a city tipping point.  Here is the audio of the talk. While this short video doesn’t fully deal with this, it hits on the idea as well.

What is God’s Global Urban Mission? from Redeemer City to City on Vimeo.

3 Responses to Gospel Ecosystem’s to Transform Cities – Tim Keller

  1. CO Fines says:

    JR, my connection won’t let me listen to the talk by Keller but there was one thing in particular I wanted to learn. I know what an ecosystem is and i believe I know what the Good News was, and is, that Jesus proclaimed, but I’ll bet that if you had asked ten people at your gathering what “the Gospel” is that you would have gotten ten different answers. I would bet a dollar that if Keller used the word “Gospel” in his talk, he didn’t say what he thought it meant. I can stand to lose a dollar.

    It probably doesn’t make any difference. Christians blithely talk about preaching the Gospel and spreading the Gospel and Gospel based ministries and all kinds of things Gospel, and I always want to ask, what do you mean by Gospel? It doesn’t seem to bother anyone else. Everyone knows what the Gospel is.

    I actually think we are getting closer to the answer, if very slowly. I see that the first point you list is about Kingdom-centered prayer. But it really does seem to me that if a bunch of Christians of different persuasions are going to get together to promote Gospel Ecosystem, they ought to be able to agree on what Gospel means.

    Just so you know, I believe there were actually two different forms of the Good News as proclaimed by Jesus and by those he sent out. Jesus, as well as John the Baptist and the seventy, proclaimed, “The Kingdom of God is near.” I believe after Jesus proclaimed with his dying breath that it was finished, the Good News changed slightly to “The Kingdom of God is here”, and that this is what we are meant to announce and explain today.

    It is true that the four accounts of Jesus’ ministry and death and resurrection came to be called gospels but that is a different use of the word. There are a lot of convoluted definitions of what the Gospel is around. Paul gets a bit wacky when he talks about the Gospel sometimes, especially when is lambasting those who proclaim a “different” Gospel. I always come back to, what did Jesus say?

  2. JR Woodward says:


    I think that if I asked the question what is the gospel to those present, some may have said the same thing, or close to the same thing, but I’m pretty sure you are right in that there wouldn’t have been uninamity on the issue. I tend to listen very carefully when this word is tossed around for what people mean. My sense is that some today still use the word in a reductionistic way, bifurcating key elements of the good news, while others approach it in a more holistic way. But that is my understanding.

  3. CO Fines says:

    JR, I did finally download Keller’s audio. As to him defining the Gospel I think I get to keep my dollar tho he might quibble. I’ll let him keep his if I don’t have to call him Reverend Doctor. As to his use of Kingdom, it sounded to me like he thinks of it as something like the Church in an ecumenical sense or Christendom altho of course not including those pesky Catholics and you can’t mean the Orthodox because they are only some obscure Middle Eastern offshoot.

    His ideas sound good in a pragmatic sense and I wouldn’t fault him for putting them into practice. We need all the help we can get as a society and if the Protestant wing of the church learned how to play nice it might even spread. It’s a little too close to church growth planning for my comfort but that’s just a matter of perspective. I can see how you could be excited.

    And the whole operation could take place and succeed without ever bothering to define Gospel. Might even work better that way. If some nitpicker like me shows up and asks uncomfortable questions, everyone says, “Everyone knows what the Gospel is.” I’m glad you are aware of this basic question in getting back to the roots. It’s important. Up at the top important.

    Here is a pertinent series on this very point I just ran across by Mark D. Roberts. It isn’t finished yet and there was a glitch resulting in one part out of order so I’m giving two links to everything he has posted so far. I find it very helpful in sorting this out and will be following the rest with great interest. I don’t want to call him Reverend Doctor either. There are some wack ads on his page but that’s probably just to pay the bills.


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