Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gospel Optimism

One of the things our brethren across the pond are rather better at than we are is big and optimistic thinking, dreaming and planning.

For example, you're New York and some terrorists fly a plane or two into a couple of your biggest baddest buildings. What do you do? You reply by saying 'tell you what, we'll build one building covering the surface area of the two and taller than the previous two, and we'll make it pretty impossible for people to fly planes into it. oh yeah, and we'll call it something like Freedom Tower.' Ok, so us Brits choke slightly on the implied jingoism and raise our eyebrows at the imperialistic arrogance that might stand behind that sort of thing. But 10/10 for sheer in-your-face positive thinking.

That sort of optimistic big-thinking can be found in the American church too. And when it's combined with Reformed theology and Gospel confidence, I can't help but see it as a good thing, and something we could do with spades more of here in the UK, where we've managed to find theological glosses for our in-built cynicism and sanctified our smallness.

E.g., Redeemer Presbyterian Church think big. They're optimistic about the depth and breadth of the gospel's power to change their city. They're working and praying towards the cultural renewal, conversion and transformation of New York. That's all. Oh, and while they're at it they want to help others in the US and some 50 other major cities around the world do that sort of thing too.

Now, whilst the 1,000+ caveats, questions, qualifications and worries about big visions flood your mind (many of which might be necessary and godly, many of which Redeemer and co. would go along with), remember that God's ambition for the world and for the glory of his Son is a lot bigger than Tim Keller's. Daniel 7:13-14, 2 Cor 10:4-6, Mark 4:20


Jeff Barrett said...


Just stumbled across your blog and really enjoyed your exhortation here. This is an excellent insight and one which I hope churches everywhere heed.

While churches in the UK ought to learn from the optimism of churches in the US, churches in the US could learn infinitely more from churches in Egypt. We need to learn from your introspection and do a little of our own.

Jeff Barrett
Portland, Oregon, USA

Bumble said...

Actually, from the introduction to "Prayer: We Have Access" by Dr. John R.W. Stott on March 6, 2006, Dr. Keller said that he learned from London Christianity a lot because you guys are ahead everyone else in dealing with postmodernity issues...

Pete said...


Thanks for your kind comments. Had a peek at your own site, looks interesting.

Had you anything specific in mind re. what can be learned from our brothers and sisters in Egypt?

Bumble (do I know you?),

Thanks for the quotage. Keller is a self-confessed anglophile - no wonder that extends beyond tea and cricket.

I guess we're considerably further down the line of embracing postmodernity etc. than in lots of parts of the US. Some say that NY is a little bit like a European-style US city - plenty of postmodern suspicion, irony and cynicism.

And that's one of the great things about the body of Christ isn't it, we all bring different gifts to the party for the benefit of all?

Bumble said...


No we haven't met yet. I was just "stalking" Tim Keller every day for bread-crumbs and found your post