Tim Keller, influential author and pastor, receiving hospice care at home

Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020.

Timothy Keller. Photo by Andrew Chan

(RNS) — Tim Keller, an influential Presbyterian Church in America minister who founded a network of evangelical Christian churches in New York City, has been placed on hospice care.

Keller was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2020 and has been receiving treatment since. He was hospitalized last week for complications from the treatment, was released over the weekend and then returned to the hospital earlier this week, according to health updates posted by his family.

On Thursday (May 18), Keller’s family announced that he had returned home and will receive hospice care there.

“He has expressed many times through prayer his desire to go home to be with Jesus,” Keller’s son Michael wrote in a social media post. “His family is very sad because we all wanted more time, but we know he has very little at this point.”

Keller’s 2008 book, “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism,” reached the New York Times bestseller list. His books have sold more than 3 million copies.

In the late 1980s, Keller, a former seminary professor, moved with his family to New York to start a new congregation, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Manhattan. The startup began meeting in space rented from a Seventh-day Adventist congregation. (Seventh-day Adventists worship on Saturdays.)

The church grew quickly to a group of 250, according to a history posted on the church’s website. Unlike many urban churches, which drew crowds with rock bands, Redeemer became known for its traditional worship style and for Keller’s sermons, which he delivered in a suit, appealing to the mind as well as the heart. Redeemer grew to serve more than 5,000 New Yorkers and Keller’s recruits planted other congregations in the five boroughs and beyond.

Keller told Christianity Today in a 2022 podcast that he wanted people to see the Christian gospel as “intellectually credible” and to recognize that “it offers something that they’ve been looking for all their lives.” Keller said he also wanted newcomers to be “gratified participants.”

“They felt that they were not trespassers, they felt welcomed, they felt that they were expected, and they were not under pressure to immediately bow the knee,” he said.

Keller is a leading figure in the Neo-Reformed movement as one of the co-founders of The Gospel Coalition, a national network of conservative evangelical churches. “We are a fellowship of evangelical churches in the Reformed tradition deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures,” according to the group’s website.

Known for his conservative but nonconfrontational approach to ministry, Keller came under fire in recent years by critics who said his “winsome” approach to engaging with the broader culture no longer works in such a polarized time.

In their update, Keller’s family said that he was grateful for all those who have prayed for him.

“I’m thankful for my family, that loves me. I’m thankful for the time God has given me, but I’m ready to see Jesus,” he prayed, according to the family update. “I can’t wait to see Jesus. Send me home.”

By Bob Smietana, Religion News Service