I only met Tim Keller once. But I remember that he was kind and easy to talk with. He had no “air” about him of superiority despite his successes. This conversation fundamentally changed how I heard his sermons, read his books, or otherwise learned from Tim Keller.
I met him at a time in my life where I had become a bit cynical of well-known pastors. There seems to be a rule that when a person receives much fame they often become inaccessible and entitled. Tim Keller communicated nothing of that to me. He just seemed like a guy named Tim. And he seemed to care about me.
I was not alone in this experience. On Friday, Tim passed into the presence of Jesus, and I was amazed at how many people expressed appreciation for Tim. But what surprised me was the reason why.
Jake Meador described a viral article that he wrote on Tim Keller some years ago. Afterwards, Tim emailed him and said:
Tim and Jake continued talking for some time. Likewise, Gray Sutanto has a similar story. So do Chris Hutchinson and Tony Reinke. A lot of people have this story. Tim Keller did not carry an air of superiority about him. He was Tim. He genuinely cared about people.
When I spoke with him, I remember that he treated me like a peer, even though I was much younger than him and much less experienced. We just spoke. It was like I was talking to a friend.
It reminds also me of his preaching. When Tim Keller preaches, I have the sense that he is talking to me. Or at least, that he is the same person in the pulpit as he is in person.
By contrast, I remember talking to another well-known pastor in the USA. I walked to him, and he asked me how I was doing. In response, I said “not bad,” and as I responded, he put his hand on my shoulder and pushed me away physically and said, “It’ll get better” and then proceeded to talk to someone else.
It was one of the oddest moments of my life. It was a bit insulting, yes, but I also had no sense this person cared to even talk to me. That wasn’t Tim Keller. And with all the testimonies coming out now and over the years, it seems plain to me: Tim cared about people.
And his writing, speaking, and other ministries all spoke to this same end. When Tim Keller preaches, writes, or even tweets, he seems to be the same person in every sphere. He cares about the truth, and he wants people to know it. But he is also willing to listen to others.
I am not sure how to measure anyone’s impact in this life. God knows. I don’t. But I do know that Tim Keller’s care for people will stay with me. I suspect that is why Tim Keller was such an effective evangelist. Under his ministry, people from all walks of life met Jesus.
And now Tim has too. As he said near the end of his life, “I’m ready to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see Jesus. Send me home.”