Tim Keller, the popular retired pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, said recently church leaders around the country need to be ready to “do more with less” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 69-year-old preacher shared his predictions during an interview with Gabe Lyons at the yearly Q Conference, which was held virtually this year.
“Christian institutions are going to be faced with needing to do more with less,” predicted Keller, according to The Christian Post. He noted that, following the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001, his church saw a 25% spike in attendance while having to operate with 25% less income because of a struggling economy.
Much like we are experiencing today amid this health crisis, Keller noted the number of people who lost their jobs and fled New York City in the wake of the Islamist attack. As a result, the number of people in need “massively expanded.”
“It’s the exact same thing [now],” he said. “All the churches I know are saying, ‘We have to do more with less. We have far more needs and we have less resources to do it.’ And so it means not only a new approach to stewardship but also thinking about what you spend your money on.”
He went on to note there will be an “interim period” between complete lockdowns and the release of a vaccination against COVID-19.
Coming out of the entire ordeal, Keller said there are two key takeaways: the church must be more innovative and its leaders have to be willing to “lead through sacrifice.”
“The church in general is going to have to spend more or less money on itself — that is, its own programs — and more money on people in need,” Keller explained. “And the only way to do that is to cut things that you’re doing right now.”
“Does it mean sacrificing part of your salary as a way of making sure that you’re able to meet needs in your community? I don’t know,” he continued. “But leadership happens through innovation and sacrifice, always. And we’re going to have to do both of these in the next year or two.”
The church has a big job to do. According to Keller, the pandemic has “rattled” human pride and sparked a lot of anxiety. To help navigate those feelings, Keller has developed a series of Gospel-based meditations.
He also recently appeared on the Ethics & Public Policy Center’s Faith Angle Forum, where he discussed the impacts the coronavirus is having on poor churches, particularly in New York City.
“A lot of the churches in poor communities, No. 1, they have a lot more deaths, because the people cannot work from home, and they are also living in much closer quarters,” said the pastor and author. “So I know relatively small churches that are having eight, nine, 10, 11 deaths.”
“And secondly,” Keller continued, “they can’t move everything online. They don’t have a livestream ability, the people very often don’t have the ability to do things at home, you know, WiFi, and all that sort of thing. And then worst of all, they’re unemployed. So, I mean, there’s plenty of churches in which virtually everybody in the church lost their job.”