Christianity Today Middle East Published Articles

Tim Keller Changed Church Planting, from City to City

Image: Illustration by Christianity Today / Source Images: Unsplash / Photo of Keller by Nathan Troester / Courtesy of Redeemer City to City

CT interviewed church planters in Barcelona, Beirut, Chennai, Hanoi, Melbourne, Quezon City, Recife, and Vienna about their respective city’s distinctive charms and challenges and how they are contextualizing the gospel there, all with this question in mind: To what extent has Keller’s approach to church planting influenced their ministry?

Marwan Aboul-Zelof in Beirut, Lebanon

  • Pastor of City Bible Church
  • The Reformed-Baptist church has a 70-strong congregation and holds services in English.
  • Sixty percent are locals and the rest of the congregation includes people from every continent.

Beirut is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city with an incredibly rich history. It’s much smaller than New York City, but has twice the population density. Tim Keller never visited the Middle East, although we had hoped that he would come. But he had a great impact on us through his writings, sermons, and social media posts.

Beirut, and our church, has gone through significant challenges in the past few years: revolution; the pandemic; economic and government collapse; and the 2020 explosion. Yet, the Lord remains faithful and gracious to us.

I remember being on a call with Tim, who talked about historical moves of God and how there was often a major crisis that served as a catalyst for those moments. He told me that Lebanon’s multiple major crises may develop greater openness to the gospel, acknowledged the difficulties I face as a church planter here, and encouraged me to remain faithful.

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on May 24, 2023. I contributed additional reporting. Please click here to read the full text.