Would Tim Keller Care If We Weren’t Still Talking About Him? Probably Not.

For all his greatness, we should most seek to imitate the late pastor’s humility and indifference to fame.

In spring of last year, many of us saw a photo of the late Timothy Keller sitting on a park bench. The photo was used on the cover of Collin Hansen’s biography of Keller, and it circulated around the internet in May when he passed away—on social media, blogs, and even Keller’s personal website.

What most of us didn’t see, however, was the banana peel lying on the bench only a couple feet from Keller. The peel has been cropped from most versions of the photo, and understandably so. Who wants to see an ugly brown bit of organic waste in an author’s photograph?

I confess that if I were a world-famous pastor and best-selling author having my picture taken by a professional photographer, I would most certainly have moved the banana peel before someone took my picture. Who wouldn’t? But Keller didn’t seem to care.

I believe this points to a deeper character trait of Keller’s, which many observed during his lifetime of ministry: an indifference to fame and to curating an image—something many of us struggle with in the social media era. This is also part of why, I believe, he finished his race so well.

Finishing well in life and ministry has been historically difficult for believers, especially for those in positions of leadership. Think of Gideon or Solomon in the Old Testament, Demas in the New Testament, or, of course, the many church leaders today who have infamously failed to persevere.

The esteem that leaders receive from the Christian community can allow for hidden flaws to grow like rust on the hull of a ship, unnoticed and unaddressed at first. But as these leaders reach greater influence, greater weight is placed on these flaws—which can reach …

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