The demographics of the PCA: Follow the money...
Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)
(Tim) Surrounding his book's arrival on the New York Times bestseller list, Tim Keller's buzz has expanded beyond the PCA. Lots of people trying to put their finger on what makes Pastor Keller brilliant observe that the center of his brilliance is his ability to ask and answer "the questions New Yorkers are asking."
So what questions do New Yorkers ask?
It depends. Which New Yorkers are we talking about? Woody Allen, or the firemen?
Pastors such as Tim Keller and Richard John Neuhaus are speaking to a very narrow segment of New Yorkers--what Peter Berger refers to as "the Information Class" and others call "the Chattering Classes." These are people who make their living writing and editing and publishing and reviewing books. Or, transfer the principle to other segments of the word business--magazines, newspapers, TV, blogs, universities, and courts; together, we are the Chattering Class.
Tim Keller is PCA and we are a class-specific denomination...
with the Chattering Class the very heart of our market segment. We are a narrow slice of the richest and most influential and most-educated citizens of the most powerful nation in the history of man and it is every PCA pastor's privilege, having gotten the M.Div. union card and passed his ordination exams, to be granted entry into this stratosphere where privilege abounds.
If Calvin's right, that true religion is to know ourselves and to know God, it's time for presbyterians to know ourselves. And knowing ourselves must start with following the money. Our Lord told us, "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," and our treasure is in degrees, professional credentials, colleges and magazines and books and publishing companies.
We are lawyers, doctors, authors, professors, engineers, architects, playwrights, artists, players in symphonies, gentleman farmers, entrepreneurs, working mothers with a "career"--not simply a "job;" and we are the brilliant pastors who make a living pandering to our fellow chatterati by asking the questions they ask while carefully avoiding the questions of our immigrant housekeepers and meth-addict mechanics.
Of course, not all of us all the time. We do have "ministries" to the poor, but they're almost always outreach ministries. If anyone calls us "the friend of publicans and sinners," it's because we volunteer at a soup kitchen or run a bunkhouse for the homeless--not because the squeegee man lives in our guest bedroom and shares our bathtub.
The questions we answer are class-specific. Follow the money. Our treasure isn't in the poor and needy, but in our MBA, Ph.D., or M.D.; in making partner, getting the gig, climbing the bestseller list, selling the script, or winning the co-op's approval; in our (only) daughter climbing the waiting list at the best pre-school; our (only) son acing the SAT, being admittted to Yale, or getting an internship at Kew Gardens. No, not that Kew Gardens. The original.
On the poorest continent, our missionaries are the cat's meow and before they're approved to move onto the field, they've raised somewhere close to $100,000 for their support--that's close to one tenth of $1,000,000 per year before the PCA's Mission to the World will release them to ministry, brothers.
Who are we?
Follow the money. Where our treasure is, there our hearts are, also.
So yes, Tim Keller is our perfect hero--my perfect hero. He validates my ministry to men and women getting their masters in vocal performance at IU's music school. And when they've got their degree, they move to Manhattan and I send them to Tim Keller because he's a master at answering the questions they ask. He shows me the great value of my ministry to the third year student at IU's law school who soon will clerk for a federal judge, land a first year salary of $160,000 at Sullivan and Cromwell, and one day make partner. So when he leaves, I tell him there's a great church where he's going whose pastor knows the questions he's asking, and how to answer them.
Really, we're not talking about New Yorkers, are we? We're not talking about the cops, maids, and cabbies. We're not talking about the firemen. We're not talking about the South Bronx or Flushing, but Manhattan.
But does anyone really think our ministry bears any resemblance to the ministry of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, or John Calvin? Read The Registers of the Consistory of Geneva at the Time of Calvin: Volume 1: 1542-1544 and ask yourself what similiarities your session minutes have to Calvin's? Notorious sinner after notorious sinner, loved and disciplined by those we call our reformed fathers--that's what questions our reformed fathers were busy answering. Or what about the ministry of Richard Baxter: What parallels are there between Baxter's ministry, and ours?
Like with our presidents, we choose our heroes, don't we? And those who are living tell us a lot more about ourselves than those who are dead.
This could go on quite a while, but I don't want to take more of your time. Let me end with two suggestions: First, that anyone wanting to know the questions New Yorkers on the socioeconomic level of the PCA are asking can simply read Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities or subscribe to The New Yorker and they'll have a perfect periscope into Manhattanites' souls. If you're hesitant to put out the money for a full year, just go down to your local Borders and see if you can still find the March 3 issue. Buy it and read the short biographical sketch by the poet, Honor Moore, of her late father, Bishop Paul Moore. Absolutely heartrending with the meaning and purpose of sex--manhood and womanhood--at its heart, and father-hunger oozing out of every pore.
But of course, those aren't the questions we're answering, are they?
And yet, if we decided to turn our attention fatherward, an amazing thing would happen: We'd find that father-hunger and Father-Hunger are questions asked across time and race and class. They're written at the heart of all men who hunger and thirst after the Father from Whom all fatherhood gets its name.