(RNS) — Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and a bestselling author and church planter, announced on Sunday (June 7) that he has pancreatic cancer and will soon begin chemotherapy treatment.
“I feel great and have no symptoms,” Keller, 69, wrote on Facebook and other social media posts. “It was what doctors call an "'incidental pickup.'" After testing at the National Institutes of Health, he added, he would receive chemotherapy in New York, where he has made his home since 1989.
In 2017, Keller retired as senior pastor of Redeemer, the 5,000-member megachurch with three sites across New York City, to focus on Redeemer City to City, a leadership training program for pastors trying to replicate his success with establishing vibrant churches in urban environments.
Much of his work in the last decade has been focused on vocational training and helping Christians find both meaning and calling in their jobs, whether secular or sacred. In 2014, he co-wrote "Every Good Endeavor" with Katherine Leary Alsdorf, who also helped found Redeemer's Center for Faith and Work, which includes the Gotham fellowship, a year-long vocational training ministry.
Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and as a result many cases are not identified until it has already spread, making it one of the most lethal cancers. But if caught early, survival rates can be comparable to other forms of the disease.
Keller, in his Facebook post, wrote that his doctors discovered his cancer three weeks ago in what he described as "providential intervention." He said he has already undergone surgery since that time.
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Celebrated in evangelical church circles for being able to build a thriving megachurch, normally a feature of Midwestern and southern suburbs, in the secular setting of 1990s Manhattan, Keller came to wider notice in 2008, when his first book, “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism,” appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. Keller has written a number of books since then, including the bestselling marriage book "The Meaning of Marriage," co-written in 2013 with his wife, Kathy Keller.
Despite his opposition to same-sex relationships and preaching a largely intact form of Reformed Church Calvinism, Keller found a foothold among urban Christians with an intellectual approach to Scripture and a relaxed style in the pulpit. He also founded the reformed Christian website, The Gospel Coalition, in 2005, which regularly features conservative pastors and theologians such as John Piper, Trip Lee, Thabiti Anyabwile and Kevin DeYoung.
Keller has apparently been writing since his diagnosis, publishing a remembrance of the late Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias on Religion News Service as recently as May 29. While he did not address his prognosis in the announcement, he asked those who “are willing to pray for me,” to petition God for “the side effects of treatment to allow me to continue writing and speaking.”
He also expressed a desire that the cancer diagnosis and the treatment would help him and his wife "to be weaned from the joys of this world and to desire God's presence above all."