'Forever grateful': Tributes pour in for Tim Keller after death at 72

Tim Keller 1950 - 2023(Facebook/Timothy Keller)

Christian leaders have been expressing their gratitude for the legacy of pastor and preacher Tim Keller after his death from pancreatic cancer aged 72.

He died on Friday not long after being released from hospital to receive hospice care at home. 

Redeemer Church, the church he founded in New York City in 1989, said it was "forever grateful for his leadership, heart, and dedication to sharing the love of Christ with others". 

"While we will miss his presence here, we know he is rejoicing with his Saviour in heaven," the statement read. 

It went on: "There was no dissonance between the man you saw publicly and the man you witnessed privately. When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he would say that he didn't think a lot about legacy, and then reference something Martin Lloyd Jones said about his name being written in the Lamb's book of life. And he might on occasion say, 'I do hope my grandchildren remember me.'

"There will never be another Tim Keller and we will all miss him." 

Keller first revealed he was battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer in May 2020 and he announced at the time that he would undergo intensive treatment. 

In updates shared over the years, he shared how gruelling it was but also spoke often of his continued trust in God, and how transformative his experience of cancer had been, particularly its impact on his prayer life. 

The tumors appeared to retreat until earlier this year when Keller shared that some new ones had grown.

His wife, Kathy, shared last weekend that there had been some complications from the most recent round of immunotherapy and his son Michael Keller then confirmed he had been readmitted to hospital last Sunday before it was decided he would return home for hospice care on Thursday. 

He passed away on Friday morning with his beloved wife by his side.

Michael Keller described his final moments in a moving tribute on his Facebook page: "Timothy J. Keller, husband, father, grandfather, mentor, friend, pastor, and scholar died this morning at home. Dad waited until he was alone with Mom. She kissed him on the forehead and he breathed his last breath. We take comfort in some of his last words, 'There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest.' See you soon Dad."

He also shared a prayer that Keller said a few days before his death: "I'm thankful for all the people who've prayed for me over the years. I'm thankful for my family, that loves me. I'm thankful for the time God has given me, but I'm ready to see Jesus. I can't wait to see Jesus. Send me home."

Tim Keller was a much loved pastor and preacher, with Redeemer Church welcoming thousands of worshippers through its doors each Sunday.

His influence extended far beyond his New York church through his books, many of them staples for Christian reading, like "The Reason for God", "The Meaning of Marriage", and his final publication, 2022's "Forgive".

Harvest pastor Greg Laurie called Keller "a very gifted communicator of God's word".

"He made the teaching of Scripture understandable and was a real gift to the Church. He will be missed. Let's be praying for his wife Kathy and members of his family as they deal with this tremendous loss," he said. 

A memorial is being planned in New York City in the coming weeks, which will be livestreamed, although exact details have yet to be confirmed.

Former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, JD Greear, described him as a "spiritual father". 

"We lost a spiritual giant today, but there are tens of thousands of us whose ministries will never be the same because of his influence. Many of us will forever think differently about the Gospel, about church planting, and about redemptive engagement with culture ... because of Tim Keller," he wrote in a tribute published in the Baptist Press.

UK evangelical leader Krish Kandiah called him "an inordinately gifted man" who "exerted a worldwide influence while maintaining a humble spirit and modelling generosity towards those he disagreed with".