Wait…I thought I was done with reviews! Well, when this one came out, by Kregel, I couldn’t pass it up. It’s right up the alley where we’ve been doing much training and equipping at Cornerstone. I also realize, after seeing this book, that many churches need to read this book: both those who have elders and those that rely upon either the Deacons-Trustee model or the ‘Pastor as CEO’ model.
About the Book – Paul and Barnabas made a decisive move toward the end of the first missionary journey: they appointed elders in the churches they had established, entrusting them with responsibility to shepherd the young congregations. The need for faithful shepherding has not changed since that time, yet the leadership structure of most churches no longer follows this model. The authors argue that a return to the New Testament pattern of elder plurality best serves the shepherding needs in a local church.
The authors suggest a workable process for improving a local church’s leadership structure and making the transition to elder plurality. Along the way, the stories of the authors and other church leaders provide a narrative of how faithful elder leadership has strengthened their ministries. The book also addresses a plan for leadership development in difficult international mission settings. Church leaders will find this a useful resource for building a healthy leadership structure.
This book is an extensive revision of the previously-published Elders in Congregational Life, including updates throughout, additional illustrations, and a new chapter addressing how missionaries may effectively apply the New Testament’s teaching on elder plurality. 9Marks is a well-known ministry organization dedicated to equipping church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources.
About the Authors -
Phil A. Newton (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis. In pastoral ministry for over thirty-five years, he also serves as an adjunct professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Equip Center.
Matt Schmucker was the founding executive director of 9Marks. He now organizes several conferences, including Together for the Gospel and CROSS, while serving as an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.
My Review – When I see a book, journal article, blog post or just about anything that’s written by someone from 9Marks, I read it. I’ve been aware of 9Marks since before they were 9Marks. I’ve read Mark Dever’s ’9 Marks of a Healthy Church’ several times. I’ve taken our elders and deacons through it twice, along with Dever’s equally helpful, ‘The Deliberate Church.’ So, when Kregel released a newer version of ‘Elders in the Life of the Church,’ I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed.
Newton & Schmucker both present a solid case for having elders lead the local church. While operating out of a Southern Baptist mind set, and while seeming to be presenting that argument to Southern Baptist churches which do not have elders leading the church, I did not find that overly distracting. I’ve spent my entire life within the confines of the Evangelical Free Church of America. While not paying much attention as a youngster or a teen, I’m almost certain the Madrid EFC (Madrid, Iowa) had the traditional EFCA model of deacons/trustees governing the church body. Then, when my parents began attending First EFC, Boone, IA, my father served as a deacon, alongside the trustees of that church. The first church I served in, Bethel EFC, Fargo, ND, had deacons, trustees, deaconesses and a general board (consisting of all other leaders who weren’t one of the aforementioned officers). Midlands EFC also had deacons/trustees. I’m quite familiar with the ‘anti-elder’ set-up and sentiment. Once in ministry, almost 98% of the reasons for these churches not having elders were unbiblical reasons.
Newton & Schmucker recognize this and seek to present a historical case for those within the Southern Baptist denomination. Alongside this historical perspective, they then lay out the biblical basis for elders – not elder-rule, but elder–led. Then, the authors present a practical out-working of what they’ve been teaching as the third section of the book: From Theory to Practice. This is the most helpful section, not simply because it’s practical, but because I’ve witnesses a few churches split over the implementation, not over the concept. In my first church as a ‘solo pastor’ (Midlands EFC, Council Bluffs, IA), we attempted to add an ‘elder of visitation’ to the officers without success. The other two churches I’ve pastored since then have had elders/deacons as officers, so the transition wasn’t necessary. But the training was.
If this describes your church: no elders, refusal to have elders, deacons who fight for their right to lead, power-mongers in the congregation who undermine church leadership because there aren’t qualified, godly men in the positions of elders, then this book is definitely for you. If your church already has elders, leading and serving the congregation, you’ll find this book helpful as further training for them or for equipping future elders.
I highly commend this book to you.
You may read an excerpt here.
Elders In the Life of the Church may be purchased at…
Barnes and Noble
Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”