Saturday, May 31, 2014

Elders in the Life of the Church - Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker

Before I read this book, I didn't realize how controversial the subject of Elders has been in recent years, especially amongst Baptist churches.  My church family has always had at least two elders, and I guess I have just never really considered the concept of single eldership(pastor as the only elder).  Elders in the Life of the Church by Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker makes the case for the Biblical basis of churches having multiple elders.   

The book begins with a short history lesson on the historical presence of multiple elders in Baptist Churches, and how the practice of plural eldership has declined.  The authors turn to the Bible to examine what is said about elders.  It is noted that the development of elders in Churches is not addressed in the New Testament, it is assumed, and appointing elders is practiced/promoted by the apostles rather than defended. 

The qualifications a man must have to be an elder are addressed and studied throughout the book.  I liked the declaration that is made when looking at the verse in 1 Timothy 3 that says that elders must have a good reputation outside the church, "This does not mean that the world sets the standard for the church's leaders, but, to be sure, the church's leaders must never slip below the world's standard of character, dignity, and propriety (except when the world's standards are contrary to God's Word…)"  I think that statement interesting because of the push amongst Christians for 'Christian liberty' and their seeking to emulate the lowest standards of the culture rather than its 'highest' standards, their defense being 'all things are lawful for me' and 'we're doing it to win the lost!'.  One may argue that being above reproach by the world only applies to elders, but, as the book observes, there is nothing remarkable about the qualities of an elder, all Christians should have the same qualities, the elders should be good examples of what every Christian ought to be. 

"Elders of the church have the task of constantly scrutinizing 'every wind of doctrine' (Eph 4:14).  They should be vigilant in recognizing false teaching, warning the body, and guarding the flock from falling prey (Heb.13:17)." Elders,  the pastor included, should look out, not only for false teaching amongst their own people, but also for false teaching spreading amongst other influential churches in order to warn their own church family. They want their people to be on guard against it. I like this emphasis because too many Christians seem to think that being critical of the teaching in other churches is wrong and judgmental when it is actually protective. 

In the book, the dangers of congregational rule are examined, and the submission of churches to the elders in their midst and acknowledgement of their authority is promoted. We must remember that our elders will give an account to God, it is a serious thing, and we want to make their leadership easier, not difficult.  Also the advantages of having multiple elders are noted, they will be able to greatly help the pastor with their various giftings.   

I think that this is a good look at the topic of elders, my only complaint being that it is too long.  Towards the middle, or latter end of the book, it became repetitive without, in my opinion, adding many new topics and not really rephrasing anything. 

Many thanks to Kregel Academic  for sending me a free review copy of this book(my review did not have to be favorable)
This book may be purchased at the Kregel Academic website, and also on Amazon

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