Saturday, May 28, 2016

Understanding the Congregation's Authority - by Jonathan Leeman

Understanding the Congregation's Authority by Jonathan Leeman is a short and yet quite thorough explanation and defense of what Leeman calls, "Elder-Led Congregationalism".  He does not advocate congregationalism nor Elder-Rule, rather he presents the concepts of 'congregational authority' as 'responsibilities' and the role of the pastors/Elders he presents as the God-given 'trainers/councilors' of the congregation. 

Each member of the congregation is responsible to prod one another to love and good works, building and discipling their brothers and sisters in Christ (which may involve correction) and coming to be discipled as well, to attend church regularly not making a habit of forsaking the assembling of their church family, and the congregation is also responsible to submit themselves to the elders of the church(the Elders do not make them submit), which Elders are to train up the congregation to fulfill their responsibilities by preaching/teaching the Word of God.

I thought that the author's overall premise was good and I thought that he argued most of his points very well, the things that I didn't feel comfortable with were his 'reformed' terminology, for instance referencing Christ and Christians as the 'true Israel', his referencing the observance of 'the Lord's Table' as being a time of Communion with the Lord and it also being a sign of the new Covenant.  I don't think that I agree that the church exercises the authority of the "Keys" through baptism and the Lord's Supper (a man is to examine HIMSELF as to his manner of living while taking the Lord's supper), I don't really see that in the Bible rather I see the congregation cutting off an erring member from fellowship because they are not living in a Christ-like way (not primarily cutting them off from partaking of the elements though that necessarily follows). But perhaps I didn't understand what he meant.  And lastly I didn't agree with a lot of his 'Priest-King' hermeneutic, that Adam was basically a priest-king mediating between God and creation and then applying the term to Abraham, Moses, David and then all Christians….it didn't make biblical sense to me.

Aside from the above and perhaps some other things, I really liked Leeman's argument and would recommend the book to other Christians as he does a great job at showing that if you're  a Christian, whether or not you are an Elder you  have a God-given job to do and you should take it seriously. 

I'll end with a quote from the book: "You, as a baptized Christian and ordinary member of a church, are responsible for protecting the gospel and the gospel's ministry in you church by discipline other church members.  Remember Ephesians 4:15-16.  The church builds itself up in love as each part does its work.  You have work to do to build up the church and part of that includes the ministry of words.  A few verses later, Paul says, 'speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another'(V. 25).  Speak truth to them, and help them to grow. Our words should be 'good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear' (Eph. 4:29).  Also, make yourself available to be spoken to.  Are you willing to listen?  Basic Christianity involves building up other believers.  It is a part of fulfilling the Great Commission and making disciples."

Many thanks to B&H Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this book! - My review did not have to be favorable.

You may purchase this book at websites like Amazon and Christian Book Distributors

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