Skip to main content

Elders in the Life of the Church

Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership by Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker

This revised edition of Elders in Congregational Life is a great addition to the discussion on elders today.  Pastor Phil Newton and executive director of 9Marks and elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church seek to bring the discussion of elders into the foreground for Christian believers, especially those in Baptist circles.  The book takes a historical, biblical, theological, and practical approach to understanding elders and pointing others toward a positive view of the office in our churches.  Notably, the book helps move churches from a church without elders to one who lives and breathes the life of faith with elders.  Being a ruling elder in an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, I have been acquainted with eldership for most of my adult life, but I see the great advantages of this book with churches who are moving in that direction.

The first part of the book deals with background history of elders in the Baptist tradition and seeks to answer the question of why elders are to be to function in our churches.  The author’s note that, “The practice of including elders in Baptist life did not begin in America.  Plural eldership was common in England during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.  Yet,”…Most of the English Baptists of this era, unlike Presbyterians, rejected the idea of “ruling elders” as a distinct from “teaching elders.” (32-33)  There was a common ground between elders in Baptist church life between pastors and elected elders in the congregation that was somewhat different than the role of ruling and teaching elders in the Reformed tradition.  We even get a glimpse of what the Baptist confessions taught as we hear what John Piper has to say when he writes, “…from the historical survey of Baptist Confessions is that it is false to say that the eldership is unbaptistic.” (36)  However, there has been a downturn in the witness of elder plurality among Baptists today.  The two authors are careful to point out that the church must understand and apply what God’s Word says today about this issue.

Matt points out a very practical and point concerning elders that is chalk full of wisdom.  He writes, “This is why nominating new elders is the one matter for which our own elder board does not allow any dissenting votes…But when it comes to nominating new elders, we require unanimity.” (120)  The matter of trust runs deep and the church needs men who are able to be trusted in all different ministry contexts.  Matt goes onto to provide some healthy ways of dealing with disagreements among elders.  He points out that we must distinguish between matters of doctrinal, character, or personal struggles. (120)  I believe we can only know these things as we pursue one another thru constant communication and prayer.  The beauty of being an elder is that you can lean on each other in agreement and come to each other in disagreement even if the conflict is very serious. 

I really enjoyed this book as glimpse into the reasons why a plurality of leadership in the local church is the best model for church government.  I appreciate the honesty and wisdom of both author’s and their willingness to see both the personal and practical benefits of having elders.

Thanks to Kregel Ministry for the copy of this book to review in exchange for an honest review. 


Popular posts from this blog

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes.: A Journey Through Loss with Art and Color

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes by Roger Hutchison

Taking a look at the digital copy of this book allowed me to look at the striking art inside the book, and its connection to the words of the page that were focusing on loss.  Looking at the physical copy of the book even brings to life more the staggering similarity that the words and pain have together on the page.  The focus here is how certain colors express the sentiments of those who have lost a loved one.  I did not think that I would relate too well to this book until two days ago, as we lost our little boy, who was only 17 weeks old.  The pain is palpable and yet the pages of this book give me good reason to think of my son with a sense of pride and hope.

Roger writes, "You are a shooting star. Your light trails across the heavens.  I blinked and you were gone."  We were full of anticipation at the first and second ultrasounds, and there was the picture of our little boy Jackson, his developing face and little …

The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South

Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose by Flannery O’Connor
A profound simplicity of thought, a penetrating vision of what it means to be human, Flannery O’Connor embodies the spirit of bringing fictional stories to life.  Others might call her fiction ‘grotesque’ in a rather unflattering manner, but O’Connor was not content to live up to their criticisms.  In this short book of collected essay and lectures, Mystery and Manners, editors and friends of Flannery, Robert and Sally Fitzgerald have given us a glimpse into the vision of her faith, style and life as a writer.   A lifelong Catholic, Flannery O’Connor sought to wed together the moral integrity of her faith with the character of her craft in writing.  Specifically, fiction for her was an exploration in imitation.
In a rather illuminating statement in the chapter entitled, “A Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South, “ O’Connor writes,
“I am specifically concerned with fiction because that is what I write.  There is a certain em…