Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond Edited by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner
With the aim to view pastors as shepherds leading the people of God, this new book edited by Schreiner and Merkle seeks to bring a biblical, theological, and practical case for elder led congregations. Written from a strong evangelical Baptist bent, the book is divided into three sections around shepherding and leading in both Testaments, practical and polity structures in the church, and a theology of church leadership that brings together helpful understandings of pastors and elders.
The first chapter, written by James Hamilton calls us to view God’s pastors as suffering righteous shepherds (26). Hamilton traces this theme by looking at Abel, Abraham, Moses and David, seeing in both David and Moses a literal representation of shepherds but also a spiritual guide. Their ministry was one of rejection and faithfulness, calling Israel back to Yahweh even in times where they would worship by their own dictates. Hamilton looks to these leaders as types of the one righteous sufferer who was to come, namely Jesus (28-29). He ends his essay with the substantive claim that both concept and office of elder found in the NT was rooted squarely in the Old Testament.
Thomas Schreiner answers the question about the same office being described by two words (elders/overseers) in the Pastoral Epistles in the affirmative. He writes, “Second, Paul’s speech to the elders in Miletus supports the same conclusion. He summons “the elders (presbyterous) of the church (Acts 20:17), but later in the speech he identifies them as “overseers” (episkopous), indicating that the two terms are two different words for the same office (94).” He goes on to claim that, “The verb “shepherd” is from the same root as the noun “pastor”, and thus we have grounds for concluding that elders/overseers/pastors all refer to the same office (94).” Although I don’t disagree with Schreiner that the speech in Miletus refers to the same office via two different words, he doesn’t give an argument for why we should elder/overseer/pastor as the same office other than looking at a verbal root.
Nathan A. Finn in his essays explain and critiques the Presbyterian form of government. Rejecting the twofold eldership model of teaching and ruling elders, Nathan goes onto make a statement that is veering off in the wrong direction. He writes, “Paul argues that all elders/pastors/bishops must be able to teach. There is no mention of elders who do not teach…Again, no allowance is made for elders who do not teach (216).” I have been in Presbyterian congregations nearly all my adult life, serving as a ruling elder now, and I have not seen or heard of an elder who could not or would not teach the Scriptures. Further, just because an elder isn’t primarily teaching but serving in another capacity doesn’t mean he is unable or unqualified to teach the Bible.
Second, Nathan rests the final authority for pastors in the congregation. Although I see this as a Baptist fundamental, Presbyterian congregations hold ministers accountable through the Presbytery’s, which are comprised of ministers and ruling elders who are diligent in maintaining the peace and purity of the church. Ministers in Presbyterian congregations are subject to discipline as much as Baptist ministers, but the body which examines their abusive teaching or power is different.
Overall, I enjoyed this book but I think it is really for Baptists. I found the chapter on Presbyterians to be disappointing and not focusing on the best arguments.
Thanks to Kregel Ministry for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.