5 Stars Out Of 5
Both thorough and pastoral in support of Congregationalism
June 1, 2016
Congregationalism, which I believe to be chief among the handful of various church polity structures, is the focus of Jonathan Leemans book, Dont Fire Your Church Members, The Case for Congregationalism. I agree with the majority of his arguments from Scripture in support of a balanced approach to church leadership. As a point of reference, the church in which I pastor is pastor served, elder led (spiritual), deacon supported (finances, buildings/grounds), and committee organized (were a Baptist church).
While in some ways Leeman vaguely suggests that the congregation calls all the shots, he also maintains that the leadership is to be supported in their God-assigned duties. The question is when should one overrule the other, and while presenting a biased support for Congregationalism (a polity with which I highly agree), Leeman comes dangerously close to saying that the tail gets to wag the dog, so to speak, which is not biblical.
In a critical analysis (without trying to be negative), I noticed that in Appendix 1 Quick Answers to Critiques of Elder-Led Congregationalism, Leeman offers an answer to one argument against Congregationalism. The anti-congregational point which he seeks to address is: The Bible explicitly gives authority to elders (e.g., 1 Tim 5:17; Heb. 13:7, 17). It does not explicitly give authority to congregations (186). In his reply he refers to Matthew 18 in that it explicitly authorizes congregations. There is nothing in the text to recommend reading church as elders But in calling attention to an isolated text, which speaks solely of church discipline and not of fellowship per se, he does not bring in more specific texts such as Ephesians 4:11-16, where Paul says that God has appointed some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (KJV). Congregationalism has its merits, for sure, but it should also be limited in a balanced manner (in both directions).
When I initially sought out this book I thought it was going to address the issues of how to maintain a healthy relationship with incorrigible church members, as the first half of the books title might suggest, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to see such a thorough work done in support of Congregationalism. As other reviews have noted, Leeman takes a pastoral approach in his thorough, yet biased, plead for this variation of church polity. I agree wholeheartedly with Leeman that Jesus has called for all the saints to be involved in ministry. Evangelism and discipleship, for example, are commands given to all believers and not just the hired few.
In summary, Leemans work is an easy read with plenty of biblical references. His topic and Scripture indexes are helpful, but even though he provides a Name Index (193) and footnotes throughout, a Bibliography would have been helpful for the serious student. Overall I found this book to be quite helpful in understanding the roles of leadership and the congregation as they seek to serve the Lord Jesus with unity in fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, for the furthering of Gods Kingdom all done to His glory.
The font size is easy to read and my markings (black, blue, and red pens) did not smear. Darker highlighters (green, pink) did bleed through to the backside of the page, but only slightly, and my yellow fluorescent highlighter did not bleed through. The pages turn easily and with a little coaxing the book lays flat while reading.
Disclosure: This book was provided to me free by B & H Academic for the purpose of reviewing, and my opinions are expressly my own and do not reflect the opinions of the publicist, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.