5 Stars Out Of 5
A very helpful and necessary book
July 1, 2014
A Cluttered Mind
When I see a book, journal article, blog post or just about anything that's written by someone from 9Marks, I read it. I've been aware of 9Marks since before they were 9Marks. I've read Mark Dever's '9 Marks of a Healthy Church' several times. I've taken our elders and deacons through it twice, along with Dever's equally helpful, 'The Deliberate Church.' So, when Kregel released a newer version of 'Elders in the Life of the Church,' I wanted to read it. I was not disappointed.
Newton & Schmucker both present a solid case for having elders lead the local church. While operating out of a Southern Baptist mind set, and while seeming to be presenting that argument to Southern Baptist churches which do not have elders leading the church, I did not find that overly distracting. I've spent my entire life within the confines of the Evangelical Free Church of America. While not paying much attention as a youngster or a teen, I'm almost certain the Madrid EFC (Madrid, Iowa) had the traditional EFCA model of deacons/trustees governing the church body. Then, when my parents began attending First EFC, Boone, IA, my father served as a deacon, alongside the trustees of that church. The first church I served in, Bethel EFC, Fargo, ND, had deacons, trustees, deaconesses and a general board (consisting of all other leaders who weren't one of the aforementioned officers). Midlands EFC also had deacons/trustees. I'm quite familiar with the 'anti-elder' set-up and sentiment. Once in ministry, almost 98% of the reasons for these churches not having elders were unbiblical reasons.
Newton & Schmucker recognize this and seek to present a historical case for those within the Southern Baptist denomination. Alongside this historical perspective, they then lay out the biblical basis for elders - not elder-rule, but elder-led. Then, the authors present a practical out-working of what they've been teaching as the third section of the book: From Theory to Practice. This is the most helpful section, not simply because it's practical, but because I've witnesses a few churches split over the implementation, not over the concept. In my first church as a 'solo pastor' (Midlands EFC, Council Bluffs, IA), we attempted to add an 'elder of visitation' to the officers without success. The other two churches I've pastored since then have had elders/deacons as officers, so the transition wasn't necessary. But the training was.
If this describes your church: no elders, refusal to have elders, deacons who fight for their right to lead, power-mongers in the congregation who undermine church leadership because there aren't qualified, godly men in the positions of elders, then this book is definitely for you. If your church already has elders, leading and serving the congregation, you'll find this book helpful as further training for them or for equipping future elders.
I highly commend this book to you.