Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical  Model for Church Leadership  -     By: Phil Newton
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Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership

Kregel Ministry / 2014 / Paperback

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Paul and Barnabas made a decisive move toward the end of the first missionary journey: they appointed elders in the churches they had established, entrusting them with responsibility to shepherd the young congregations. The need for faithful shepherding has not changed since that time, yet the leadership structure of most churches no longer follows this model. The authors argue that a return to the New Testament pattern of elder plurality best serves the shepherding needs in a local church.

The authors suggest a workable process for improving a local church's leadership structure and making the transition to elder plurality. Along the way, the stories of the authors and other church leaders provide a narrative of how faithful elder leadership has strengthened their ministries. Elders in the Life of the Church also addresses a plan for leadership development in difficult international mission settings. Church leaders will find this a useful resource for building a healthy leadership structure.

This book is an extensive revision of the previously-published Elders in Congregational Life, including updates throughout, additional illustrations, and a new chapter addressing how missionaries may effectively apply the New Testament's teaching on elder plurality. 9Marks is a well-known ministry organization dedicated to equipping church leaders with a biblical vision and practical resources.

Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Kregel Ministry
Publication Date: 2014
Dimensions: 6.00 X 9.00 (inches)
ISBN: 0825442729
ISBN-13: 9780825442728

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Product Reviews

5 Stars Out Of 5
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  1. 5 Stars Out Of 5
    A Great Resource for Baptists Transitioning to Elders
    August 15, 2014
    Pastor Nathan J. Norman
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    Summary: Phil A Newton and Matt Schmucker explore the role of elders in the church through personal experience, historical evidence, contemporary support and the biblical text itself.

    Review: Once again I find myself in a book that came along just at the right time. In the church I serve it is a public matter that the Administration Team is reworking our constitution. One of the major changes we are moving toward is having a plurality of elders.

    Elders in the Life of the Church is a timely and helpful guidebook toward this transition.

    It is written largely for a Baptist audience, which tends to have a single elder (pastor) and perhaps a deacon board which functions as both an elder board and deacon/servants.

    Newton and Schmucker explore the biblical evidence for a plurality of elders leading the church very well. They also point to the difficulties of transitioning from a single elder model, and help their readers navigate some of those problems.

    Furthermore, I appreciated their balanced approach. They are not making a call in this book to get rid of the senior pastor, but instead for the senior pastor to be joined in his duties by godly persons who will lead the church with him.

    I found many of their keen insights timely for my own transitional process. They give practical guidelines for this transitional process. They even go as far to give a script for the ordaining/installation of new elders (as well as a charge to the congregation)!

    Overall, this book will be useful for persons who need a robust look at elder plurality in the New Testament. It will also be useful for churches trying to transition into the biblical model.

    Rating: 5/5 (I Loved It!)

    Note: I received a physical copy of this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.
  2. Rochester, MN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    A very helpful and necessary book
    July 1, 2014
    A Cluttered Mind
    Rochester, MN
    Age: 45-54
    Gender: male
    Quality: 5
    Value: 5
    Meets Expectations: 5
    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.
  3. Louisville, KY
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    5 Stars Out Of 5
    THE Manual for Eldership Transistion
    June 26, 2014
    Coleman M Ford
    Louisville, KY
    Age: 25-34
    Gender: male
    Elders in the Life of the Church is a book about transition. How do churches transition to a plurality of elders leading the church like we read in Acts and the epistolary literature of the New Testament? Specifically, what are the Baptist roots for eldership? What are the benefits for recovering plural elder leadership in the local church? While this book is written with an eye towards Baptist church leaders, any leader with questions regarding eldership in the church would do good to turn to this pastoral manual. Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker, writing from experience and a well-founded biblical foundation, seek to answer these questions and provide practical wisdom for transitioning a church towards a elder-led model of church leadership. This book serves as a extensive update to Phil Newton's 2005 offering, Elders in Congregational Life also published on Kregel. Matt Schmucker, founding executive director of 9Marks and an elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washinton, D.C., injects additional pastoral substance and executive experience making this volume invaluable for every church leader.

    Historically-grounded within the roots of Baptist life, these authors argue that a plurality of elders was practically the warp and woof of Baptist ecclesiology from its inception. They state, "In short, the practice was not universal, but many Baptist churches of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries practiced plural leadership" (29). Eldership is certainly baptistic, though history records various nuances based on context. Historic baptists on the whole concluded that plural eldership reflected a careful reading and understanding of the New Testament model. Walking readers through the biblical and historical evidence for elder leadership in the church, Newton and Schmucker provide a well-tempered text for church leaders to consider. Their most helpful chapter for readers is chapter five on "Character and Congregationalism." The authors observe, "Elders not only lead the congregations, they must also work with each other. The character qualities are therefore critical for plural leadership to live in unity and work together in humility" (75). This grand biblical vision for leading the church requires Spirit-derived character and the humility to exercise Christian virtues among fellow leaders. Such a vision encourages the church towards greater humility and unity as they follow their shepherds. They note, "Shared authority hones the focus and spirituality of the elders" (80). This is truly the desired outcome for God's people who follow the leadership of God's shepherds.

    Rather than leaving readers with theory divorced from application, Newton and Schmucker lay a foundation then lead readers across its level path. Sharing the pulpit, letting all elders have turns to address the body, and wisely transitioning your church body into elder leadership are just a few of the practical guiding steps provided to readers. Elders in the Life of the Church highlights the spiritual battles which may ensue in the journey towards eldership. There are also numerous rewards including the possibility of a vibrant and spiritually healthy local church. Our authors make one of the best cases for transitioning to elder leadership available today. Reflective questions at the end of each chapter make this a useful text for pastors and leadership teams praying through this sort of transition. The book layout itself is a little clumsy, with some chapters dramatically shorter than others, making them seem more like an extended footnote rather than a useful chapter within the flow of the text (specifically chapter four suffers from this). Otherwise, this text should greatly serve leaders who are looking deeply into this question. These authors understand the pain involved as well as the deep spiritual pleasure in successfully transitioning a church to elder leadership. For those needing their wisdom, these authors invite readers to share in their journey so that local churches everywhere may experience the fruits of biblical leadership: a vibrant spirituality in the church and a faithful witness in the world for God's glory.
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