In a sense, I’m not the target audience for this book, as it’s designed to convince a Baptist audience of the need for eldership in the church (vs. a congregational model). As a non-Baptist and a past elder, I’ve never needed convincing of the importance of this. At the same time—and because it has to start fresh in order to make its arguments—it gives any reader a fresh perspective on eldership, even those us who didn’t need convincing.
Phil A. Newton and Matt Schmucker. Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership. Foreword by Mark Dever. 256p., $16.99, Kregel Ministry.
The first of the book’s three sections lay down the basic arguments for a model of eldership, both from the New Testament as well as from early Baptist history. It’s also worth noting that throughout the book, the authors also share quite a bit about their own personal journeys (especially in Matt Schmucker’s sections), in discovering both the biblical basis and the practical usefulness of eldership in their own lives and churches. It’s not all nuts-and-bolts and theology here.
That said, in the second section Phil Newton very deliberately works through four biblical texts on eldership (Acts 20:17-31; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; Heb. 13:17-19; and 1 Peter 5:1-5) and some of the resulting issues that can be expected in transitioning to an elder model of leadership—disagreements, resistance, distrust, and fear of the unknown. Those who don’t need convincing but still need a groundwork (think: elders in training) could likely start here to strengthen their biblical perspective on eldership.
The final section moves into implementation—and more specifically, for this book’s purposes, in navigating the transition from a congregational model to an eldership model. Again, Schmucker’s chapter “What You Will Feel” puts some flesh on what that will actually look like. (Short version: You’ll feel a lot of seemingly conflicting emotions. But God will get you through, if you make it about him instead of you.)
Each chapter also includes reflection questions, so leadership can process the ideas here and (hopefully) discover how to implement them as well.