Book Review: Elders in the Life of the Church
Author: Phil Newton and Matt Schmucker
Publisher: Kregel Ministry ISBN: 9780825442728
I was not expecting what I got when I first ordered this book for review from Kregel Publishing. I ordered the book based on the title Elders in the Life of the Church: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership and after reading it, I think the original title should have remained intact (Elders in Congregational Life).
I was hopeful this book would speak more generically to the structure of church leadership from a historical and early (ancient) church perspective. I admit that I did not read any reviews or summaries of the book before I ordered… I should have. Before I proceed with my review, it is only fair for me to state the book is well written and engaging. The writing is full of references, both Scripture and bibliography, and contains many personal anecdotes. It is in these regards that I offer my highest praises for Elders in the Life of the Church.
My criticisms for this work are not related to the information presented or the experience of the men who have written it. My criticism is directed to the narrow focus of the subject framed in a very restricted context. There are multiple facets and forms of church government and some of the oldest forms of that government, while not congregationally driven, can be identified as benefiting from the leadership of elders. I do not feel that this subject was addressed sufficiently. The authors framed their thesis using Scripture and interpreted those texts almost exclusively for their particular model of government, almost as if to say, “This is the most accurate understanding of what the Scriptures intended.” The framework of this model is also decidedly from a Calvinist perspective, which once again, alienates other traditions and models for Church government. Once the original thesis is established the authors choose to follow the experience of a particular church (a Baptist Church in North America) to illustrate their findings and support their model. As I stated earlier, this particular context is very limiting; consequently, I felt out of my context and quite alienated in understanding how this was “rediscovering the Biblical model for church leadership.”
Personally, what I found most prominent in this book was an institutional model and not truly the role of elders in a church. I was disappointed that the scope of this book was so limited. I think there was an opportunity for more inclusivity of other traditions and a broader look at the role of elder leadership in the body of the Church regardless of the form and function of administrative governance.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Kregel Ministry Publishing to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”