January 30, 2008

I've Finished Reading "Biblical Eldership"

I first heard about Strauch's book several years ago when I was attending a small Southern Baptist Church in South Carolina. The pastor was beginning to explore what it meant to move from committee lead structures to an elder lead structure for the church. From what I knew at the time, the book proved profitable for the group of men he pulled into the group to discuss the book, but seeing any change beyond simply what occurred in the study, especially in the structure of the church never happened to my knowledge.

It's situations like that and just an overall lack of understanding of the subject of eldership for which Alexander Strauch wrote this book. The reason it became of particular interest to me was because I envision and am committed to Eternity being lead by a plurality of elders and as such wanted to make sure I was as thoroughly versed from a Biblical standpoint as I could be. There are other works on the subject that I intend to read but I have a hard time believing they will top this one.

From the very beginning, Strauch makes an extremely strong defense why a plurality of elders is really the only Biblical option for church leadership. He cautions against the "pastor as superhero" model and also readily dismisses with exegesis of Scripture the idea of "ruling bodies or presbyteries" that govern multiple local churches at a higher level.

The book is broken into four parts:

  1. Biblical Eldership (The different facets of it)
  2. Defense Of Biblical Eldership (Strauch's personal defense)
  3. The Exposition Of Scripture (The Biblical texts that have led Strauch to his position)
  4. Related Topics (More operational and method related questions in regards to Elders)

The book is a 300+ pages and with it's attention to particular Biblical arguments is not (and really should not be) a fast read. It has a great Scripture index at the back and it will take a couple of passes to catch some of the finer arguments that Strauch is attempting to make. But this book is a must have for anyone leading a church. It's a great reference and in my opinion solid Exegesis of 1Timothy, Titus, and 1Peter as they relate to church governance and leadership.

Strauch's positions will most definitely fall within a complementarian camp and will very much line up with Piper and Grudem's summary of male leadership within the church.

You can't miss with this book. If you're a church planter, a pastor who sees where the structure of leadership in your church is falling short, or you've just come to wonder why so many of the newer churches are being led by people called "elders", this will be a good book for you.

2 comments:

Silas said...

Marc,
Longtime reader, first time commenting so be gentle. Just wanted to get your thoughts on something. We know in NT scriptures that the terms episkope, presbyteros and diakneo are respectfully used for bishop, elder and deacon. We also know that bishop and deacon are offices with different responsibilities. Do you think it possible that the elder position could have a set of responsiblities different from the bishop even though there not specifically spelled out in NT scripture? We know from church history that there was not a single church in a city where a group of elders could run a single church like there is today. There were house churches spread throughout the city. Why would it not be possible for the episkope to oversee the presbyteros who oversaw the individual house churches with the help of the diakoneo? Just wondering...

Marc Backes said...

Silas,

I'm always gentle :) Unless you're Perry Noble about eight months ago and then I had a pretty mean streak in me...but I've mellowed since then.

Strauch actually deals with this kind of quandry and does so in a way that I find convincing. He sees (as do I) that episkope and presbuteros are interchangeable. There is no (based on what we find in Scripture) difference in their "levels of overseership" so to speak. The words are used interchangeably and he concludes based on some sound exegesis that they in fact are one of the same animal.

But the convincing argument I'm given is the one he uses out of Acts 14:23:

I'll quote Strauch:

At the end of Paul's first missionary journey, he appointed a council of elders for each newly founded church: "And when they had appointed elders {plural} for them in every church {singular}, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed" (Acts 14:23. Note here, as in James 5:15, the term elder is plural and the word church in singular. Thus each church had elders.

He also goes on to argue that you don't see singular "bishop" type leadership appear until almost 200 years later....

He presents very solid exegesis and a balanced look at all of the objections to it...I found it helpful and to me they made a lot of sense...

I didn't know I had many longtime readers..I'm glad when they comment that way I know they are out there...