Book Review: By Whose Authority? Elders in Baptist Life

By Whose Authority? Elders In Baptist LifeBy Whose Authority? Elders In Baptist Life by Mark Dever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This brief book takes up the question of multiple elders in Baptist churches. Dever approaches the answer from Scripture, Baptist history, and practicality. The scriptural arguments section is a survey of the instances of elder(s) in the New Testament. He notes the interchange of elders, overseers, and pastors to describe the same local church office of leadership. Dever also references the use of the plural for this office in reference to a singular church in the New Testament. It is worth noting that the New Testament does not use the singular for the office with either the singular or plural for churches.

Dever quotes from historic Baptist confessions of faith as well as the writings of various Baptists in history that refer to the practice of multiple elders. He may not have put it in quite these terms but I believe Baptists in history have a unique polity from other groups where Baptists have upheld independent, autonomous churches that practice elder-led congregational polity. Not only are Baptists historically distinct in this, but also biblical.

The last section seemed the briefest of the three. Dever succinctly touches on practical aspects of plural leadership. This section wanted a more extensive treatment. The book is probably a good introduction to the subject. It can be read in less than an hour and does touch on major points. Again, it’s concise and not an extended treatment, but helpful.

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Book Review: The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel

The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the GospelThe Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel by Mark Dever
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a practical, ground-up look at a healthy church. Elements of church structure and operation may not seem the most interesting concepts to read about, but they are vital to the health of a local church. I highly recommend “9 Marks of a Healthy Church,” and this book is a perfect companion to it. The first communicates the vision and direction and the second helps see how to get there.

Pastors are responsible to care and watch for all the flock they serve. At the very least, this book will help pastors identify holes in their pastoral care and give some practical advice on how to fill them in.

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Book Review: Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus

Church Elders: How to Shepherd God's People Like Jesus (9Marks: Building Healthy Churches)Church Elders: How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus by Jeramie Rinne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you’ve never given the subject of elders in a local congregation serious thought, you might be surprised by how many passages in the New Testament speak to it. This book isn’t an exhaustive, doctrinal defense of elders in a local church. It is more practical than that and that might be the key to this brief book’s usefulness. It isn’t usually a doctrinal objection people make to plural eldership, but rather a practical one. Independent Baptist churches largely abandoned the practice in the twentieth century, so many church members have never seen it done.

The greatest difficulty for many is in conceptualizing how multiple elders would work together. Then, because their conception of the purpose and practice of elders is formed from their imaginations, they conclude it isn’t necessary today, or only necessary in an extreme circumstance such as a large membership. Many have the question: What does it look like? This where Jeramie Rinne’s book can serve as good soft introduction to the subject. He tackles the subject from a practical perspective and gives various views into what it looks like.

It could also be a helpful book for men who have some gifting and a desire to serve, but question or wrestle with whether they should be the “main guy.” I think we can unintentionally restrict the room for service in the leadership of a church. Single-elder pastors often burn out under the load one man cannot carry, or a pastor dies or becomes medically unable to continue, and a church often faces a painful transition. Ultimately, we fail to raise up leadership and the health and growth of a local church is stunted.

This is a helpful book for pastors and church members alike.

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Book Review: Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus (9marks: Building Healthy Churches)Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The core message in this book is simple. The logical deductions from Scripture are simple. The common-sense factor in this book is simple. You might say it’s mostly intuitive. Despite all that, few churches seem to be doing this well, or at all. Discipling a person is aptly explained by the subtitle: “How to Help Others Follow Jesus.” That’s it.

It is not about elaborate systems or programs. It is about following Jesus in your life and helping another to do the same. I think we can make it complicated, but consider jesus’ approach, as Dever writes: “The most famous discipler of all, of course, is Jesus Christ. Christianity did not start with a mass-market product rollout. There was no 24/7 media coverage surrounding his travels. It began with a series of personal engagements among a small group of men over a three-year period.” It’s not hard to understand, but we might say it’s hard to do.

I can’t think of a more accessible or concise place to point you than this book.

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Book Review: Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age

Baptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional AgeBaptist Foundations: Church Government for an Anti-Institutional Age by Mark Dever
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a collation of chapters from various contributors primarily centering around church polity. The book makes a strong argument for congregationalist polity. Some parts of the book are better than others and some parts I sharply disagreed with. Overall, I think it is a useful read and could help to think about some of these issues from different perspectives.

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