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: The Marks of a Spiritual Leader

The Marks of a Spiritual LeaderThe Marks of a Spiritual Leader by John Piper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This booklet has some gold in it. Piper breaks it into two parts–inner and outer. The inner has to do with the self-watch of the spiritual leader and the outer has more to do with the leadership of others. I like the focus from the start that spiritual leadership is to help people glorify God.

The second part is particularly useful as Piper lists 18 marks of a spiritual leader. These are principles drawn from Scripture and helpful in at least two ways. First, a man who is in leadership or is wrestling with his calling into leadership can be helped by thinking through these marks with honest self-examination of whether he has these or not. Second, the marks are useful in identifying others in the church who may potentially be leaders. Perhaps a third use would be the congregation being equipped in what to look for and expect from spiritual leaders.

As with anything from Piper, there are odd statements here and there. Nevertheless, this is a useful little book.

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Book Review: The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance–Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still MattersThe Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair B. Ferguson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had heard of the Marrow Controversy, though knew little about it before reading this book. Ferguson acknowledges that an eighteenth century controversy that arose among Scottish Presbyterians in an obscure village in rural Scotland hardly seems to arrest our attention today. He is right about that and he is also right about the fact this controversy should get our attention. He deals with some of the historical issues and persons involved, which was interesting and informative. However, he focus on the issues at stake in the controversy since the issues of legalism, antinomianism, and assurance of salvation are such issues as are common to all men.

Ferguson’s insights into the root of both legalism and antinomianism are keen. Both at root are a separating of Jesus Christ in the fullness of his person from the benefits received by faith in him. The point may seem subtle, but the issues are enormous. Failure to grasp them leads us into one or the other of the two errors mentioned, which ultimately obscure the person of Christ and, at best, hinder the Gospel of God’s free grace. We are often flippant in our thinking of both legalism and antinomianism, and consequently fail to grasp core issues and fail to see how they negatively affect the ministry of the word.

This book needs to be read carefully and thought through. Some of the history may fail to grip and there are also some issues of intramural Presbyterianism and covenant theology debates that weren’t unexpected. I think every Christian should read this book, though I know they won’t. I don’t say this often, but I believe every pastor, preacher, and teacher must read this book and grapple with the issues raised. If you are ministering the Word, then you have already dealt with these issues to some degree. Ferguson will help clarify and get to the root of the issues. I would also recommend reading The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur and God is the Gospel by John Piper. Those two books deal more explicitly with the Gospel issues of separating Christ from his benefits.

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Book Review: Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons

Finding Faithful Elders and DeaconsFinding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a practical treatment and resource on elders and deacons. Anyabwile’s writing is accessible, plain, and not overbearing. We often do not think of our responsibility in “finding” such men as candidates for elders and deacons. We suppose they will just appear or be brought to us ready to go, even though Paul instructed Timothy differently. How do we go about identifying and preparing men for these vital roles in the congregation? This book is written to answer that question and does so ably and practically.

The book is also useful for those already in these roles. As the author works through the various issues and qualities required of a man in these offices, you will be convicted and challenged. You will recognize places where you fall short, and, if you’re like me, feel it painfully. The practical nature of the book and the advice given helps give a roadmap for identifying weaknesses and moving toward growth and faithfulness.

Pastors, deacons, and church members can all be benefited from reading this book. Men who are wrestling with these offices and calls to service will also be benefited from reading this book.

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Review: The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry

The Pastor's Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and MinistryThe Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry by Jared C. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an overall good book. Wilson is readable and relatable, maybe those are the same. His background and journey may not resonate with all, but I think his primary aim was to help pastors apply the Gospel to their own hearts and ministries. This book can be helpful, but you probably need a few bruises to appreciate it.

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