on October 28, 1998
As an Elder in a Bible believing church, I was shocked to find that our general way of doing business was in direct contradiction to the clear words of scripture. Questions of church structure are difficult because they are not consolidated into one verse or chapter. Some in our church suggested that there was no specific correct church structure given in the Bible. Others suggested that only traditional Pastors were qualified to lead a growing vibrant church. This book brings together every passage related to church leadership. It is a tremendous reference tool for analysing these various positions. Perhaps most importantly, it is written first as an examination of the Biblical text rather than an argument defending a denominational or traditional bias.
Alexander Strauch makes the case again and again that a plurality of Elders is the only biblical structure for the church. There is solid exegesis of difficult passages. This weighty work distills the Biblical truth and clearly highlights the Biblical case for a group of Elders as God's plan for governing the local church.
on September 13, 2003
This is an excellent study of the biblical teaching on church leadership. Strauch describes five essential aspects to biblical leadership; it should be pastoral, shared, male, qualified, and servant-hearted. The strength of the book is Strauch's relentless exegesis of EVERY NEW TESTAMENT TEXT on leadership! If he missed one, I haven't found it yet. But despite the scholarship, the book is readable and applicable.
I would agree that the content of this book is potentially divisive. But that is no fault of the book. This is not a book on how to change church government. It is about what biblical church government is. How to get there from where you are is another issue. I, for one, would like to see Strauch write a book on "Transitioning a Church into Biblical Eldership."
See also Strauch's books on Deacons (Minister of Mercy: The New Testament Deacon) and Meetings that Work - which is a life saver for any pastor!
on September 22, 1999
This is the best book on church leadership that I've ever read! In fact, we ended up ordering three dozen books for our church, and reading this book led us to change our church constitution in 1997. If you are open-minded to exploring the model of church leadership exemplified in the New Testament, you need to read this book. (Strauch also has a companion book about Deacons, which is good, but the eldership book is the foundation.)
on August 9, 2006
Strauch builds a strong case for the importance of eldership--not just any eldership but eldership as described in the New Testament. Biblical elders, Strauch argues, are not board members or advisors to the pastor, but are themselves called to pastor, lead, protect, and care for the church. They are not subordinate to the pastor, but part of a collaborative team of equals each with needed gifts. Elders must be qualified men, but the qualification isn't seminary: the biblical qualification lies in being mature men of character who are motivated to serve. Strauch presents his points clearly and with strong Biblical support, also adding historical and cultural data to back up his interpretation. Strauch's presentation is a bit redundant, in part because he makes the points above in the first section, supporting them with Scripture, and he later goes sequentially through each of the same Scriptures in more detail to show how and why he has interpreted each verse in the New Testament that mentions eldership. The redundancy is not all bad, especially since this model of eldership--while Biblical--does not appear to be practiced in most churches: the repetition and detailed analysis may indeed be useful to those for whom these concepts are new. While Strauch adequately ties his reflections into life--there are clear practical implications--for the reader who isn't already in a church that practices these principles, a bit more practical, real-life example--how we've seen these principle work in practice, how to get there from here type reflection might be useful. Nonetheless, Strauch's Biblical Eldership is a must-read for anyone seriously interested in exploring what the New Testament says about how the church should be lead.
on March 25, 2012
Alexander Strauch writes an easy-to read biblical defense of eldership. The style is simple and easy to follow, though it is most helpful to read with a Bible open alongside for quick-reference as some thoughts can get clouded without seeing the biblical text right in front of you.
Book thesis: This book is intended to help clarify the biblical doctrine of eldership.
Yes, in part. There are some unprecedented conclusions, and some answers informed by personal bias rather than solid, biblical exegesis, but all in all, Strauch does clarify as he intends to.
If you are looking at a book which deals with a variety of issues surrounding the all-too-hot debate of eldership (specifically in regard to women-leadership), then this should certainly be one on your list--whether or not you agree with Strauch, you must leastwise be aware of the arguments which must be considered. Some of the material herein is a bit brief, though this is not to say surface-level; Strauch does attempt to really understand the historical, cultural, and Scriptural context from which he draws his thoughts regarding eldership. Sometimes, he returns to similar ideas or texts which can end up being redundant, but this book certainly offers a great overview of the biblical idea of eldership.
If you would like to know a few things about his perspectives or conclusions before purchasing:
Pastor is elder; elder is pastor
Elder is distinct from deacon
Shared/Multiple eldership should be sought
Elders are to be male
The primary qualification for elders is moral reputability
Elders are first and foremost servants
Elders are not above the congregation, but they will be held responsible for the congregation
In the end, this book is very helpful. With 21 previous printings, how could one say it hasn't been influential?
on April 27, 2000
I have been an elder for 5 years and have felt that the general understanding was not based upon the Scripture. After an indepth study of the Scriptures I had come to the same conclusion as the author, but am not as able to explain it. This is the most important book written on the subject apart from the Holy Scriptures. Every church that is desiring to comply with the Word of God concerning church leadership needs to use this book for a concise presentation of the Eldership according to the Word of God
"I doubt that many evangelical leaders would say `It doesn't matter how the U.S. government is structured as long as there is some form of leadership.' Yet, that is precisely what I have heard some evangelical leaders say." (102)
The fact is, many people in the church today do not think about church leadership. As long as something is in place, as long as the church is headed in the right direction, that is good enough. Alexander Strauch has written Biblical Eldership to reveal the truth about church leadership, plainly revealed in God's Word.
Part One defines what Biblical eldership is. "According to the New Testament concept of eldership, elders lead the church, teach and preach the Word, protect the church from false teachers, exhort and admonish the saints in sound doctrine, visit the sick and pray, and judge doctrinal issues. In biblical terminology, elders shepherd, oversee, lead, and care for the local church." (16)
Strauch covers Pastoral Leadership, Shared Leadership, Male Leadership, Qualified Leadership, and Servant Leadership each in a separate chapter. Each chapter is thorough, easy to read, and back up with scripture references throughout.
Part Two is a defense of Biblical Eldership. The average church member is not interested in the leadership structure in the church, but it is hugely important. As Strauch says, the structure of church government will help determine how people think and act in the church. In my experience, people just don't want to talk about eldership for one reason or another, choosing to focus on the "more important" issues. However, "the New Testament offers more instruction regarding elders than on other important church subjects such as the Lord's Supper, the Lord's Day, baptism, or the spiritual gifts." (103)
Obviously, eldership is hugely important in Scripture and needs to be carefully considered by every local church.
Part Three serves as the exposition of Scripture on eldership. It essentially covers the same material as Parts One and Two, but expositionally instead of topically.
Part Four includes two short chapters, one on the appointment of elders and one on the relationship with elders and their congregation.
Biblical Eldership is a great book that covers an underserved area of theology and should serve as an example for other Christian authors who want to cover church topics. It is Biblical, thorough, and well written. Highly recommended for all readers interested in Biblical leadership in the church.
on November 16, 2007
What's taught in this book will test most Christians' allegiance. We evangelicals like to think we do not put tradition above scripture, but be prepared to take the Mark 7:13 test as you read this book. We men at our church had come to see an eldership government before reading Mr. Strauch's book, based on an open-minded study of the word. But we kept trying to figure out how to have a pastor too. And if we did, what would his function be if the elders are to feed, teach, rule, and oversee the church (Acts 20:17, 28; 1Tim 3:1-10; 5:17; Titus 1:5-9; 1Pet 5:1-4; Heb 13:7,17,24; 1Thes 5:12)? Mr. Strauch's points helped to confirm our position that the elders are the pastors, and that a plurality of elders for a church is the New Testament norm (Phil 1:1; Heb 13:7,17,24; James 5:14; Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1Tim 5:17; 1Thes 5:12). We had been struggling to be scriptural AND keep tradition. We chose scripture over tradition and for the last 11 years, the eldership model has served us very well. When asked, "Who's your pastor?" We simply say, "We have three" and give their names.
The only small technical issue I have is how Mr. Strauch simply equates the words "bishop" and "elder". "Elder" speaks of maturity (1Pet 1:1-5). "Bishop" is the actual office of leadership to which he is ordained (1Tim 3:1 KJV). Elder speaks of character; Bishop speaks of position. One does not become an elder in a day by ordination. An elder can be ordained to the office of bishop by meeting certain spiritual qualifications that only an elder could possess (Titus 1:5-7; 1Tim 3:6). So, only elders are to function as bishops (Titus 1:5-7). In short, bishops are ordained elders. In everyday practice, this is not a big deal since the words "elders", "bishops", and "pastors" are all valid scriptural names to refer to those spiritually mature men who have been duly appointed to feed, rule, teach, and oversee the church.
Alexander Strauch gives us a complete Biblical Overview and explanation of what it means to be an Elder in the Christian Church. In four different sections he addresses everything you may be wondering about being an Elder or how church polity ought to function in today's culture. The four sections are;
Part One: Biblical Eldership
Part Two: Defense of Biblical Eldership
Part Three: The Exposition of Scripture
Part Four: Related Topics:
Part One deals with five chapters that give us an overview of what an Elder should be, the character qualifications, the gender issue and the style of leadership. I especially appreciated chapter 4 which dealt with whether someone is "Qualified" to be in leadership. I think that the church today doesn't always do a good job of preparing someone to be an Elder nor do they interview men well in regards to their qualifications. Often we use the wrong set of standards and ask the wrong questions. So, I found this chapter especially well done.
The chapter on "Male Leadership" will be one that some find confrontational or misinformed. But for the general populace of conservative Evangelical Congregations they will find his treatment of this chapter as well done.
Part Three deals with an Exposition of the different scriptures that deal with Leadership in the New Testament Church. This information is well done and is the foundation for his thoughts in Part One of the book. So you get another reading of the Characteristics of Leadership with a strong Biblical background by going through a commentary on the different scriptural passages.
Overall the book is well thought out, well documented and easy to follow the flow.
If your church is looking for a text that will give you guidance on the office of Elder for your church this is one text that you will want in your library to help you formulate your job description and the leaders' qualifications.
on July 24, 2003
This book is excellent. Not only is the book written well, but the content is outstanding. The author shows the Biblical concept of `pastoring' (eldership). The highlight of the book is the large section devoted to the biblical occurrences of elders. From these passages the concept of eldership is examined and defined. The author quotes a great variety of scholars, church leaders, commentators, and other authors. The author is also very devoted to being biblical in his conclusions and definitions. In a book of this nature, it would be easy for the author to write in a very demeaning way. But the author is gentle, and professional in his presentation of the Bible's view on eldership.
The only possible problem I had with the book was two interpretations the author made. First was his interpretation of 1Tim. 3:10; he tries to make this verse apply to elders as well as deacons, when it only seems to be applying to deacons. (pages 69 and 202) Second was his interpretation of 1Tim. 5:24-25 to mean that the congregation had to test the possible elder appointee. He made it seem as if the elder appointee had to be a part of the congregation for a good period of time before appointment (page 283). These interpretations are not incredible stretches, but stretches none the less.
The author makes an incredible point in the book, "I am fully convinced that if reverent, accurate exposition of God's Word will not convince Christian people of the nature and importance of biblical eldership, then nothing will." This is a challenge to the local church- WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY? If we do not care what the Bible says, we have major problems. If we care what the Bible says, we need to seriously reconsider how church has traditionally been operated and governed in the past.