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Elders in Congregational Life: Rediscovering the Biblical Model for Church Leadership Paperback – April 15, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Self-government and autonomy are long-standing cherished traditions of most evangelical churches. Ideally this means each member participates in decision making, but in reality pure congregationalism is unwieldy and unworkable. Pastors try to solve the problem by assuming more and more of the authority themselves. Neither approach is biblical.

A biblically functioning church requires intentional devotion to the New Testament model of church leadership. In this practical book, experienced pastor Phil Newton examines this biblical model of leadership by explaining the necessity of elder plurality and how it functions in a congregational setting. Newton demonstrates the history of elder plurality from personal experience in Baptist life, expounds three biblical texts to shed light on the New Testament model for spiritual leaders, and provides answers to commonly asked questions.

“A valuable contribution not only on the subject of eldership, but concerning biblical leadership.”

—David L. Olford
President, Olford Ministries International

“You can tell by the wealth of information in these chapters that Phil has lived through the process, and he’s willing to share his own experiences—good and bad—in order to help us have even better experiences in our churches.”

—Pastor Mark Dever
From the foreword

Phil A. Newton (D.Min., Fuller Theological Seminary) is a senior pastor at South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., where he has been since 1987. In ministry for more than thirty years, he also has served as an adjunct professor at several schools, and is regularly involved in leading international mission teams. Phil and his wife, Karen, live in Germantown, Tenn.

About the Author

Phil A. Newton (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is senior pastor at South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis. In pastoral ministry for over thirty-five years, he also serves as an adjunct professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Equip Center.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Kregel Academic & Professional (April 15, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0825433312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0825433313
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,025,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Brian G Hedges on February 8, 2006
Format: Paperback
Phil Newton, Pastor of South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, has provided the church with an exceptional study on the biblical basis, historical background, and practical outworking of eldership in congregational church settings. Many books have been written on elders in recent years - Alexander Strauch's Biblical Eldership and Gene Getz' Elders and Leaders being among the best - but the unique contribution of Newton's book is its grounding in baptistic church polity. Newton explores the implementation of elders in Baptist churches, not Brethren or Bible churches (the respective denominational backgrounds of Strauch and Getz). For pastors in Baptist churches, this will make Elders in Congregational Life an excellent and especially helpful companion to these other two helpful studies.

Newton divides his book into three parts. Part one, "Why Elders?" begins by answering "Why Baptist Elders Is Not an Oxymoron" (chapter one). The author here explores elder plurality in both American and English Baptist history, with numerous brief quotations from historic Baptist confessions and church leaders. His conclusion is the same as John Piper's whom he quotes: "The least we can say from this historical survey of Baptist Confessions is that it is false to say that the eldership is unbaptistic. On the contrary, the eldership is more baptistic than its absence, and its disappearance is a modern phenomenon that parallels other developments in doctrine that make its disappearance questionable at best."

Chapter two, "Elders in the New Testament", covers ground that will be familiar to students of Scripture, especially those who have read other books on elders. The three biblical terms applied to elders (presbuteros, episkopos, poimen) are discussed in their Scriptural contexts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr. David P. Craig TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's been my experience that most churches are way off base in their leadership structures. In light of what the New Testament says about leadership in the churches this is difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless Phil Newton has done a great service to the 21st Century church by providing an introductory guide to developing a biblical infrastructure for churches that take being biblically based and effective seriously.

Newton divides his helpful book into three sections:

Part One is composed of answering thequestion: Why Churches Should have Elders. In Part Two Newton exposits three key texts on how Elders functioned in the New Testament: Acts 20:17-31; Hebrews 13:17-19; and 1 Peter 5:1-15. In giving a thorough exposition of each passage he demonstrates how Elders are models for their congregations; how Elders and the congregation work together in harmony; and how their primary calling is to be spiritual leaders for the good of the congregation and God's greater glory.

In my opinion the most helpful section of the book is in part three. In this section Newton shows how a leadership team can transition into a fully functioning Elder Leadership in the Church with Deacons as well. All four examples are oflarge Baptist churches going from a Diaconate Board to two separate functioning boards of Elders and another of Deacons.

Giving a step-by-step process Newton shares from personal experience [South Woods Baptist Church] and from the experience of other well-known ministries (Mark Dever's [Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington D.C.], Jeff Noblit [First Baptist Church of Muscle Shoals, Alabama], and John Piper's [Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN.] transitions from Deacon Board structures to adding Elders into the mix).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Josh on August 27, 2013
Format: Paperback
There has been quite a resurgence of Biblical polity in many churches that have, seemingly since the advent of the Second Great Awakening and Finney-brand revivalism, often been plagued by an unbiblical model of church government. I remain convinced from Scripture of the necessity of a plurality of qualified and called pastor-elders to serve as under-shepherds, leading God's local flock. I do still have reservations as to the validity of congregationalism, but do see that the idea(generally) is not completely foreign to Scripture. In particular, Newton presents a rather convincing argument for the necessity and legitimacy of a type of congregationalism, particularly one led by a plurality of elders.
Phil Newton's book,Elders in Congregational Life , dives into the challenge of moving a church with an unbiblical government to a church with a plurality of qualified elders. This book seems specifically aimed at Southern Baptists, but is applicable beyond. By being aimed at Baptist, Newton is able to address specific issues, use specific examples and pull from the history of the denomination, while consistently basing his argument in Scripture, to counter illegitimate examples, modern tradition that spurns the tradition of the founders of the SBC and poor exegesis.

Newton divides the book into three sections. The first section is used by Newton to address the problem of poor church polity and the history of biblical church polity in the SBC. Section two looks at 3 specific passages and how they support the idea of a plurality of leadership and what a biblical elder actually resembles. Section 3 is the application section.
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