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Ekklesia: To the Roots of Biblical Church Life Paperback – March 1, 2005
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About the Author
Steve Atkerson resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife Sandra and three home-schooled children. Steve graduated from Georgia Tech and worked in his familys electronics firm before heading off to seminary. After receiving a Master of Divinity degree from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis, he retuned to Atlanta to serve on the pastoral staff of a Southern Baptist Church. After seven years in the pastorate, Steve resigned to begin working with churches that purposely adhere to apostolic tradition. This change of venue also necessitated a change of vocation, so he returned to the family electronics business, where he is now the third generation owner and manager. Being self employed allows him the freedom to travel and teach as the Lord opens doors of opportunity. Steve is an elder at the home church he helped start in 1990, is president of the New Testament Restoration Foundation, editor of Toward A House Church Theology, author of The Practice of the Early Church: A Theological Workbook and also The Equipping Manual. In conjunction with Dan Trotter, Steve produced the cassette tape series Searching For The New Testament Church.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is an anthology of chapters & sections of chapters by eight men who are all experienced in living out their vision of New Testament (house-) church life. The editor Steve Atkerson is the biblical theologian of the group, and it is a pleasure to read his careful and fair take on passages dealing with, for example, the issue of church leaders being paid for their work. He's a real thinker - not a swashbuckling proof-texter, and he usually makes a very convincing case. All of the authors take this attitude: look at the NT, and check what we say against it. I have to say, it is hard to object to anything they say. There's a particularly attractive, practical, balanced view here, on hot-button issues such as the Lord's Supper, or Baptism (Beresford Job handles these beautifully.)
The only downsides I would name: there is some repetition involved in coordinating eight different authors. A single author text would be perhaps a little shorter and more readable. (Not that this book is unreadable - it everywhere takes a serious and careful, but non-scholarly approach). Second, there's an oddly strong emphasis on the authors' (esp. Atkerson's) all-out committment to "historic, classic Christianity". This term, as near as I can tell, really means something like neo-Reformation / Augustinian theology. Do they really want to exclude Arminians and Open Theists, for instance? Or people with slightly different views on the Trinity? One would think that men so devoted to the NT would take a more minimalist approach to what are considered the absolute core doctrines of the faith, eschewing the medieval standards that are commonly used. However, the only doctrine they concern themselves with in this book is ecclesiology - that, they ruthlessly try to found on the NT, with good succcess.
Finally, this book is a bargain. It'd be worth twice the price. Why so cheap? They're not in it for the $. I've seen two of the contributers at a house church conference, and my impression is that they are truly mature and godly men, and devoid of the love of money, and of the impulses to control others or to show off or to increase their own fame. They are humble and reasonable to the core, even when the disagree with each other. Moreover, they've been trying to walk out this house church lifestyle for many years. Fellow Christians - when people like this talk, we need to listen!
The bulk of material in this book is written by Steve Atkerson, elder, teacher, and president of the New Testament Restoration Foundation, though contributions are made by numerous authors, including Beresford Job, Jonathan Lindvall, Dan Trotter, and Jon Zens. All contributors and their writings are firmly founded on the conviction that apostolic practice is normative. Foundational to understanding this book is knowing that its authors believe there is a need to "return to the way the original apostles did things" and that God "has shown us some areas of church practice that we believe have been neglected."
The answer ("We believe He did") to the question "Did God leave us instructions on how to do church" will resonate with landmarkists, primitivists, restorationists and others wishing to imitate New Testament church life. The authors' plea that we consistently go ALL the way back to the New Testament may unnerve some of us concerning some of our own church traditions!
"Ekklesia" addresses numerous issues that concern (or at least should concern) churches today. While many "organized institutional churches" may dismiss such concerns, a number of seekers are looking for more than the "traditions of the fathers" on the one hand, or the "it doesn't matter" on the other hand. This material is gathered under three main headings -- 'Church Meetings', 'Church Ministries' and 'Church Matters' -- with 19 chapters (some of them short) under these headings. Subjects include both the theological and practical aspects of "doing church" -- from interactive meetings to the Lord's supper as a full meal to living-room sized churches to the plurality of elders.
Do you wonder how they might answer some of these questions? Here's a sampling:
How do we know proper church practice? "...the Bible commands adherence to the traditions of the apostles...The real question thus is not, 'Do we have to do things the way they were done in the New Testament?' Rather, the question is: 'Why would we want to do things any other way?!'"
Where should we meet? "When churches came together they met in houses." "'As for me and my house', I find compelling the scriptural arguments favoring churches meeting exclusively in private homes. Paul's insistence (in 1Co 4:16-17; 11:1-2, 16; 14:33; Ep 2:20; Php 3:17; 4:9; 2Th 2:15; 3:6-9; 1Ti 1:16; 1Ti 3:14-15; 2Ti 1:13) that the churches follow the apostolic pattern (and his own example) are persuasive arguments..."
How often should we partake the Lord's supper? "Early believers ate the Lord's Supper weekly, and it was the main purpose for their coming together each Lord's Day."
Should pastors be salaried? "There is a general command in Acts 20 for elders to follow Paul's example of supplying their own needs so as to be in a position of giving silver and gold and clothing to the church, rather than receiving from it."
Why does any of this matter? "Given the propensity of human traditions to multiply and block the truth, it is important for believers to be sure that their practice of church is built on the correct foundation...The utterly amazing fact is that, even with all their problems, Paul assumes that the assembly [at Corinth] has the spiritual resources to overcome their waywardness."
Editor Atkerson is quite bold in wrestling fairly with the issue of women's silence in the church. In chapter 9 he gives his own views in favor of that silence, followed by Jon Zens' "rebuttal", which views 1 Cor. 14:34,35 in quite a different fashion.
"Ekklesia" is written on a practical and down-to-earth level. The book appears to be compiled from articles written at various times and from various sources, but it flows very well. It is an easy read, but yet very deep in its considerations. It will require the serious reader to spend time studying the Scriptures and ideas presented. My chief complaint is that the book contains quite a few typographical errors (hopefully corrected in the more recent edition). But these are nuisances that the reader should not allow to detract from the wealth of Scriptural teaching collected here. I highly recommend it.
Some of the articles that appear in "Ekklesia" (or at least versions of them) may be found in the articles page on the [...] website.
If you are one who has been troubled by "church" life (there is none or very little) and you also want to see how house churches fit in the ultimate plan of God than I would urge you to read and study Ekklesia. An excellent work!