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Understanding the Congregation's Authority (Church Basics) Paperback – January 1, 2016
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Highly recommend you buy this book and giveaway copies to Christians and non-Christians.
Understanding Baptism answers basic questions like What is Baptism?, Who Should be Baptized?, and How Should Churches Practice Baptism? This book, as well as all those in the series, are written, and thus the questions are answered, by those who take a Baptistic understanding of church government, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Even those Christians who have a different understanding of these church life issues will benefit from these books if they want to learn the other side and want to be challenged about their own position. Leeman defines baptism as follows: “Baptism is a church’s act of affirming and portraying a believer’s union with Christ by immersing him or her in water, and a believer’s act of publicly committing him or herself to Christ and his people, thereby uniting a believer to the church and marking off him or her from the world.” (6)
Understanding the Congregation’s Authority addresses basic issues about the congregations role in the church such as what Jesus expects of his understanding-the-congregations-authority-by-leemandisciples in the church, the role Adam had and how that relates to church members, and the role pastors play in a church members discipleship. Too often is our churches the pastors (and its even worse if there is only one full-time pastor) and elders (though this is not always the case with them) are expected to do the lion share of church ministry. But is this the case? Is a pastor supposed to master all ministries so that he can be the only one ministering to everyone else? This book argues no and provides a solidly biblical case for the every-member-a-minister mindset. This is congregationalism, which is to say that, while the elders lead a local church, the congregation rules the church because that’s their God-given responsibility.
Understanding the Lord’s Supper first presents a biblical theology of the Lord’s Supper and then answers questions like Who can Celebrate it?, Who can Administer it?, and How Should Christians Approach it? I encourage Christians to read this book and the book on baptism together and to read the book on baptism first. The baptism book will help you understand how baptism unites individual Christians together and this book on the Lords’ Supper will help you see how those united Christians express their unity to the world and reaffirm their unity with each other. Jamieson defines the Lord’s Supper as follows: “The Lords’s Supper is a church’s act of communing with Christ and each other and of commemorating Christ’s death by partaking of bread and wine, and a believer’s act of receiving Christ’s benefits and renewing his or her commitment to Christ and his people, thereby making the church one body and marking it off from the world.” (25)
The Church Basics series is decidedly Baptistic, solidly biblical, immediately practical, and church focused. This series seeks to ground its claims in Scripture and, though it addresses the topics from a certain viewpoint, it interacts with varying positions to show its differences, which only serves to strengthen its conclusions. This is an immensely helpful series that can benefit new believers as they seek or orient themselves to this new thing called the Church and it will further serve other Christians who are looking to grow in their knowledge of these issues so they can be better involved in their local church.
In this booklet about Church leadership and congregational authority, the author highlights four types of popular leadership styles. The first is the pastor-led or elder-led church in which pastors and elders are the spokespersons on behalf of the whole church. They drive the direction and the final authority for the whole congregation. The second type is the elder-rule type which believes that the final authority belongs to the elders of each independent church. Everybody, including pastors are under the leadership and spiritual guidance of the elders. The third type is the presbyterian model in which a "group of elders" rule over the Church. The fourth type is the episcopalians which gives the bishop overall authority over the whole church. While all of them share the similar belief that Christ is lord over all, the different positions express unique perspectives toward membership, financial matters, church discipline, and how matters of the church are conducted.
In understanding the congregation's authority, Leeman essentially gives the whole church her job descriptions and what an elder-led congregationalism looks like. It is about coming back to the gospel order that the Church is continuing the work of Jesus, starting from where He left off. The big picture is that every single member of the church, both elders and non-elders have work to do. It is a jointly owned responsibility for discipleship. The elders assist in training and the members respond by putting into practice the gospel work, under guidance of the elders. It is understanding who the Church is and what is expected of the Church in which we are a member of. Leeman lists at least seven responsibilities:
Church members are expected to attend Church regularly
They are to preserve the gospel
They are to affirm gospel citizens
They are to attend members' meetings
They disciple other members
They share the gospel with others
They follow their leaders
He also addresses some critiques of congregationalism at the end of the book.
The author is an elder at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC as well as the editorial director of 9Marks. This book is one among the six Church Basics series of books. The others are:
Understanding the Great Commission (Mark Dever)
Understanding Baptism (Bobby Jamieson)
Understanding the Lord's Supper (Bobby Jamieson)
Understanding Church Discipline (Jonathan Leeman)
Understanding Church Leadership (Mark Dever)
This book will have a limited audience given that it is about congregationalism. Even though the author deals with protesting statements from episcopalians and other forms of church governance, it will take more than one booklet to do the convincing, assuming it is possible to convince in the first place. That said, if one belongs to a congregationist community, this book will strengthen their beliefs and their convictions. It can also educate them on things that they do not know about. For others, it is a nice primer on the different kinds of church structures.
Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.
This book is provided to me courtesy of B&H Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.