In my years of being a pastor’s kid, then a worship leader, and now training for pastoral ministry myself, I’ve only grown in my conviction that biblical church leadership is of utmost importance. Much of the spiritual deadness we see in the modern evangelical church is directly attributable to unbiblical leadership structures, or disqualified men in leadership, or both!
Strauch’s Biblical Eldership is really a modern masterpiece of addressing what the Bible teaches on how God desires His church to be ordered. Most striking to me was how much “air-time” the New Testament gives to directions to and for the elders of the early church. When people complain of bad experiences with a church, or a pastor, or board of elders, I have found that the problem wasn’t a “too faithful” to Scripture, but a “not faithful enough”. Strauch masterfully demonstrates that the Biblical model for the ordering of the Church is found in a plurality of biblically qualified pastoring elders (that are men)! He pithily remarks, “A biblical eldership is not a church board that conducts business for two or three hours a month— it is a hard-working, pastoral body.”
All too often the church is run like a business, rather than like what it is in truth: the house of God, which is to be pastored, shepherded and led with all humility. Strauch again: “Christ’s presence is with the whole congregation, not just the elders.” He goes on to show how the New Testament is full of admonitions, warnings, threatenings, cautions, and directions for the elders who rule the Church of God. When there is an abusive, unhealthy church, it is always the result of neglect of the biblical qualifications of the individual elders, or else an unbiblical ordering of leadership (i.e. a sort of “board of directors” with the Senior Pastor as CEO).
A “top-down” model only leads to a corruption of the alpha male; in contrast, where Scripture doesn’t necessarily give the “method” for how the preparation, selection, and appointment process works, it clearly lays out the principles that must guide the church. Further, the Scriptures do provide us with a healthy understanding of how a plurality of male elders, whose goals are the goals of shepherding and caring for the people of God (and viewing themselves as included in that body). This plurality of elders ensures that the men on the session or group of elders are responsible to keep each other accountable to the biblical standards of behavior and lifestyle both in their personal and private lives.
I could go on, but more and more I see this as a vital doctrine which the Church must not neglect; if she does, it will only lead to heresy, abuse, and disaffected sheep, in danger of wandering. I highly recommend this book for every believer. Strauch writes at a lay-persons level, and is quite skillful at expositing the pertinent texts. In essence, we need more men like this!
A Selection of Quotes
An elder who doesn’t know the Bible is like a shepherd without legs; he can’t lead or protect the flock.
The greatest way to inspire and influence people for God is through personal example. Character and deeds, not official position or title, is what really influences people for eternity.
I must warn, however, against the arbitrary requirement that many denominations impose on their shepherds to earn a master’s degree before they are allowed to serve as a church pastor. God does not require advanced academic degrees as a qualification for spiritual leadership. When we set up formal academic standards, we professionalize the government of the church and create, at least in practice, a pastoral office that is separate from the eldership. We do not have God’s authorization to establish such standards.
Elders, therefore, must be men who know God’s Word.
The fundamental principle that every child of God must learn and relearn many times throughout life is to depend on the God who is absolutely trustworthy.
Even the best elders are inevitably accused of pride, wrong judgment, doing too much or too little, moving too slowly or too quickly, changing too much or not enough, and being too harsh or too passive.
Elders cannot teach and defend the gospel if their lives discredit the gospel.
The household (i.e. the Church) belongs to God, not to the elders.
A man who doesn’t tenaciously adhere to orthodox, biblical doctrine doesn’t qualify to lead God’s household because he, who is himself in error and unbelief, will mislead God’s people.
The people do not belong to the elders; they belong to the One who assigned them to the elders’ care, that is, to God.
The best training a Christian young man can have in preparation for church leadership is to first learn to submit to those in spiritual leadership.
Perpetuating the eldership is a major aspect of church leadership responsibility.
God’s standards alone, not group popularity, govern God’s house.
Appointment to eldership is not a holy sacrament.