Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership (BE) packs the most thorough exposition of relevant passages concerning elders in the Bible into one volume, while offering a spirited and compelling apologetic for the practice of non-clerical, plural leadership in the local church. But, it’s not just for church leaders – all readers will find a clear and well-reasoned appeal to all Christians to practice a humble, relational style of Christianity modeled after Jesus Christ. And, even if you do not find Alex Strauch’s model or paradigm ultimately convincing and advocate a monarchical episcopacy or congregational form of church government, I guarantee you will be challenged, inspired and equipped to take your ministry, whatever it may be, more seriously and you will serve with greater passion and effectiveness.
From the publisher:
With over 200,000 copies sold, this comprehensive look at the role and function of elders brings all the advantages of shared leadership into focus. Beginning with the four broad categories of eldership (leading, feeding, caring, and protecting), Biblical Eldership explores the essential work of elders, their qualifications (including why qualifications are necessary), their relationships with each other, and each of the biblical passages related to eldership. Written for those seeking a clear understanding of the mandate for biblical eldership, this full-length, expository book defines it accurately, practically, and according to Scripture.
Alex builds his case upon a careful exegesis of the Bible with particular emphasis on the Body of Christ as a loving, caring family – God’s household. Over and over, Strauch appeals to the analogy of elders1 as household servants, actively engaged in guiding the growth of younger brothers and sisters into maturity:
Of the different New Testament terms used to describe the nature of the church — the body, the bride, the temple, the flock — the most frequently used is the family, particularly the fraternal aspect of the family, brethren… The reason behind this preference for the familial aspect of the church is that only the most intimate of human relationships could express the love, closeness, privileges, and relationships that exist between God and man, and man and man, as a result of Christ’s incarnation and death. The local Christian church, then, is to be a close-knit family of brothers and sisters… The first Christians found within their biblical heritage a structure of government that was compatible with their new family and theological beliefs… The elder structure of government suits an extended family organization like the local church.
Moving from the imagery of the church as a family, Alex addresses the familiar Biblical metaphor of God’s people as His flock. So, elders are designated pastors, shepherding the church in hostile surroundings, where growth and maturity is achieved under the threat of predatory false teachers and opportunists. A local congregation is managed by a team of shepherd / overseers who painstakingly watch over the spiritual well-being of each member, with one eye on the horizon for any wolves that may be circling the perimeter to pick off sickly or straying lambs. Like the Good Shepherd in the Scriptures, elders tenderly nurture the sheep, but remain ready in an instant to pick up the staff and take out after interlopers, who come peddling their infectious, deadly doctrines and practices:
As he bid them farewell, Paul reminded the Ephesian elders [Acts 20] that he had taught them the complete counsel of God… The responsibility for the defense of the gospel and welfare of the church now belonged to the elders… In order to fulfill their task, the elders must first vigilantly protect their own spiritual condition… the command to guard the flock means that the elders must keep their minds on the church. They must be watchful and observant… A good shepherd is never passive. He knows the necessity for acting quickly and decisively in the face of danger. He knows when he must fight and when he must stand his ground. To be aware of danger and not to act is to be a lazy, cowardly shepherd who betrays the flock.
Biblical Eldership occupies a lofty place in my library and I’m not alone in my admiration for Alex Strauch’s magnum opus. It comes with recommendations from some heavy-hitters. Here’s what others have to say about BE:
Our eldership has gone through Biblical Eldership and the guide book twice. It has been the finest investment of our time in the twelve years that I’ve been at the church. It has helped us see what we’re all about and has gotten us to function the way God designed us to. Biblical Eldership is a fine work and a thorough Biblical exposition on eldership. Bryce Jessup, President, William Jessup University
a very helpful book both on the New Testament pattern and how approximation can be achieved within existing polities. …cogent, scholarly…Strauch makes good use of the best scholarly research. Robert Duncan Culver, Author, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical.
At last, a thorough biblical study on the basis of church government and especially the function and ministry of elders! New churches will find it a valuable guideline to effective functioning and older churches will find it a trustworthy corrective. Ray Stedman, former pastor and elder, Peninsula Bible Church, Palo Alto, CA
With Strauch’s rigor in taking all his cues from the biblical text and organizing his whole work as an investigation into what the New Testament says about eldership, it might be hoped that his work will eventually refocus the church leadership discussion so that it clearly reflects the biblical witness, rather than refracting it through the modern prism of pragmatics, utilitarianism, and business management theory. Paul Alexander, 9 Marks
- The New Testament uses the terms <em>elder</em>, <em>pastor/shepherd</em>, <em>overseer/bishop </em> interchangeably. This NT vocabulary serves to illustrate or emphasize the character and functions of the leader(s) in local Christian communities. So, when I speak of elders, pastors, or overseers on this blog I am referring to the same leaders within a church – <em>an elder is a pastor and an overseer.</em> [↩]