Primarily, this book ought to be recognized as an introductory teaching resource, as it contains the layout in lessons rather than chapters and each lesson contains a series of questions to prompt understanding, evaluation of one’s self in lieu of the content, and application/subsequent repentance. Per Thune’s own purpose statement on page 6, it is not intended to be a deep theological exposition of the topic – but a spiritual formation resource. This being stated, the book largely focuses upon application questions at the end of each lesson to trigger a candid introspection and discussion of the information contained therein.
These lessons are relatively short, easy to comprehend, organized well in content and summation, lead toward the applicable questions, and guide the reader toward understanding a basic synopsis of what biblical eldership is to look like. The book is hewn in two larger sections, lessons 1-4 devoted to explaining what biblical eldership is, lessons 5-10 demonstrating what an elder is to do.
Lessons 1-4 Synopses:
1.) Christ is the Measure by which We Lead – Christ was a servant leader, therefore, elders are to be servant leaders and not to be guided by the vainglory of self-exultation.
2.) The Scriptures Dictate the Model of Eldership – Elders are men who are called, verified, gifted, qualified, and in plurality; vicariously, they are not the reverse of these things.
3.) The Majority of Qualifications are Moral – Elders are examples of personal godliness and repentance, of good repute among the churched and unchurched, are obedient, loyal, and serve as the example of Christ to the church.
4.) The leadership Triangle – Along with meeting moral qualifications, elders are to be competent to bring all of scripture to bear in every circumstance (apt to teach) and compatible to the church’s vision and teaching.
Lessons 5-10 Synopses:
5.) The Elders Feed the Church – Elders are to be mastered by a love for the scriptures and awaken a deeper love for the scriptures in the flock through prayer, counseling, preaching/teaching, singing, and living out the Word.
6.) Elders Lead the Church – Elders are to lead the church by example, provide skillful leadership and decision making for the good of God’s people and His ultimate glory, and equip the flock through intimate discipleship.
7.) Elders Protect the Church – Elders are to protect the flock by driving out wolves and false teaching, through guarding themselves and the doctrine entrusted to them as overseers.
8.) Elders Care for the Church – Not only are elders to be equipped for the job morally and intellectually, but they are to demonstrate compassion to those whom they shepherd. They encourage the faint-hearted, rebuke the unruly, help the weak, and give patience to all.
9.) Elders are Examples of Missional Living – They are to demonstrate a love toward the lost, show hospitality, a yearning for spurring others on to missional living, and demonstrate proficiency in witnessing (apt to teach).
10) Elders, be Wary of Temptation – This closing lesson is geared toward showing certain temptations that can arise in this position: entitlement, comfort, greed, renown, affirmation, and other idols of the heart. In short and in the spirit of Edwards, “Be mortifying sin or it will mortify you.”
A good deal of “negative theology” is provided, meaning simply that Thune seeks to show not only what an elder is and does, but what an elder is not and does not do. For these reasons, you will find statements throughout the book that demonstrate the texts pertaining to qualified elders as the measure by which they are held (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-9 being the main ones). These are not preferences – thus, if a man does not meet these qualifications, he is not to be an elder.
There were a few small points of disagreement I had with the book, one of which being found in lesson three under the title “Character Matters Most.” Here Thune offers a brief statement about the percentage of moral qualifications that are over and above the qualifications of being apt to teach. Even though he later demonstrates the necessity of one’s aptitude for teaching multiple times later in the resource, this portion seems at odds with those sections. I find it problematic to present a dichotomy between moral qualifications and the ability to teach for a couple of reasons, one being that it is nonetheless a non-negotiable qualification one must have, the second being that I believe teaching/preaching to be a profoundly moral exercise – and I believe scripture teaches this as well.
However, I would maintain that this is an excellent introductory resource on the topic that provides an accurate biblical framework for one aspiring to be an elder (or one curious to know what eldership is and looks like). The questions contained at the end of the chapter are not throw-away questions – nor do they provide the ability to be inauthentic unless one willfully withholds information. There is even a portion where it discusses one’s marriage and requires the wife to sign that she has gone over it and ensures the validity of information given by her husband – which is excellent, might I add.
It provides a proper focus on the office of an elder that is not maintained within the broader Evangelical church; what I mean by this is that it is Complementarian, focuses strongly on the legitimate moral qualifications of an elder and does not flinchingly present them, is not Congregational Rule-led, is not Totalitarian, provides an adequate summation of the need for one’s ability to teach (having a good, working and applied understanding of the scriptures, theology, and demonstrates this), and focuses most importantly on the centrality of the gospel and the glory of Christ in the office.
I am thankful I read this book and I would encourage you to do so as well. You can find the book here.
Disclosure: I received this book free from New Growth Press through the media reviewer program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.