One of the greatest setbacks amongst some denominations, is they have too many extra-biblical requirements for the office of elder, as well as for membership, and/or other positions.
At one church, I was in the process of becoming a member. But they were a little taken back by my open-air ministry. To become a member they advised they needed to examine my open-air preaching ministry (rightfully & understandably so). Though their three Elders later affirmed my evangelism as “a gift and calling from the Lord,” they advised that Heralds must be “ordained,” and not only ordained but ordained by all the other Elders during one of their regional sessions (the Elders from approx. 28 other churches). And because of my open-air ministry that I could not be a member unless I was an “ordained minister.” When I respectfully challenged their request (or policy), they told me they gleamed this policy from their denominations “Book of Church Order.” More specifically from pages 10-11 and 162-163.
As a reformed brother, I value our five pillars of reformation (aka the Five Solas), and so I am compelled and convicted to practice Sola Scriptura, as well as the other four pillars. So I respectfully declined any further examination from that local church (and their denomination). And my wife and I respectfully left on good terms. I recently enjoyed seeing the pastor and his wife again at a conference.
Over the years I’ve seen too many scripturally qualified men overlooked because of extra-biblical demands. The following are just two of many examples.
One pastor (1689 confessional) told me he was waiting for an elder that is as schooled as himself in Greek. Another church advised they required a Masters of Divinity degree. And the list goes on and on. Is there an emoticon for shaking my head?
Having said that, after reading this book, as a layperson I appreciate it very much. On a positive note, I’m going to highlight one specific observation (out of many others). I will then address my only negative observation.
The author Alexander Strauch does a great job of solidifying what the Scriptures already have said about the Biblical requirements for Eldership. He too shares my aforementioned convictions. As he stated,
“From the New Testament perspective, any man in the congregation who desires to Shepard the Lord’s people and who meets God’s requirements for the office can be an elder. As the three lists below show, God does not require wealth, social status, senior age, advanced degrees, or even great spiritual gift of those who desire to Shepard his people. We do the congregations and the work of God a great disservice when we add our arbitrary requirements to God’s qualifications. Man-made requirements inevitably exclude needed, qualified men from the pastoral leadership of the church…”
He then goes on to quote Roland Allen,
“We are so enamored of those qualifications which we have added to the apostolic that we deny the qualifications of anyone who possesses only the apostolic, whilst we think a man fully qualified who possesses only ours….”
Strauch then says,
“To be faithful to Holy Scriptures and God’s plan for the local church, we must open the pastoralship of the church to all in the church who are called by the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28) and meet the apostolic qualifications.”
This was a breath of fresh air to read. As a Reformed Baptist that beholds to a full-strict subscription to our 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, our confession must be included as part of our standards for qualification. That is because the confession is simply a summarization of what God’s Word already said, there are no extra-biblical rules or requirements, and the confession brings great attention to important Doctrine that may have otherwise been overlooked through the vetting process.
And now the only area that I disagree with.
In chapter nine Strauch accurately teaches that an Elder (or pastor) is worthy of his “double honor” in financial compensation, and he rightfully identifies the difference between a nominal Elder and an Elder who “labors” in his studies to teach (or preach). But he dangerously adds to the text. He stated that an Elder has an “Entitlement of double honor.” And that the Elder has “rights” to it.
In this one area, Strauch comes across as having the attitude of a hireling, and not a Shephard, or the ‘entitlement mentality’ of so many today. Frankly, I’m not even entitled to the oxygen that God allows me to breath (by His grace). Today I am seeing an increase of Christians asking (or begging) for money via their YouTube channels. And when they’re not assertively asking for financial assistance, they’re diffidently ending their videos with captions or clichés like “partner with us,” or “become a Gospel partner.” I have grandkids with YouTube channels, and they cost zero dollars to maintain. For my own choice of camera, afforded with a tax refund, I chose to purchase a professional Canon XF200. Oh, how wrong it would be, for me to ask you to pay for my wants or desires. That is what I’ve referred to many times as a form of fiscal prostitution. There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the church without financial compensation, including being a pastor (as I already have a retirement income).
Other than that one negative observation, this book is right-on and is worthy of your time. But not just for Elders. So the Lord’s people would better understand the office of Elder, and our responsibilities to them, I recommend this book to all Christians. 👍👍