The Best Book on Eldership I’ve Read image

The Best Book on Eldership I’ve Read

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I don't normally write forewords. But I made an exception for P-J Smyth's new book, Elders: Developing Elders and Revitalising Teams, which came out yesterday. Here's what I said:

This is the best book on eldership I have ever read.

Books on this subject are usually written by two sorts of people. There are thinkers: academics and scholars who walk us through what the Bible says from a theoretical perspective (like many of my favourite writers). And there are thinker-doers: people who serve as part of an eldership team somewhere, and participate in the government of the church, but whose primary gift is still clearly on the intellectual and theoretical side (like me). Both types of book can be helpful, but both tend to address questions that are more conceptual than practical, and may contain plenty of insight but not much fire. (Doers, by and large, are so busy being elders that they don’t have time to write books about it.) What we need is a book about eldership from a doer-thinker: someone who can challenge us biblically and provoke us intellectually, but whose gifts and contribution primarily revolve around leadership, wisdom, application and experience. We need someone who will speak to us as if we are about to enter a pasture, or even a battlefield (Acts 20:25-31), rather than a library.

This is what PJ has provided. This book does not simply answer the usual questions in a different way; it asks different questions. What does it actually mean to have a team of equals where one of them is the leader? How do fathers and mothers serve together in the church? How do you train and reproduce elders? What sorts of things stop eldership teams from functioning properly, and what can we do about them? These are the issues that we wrestle with each week, and they are addressed here with clarity, honesty, biblical insight and passion. The result is a book that feels more like a travel guide than an atlas, which eldership teams of all shapes and sizes will benefit from working through together.

In his opening paragraph, PJ makes a striking statement: “I don’t want to be a rock star, a fighter pilot or an astronaut. I want to be an elder.” You can tell. The vision he casts is compelling, and you can smell its authenticity, because it is borne out of a life spent pastoring God’s people in three different countries. So even when readers disagree with PJ on exactly how to answer some of the questions he raises, my guess is that few will dismiss the importance of asking them, nor the integrity, humour and robustly biblical common sense with which he responds.

Anyway: I am grateful to God, and for PJ, for this book. I trust that you will be too.

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