Wednesday
Oct262011

Strauch, Biblical Eldership

Strauch-Biblical-Eldership Amazon.com

Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership, Revised and Expanded Edition. Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1995.

Referenced in: Plural-Elder Congregational Leadership

LifeandLeadership.com Summary

With sales of over 150,000, this is arguably the most widely used text on plural-elder congregational leadership. Strauch is always listed at or near the top of suggested volumes on the subject, and for good reason. It is thorough, well-researched, and well-written.

Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call… is the long, detailed version. An abridged 48-page booklet, Biblical Eldership: Restoring the Eldership to its Rightful Place in the Church (1997), summarizes the central teachings of the larger volume, and is designed for congregational distribution. Readers may also be interested in the study guides:

Also, one of Strauch’s co-authors, Richard Swartley, has written Eldership in Action, that discusses how to activate their philosophy of eldering within the congregation.

Strauch offers a biblical defense of a plural-elder model, offering exposition on every passage of the New Testament relative to leadership. He begins with this definition of biblical eldership: “The official oversight body of the local church, which is open to all males of the congregation who meet Scripture’s qualifications and have a Spirit-imparted desire to jointly oversee the spiritual welfare of God’s household.” (p. 12, first edition, 1995) These elders are co-equal in authority, and they work alongside only one other biblical leadership office, deacons. Strauch and Swartley are especially critical of ministers who adopt the leadership models of corporate CEOs rather than taking their cues from scripture. Staff ministers must serve under the guidance of the elders, and if elders, are simply “fellow elders” (1 Peter 5:1) whose only distinction from the “tentmaking” elders is giftedness and time available for the role. A counterpoint on this issue is found in Gene Getz, Elders and Leaders, who argues that a plurality of elders should have a primary leader.

With great respect for Strauch and Swartley, I have a few caveats. They claim to present the view most warranted by scripture. Their tone, though irenic, is somewhat exclusive. I come away wanting more interpretive modesty, and suggest balancing his claims with comparative works such as Brand and Norman’s Perspectives on Church Government. Also, while Strauch and Swartley clearly warn against domineering leaders, my experience is that elders with controlling tendencies who read chapter 13 of Strauch on “obeying your leaders” and chapter 4 of Swartley on “The Elder Council,” may not find enough of a corrective, and may actually feel emboldened in their autocratic tendencies. Surely this would not be their intention. In fact I am struck with how Strauch describes one of his first experiences with a biblically qualified leadership:

“They provided strong leadership, loving pastoral care and discipline, sound Bible teaching, and humble, sacrificial examples of Christian living. As a result, they were highly esteemed by the church. The inspiring example of these men awakened in me a positive interest in the subject of church leadership.” (9)

This is hardly the description of a domineering, authoritarian eldership. Yet there is enough in both authors to imply too hierarchical a view of elders, sufficient to merit a balance with other works. For this I suggest Ian Fair’s Leadership in the Kingdom, especially his warnings about the directive leadership style, as well as Lynn Anderson’s They Smell Like Sheep, Volume 1, with his emphasis on sensitive relational shepherding as the chief metaphor for spiritual leadership. Each is featured in the resource guide on Plural-Elder Congregational Leadership.

Caveats aside, Strauch and Swartley are helpful additions to the elders’ library.

Biblical Eldership is divided into three sections (summarized on pages 12-13).

  • Part One (chapters 1-5) present the five major features of biblical eldership: pastoral leadership, shared leadership, male leadership, qualified leadership, and servant leadership. Here one finds a polemic against feminism, single-pastor/CEO systems, preoccupations with bigness, power, an self-promotion, etc.
  • Part Two (chapter 6) is a biblical defense of the doctrine of eldership.
  • Part Three (chapters 7-13) gives biblical exposition on all the biblical texts on church eldership.

Swartley’s Eldership in Action consists of seven chapters covering biblical teachings on the role, how to appoint elders, how elders oversee the congregation and ministry staff, and how to conduct effective planning, decision-making, and meetings.

**For a summary, click here for the Kindle Version, go to right column, and download the free sample. If you don’t have a free Kindle Reader on your computer, there’s a link for that too.

From the Publisher

With over 150,000 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.

About the Author

Alexander Strauch was raised in New Jersey and converted to Christ at a Bible camp in New York State. He received his undergraduate degree from Colorado Christian University and went on to earn his Master’s in Divinity degree from Denver Seminary. For over thirty years he has served as an elder at Littleton Bible Chapel near Denver, Colorado. Additionally, he has taught philosophy and New Testament literature at Colorado Christian University. A gifted Bible teacher and popular speaker, Mr. Strauch has helped thousands of churches worldwide through his expository, writing ministry. He is the author of Biblical Eldership, The New Testament Deacon, Men and Women: Equal Yet Different, The Hospitality Commands, Agape Leadership, Leading with Love and Meetings That Work.


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***For additional information on this resource, including reviews, click the bookstore links. Check the reference at page top or the links below for resource guides on related topics.***

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