April 22, 2015 by Bookworm
Shepherding God’s Flock: Biblical Leadership in the New Testament and Beyond, edited by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner
Shepherding God’s Flock is an ambitious book indeed. The work, in some sense, desires to be a one stop shop for all things polity. In its pages you will find historical (Chapters 1, 5, and 6), New Testament (Chapters 2 and 3), polemical (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) and systematic (Chapters 10 and 11) theology, all aimed at giving the reader a robust understanding of how the church should be governed. In that sense the title might perhaps be adjusted for accuracy by adding “How Should We Go About” before the current title.
Perhaps the feature which most readers will find somewhat odd about Shepherding is that the title, which features chapters on Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican polity, is written exclusively by confessing Baptists. However, this matter is presented in the introductory material in an upfront fashion, thus serving the reader through an honest presentation of presuppositions.
In an attempt to put my own biases on the table as a reviewer, I too am a confessing Baptist. Furthermore, it was with particular delight I received the notification that this book was being brought to market as (A), I am something of a polity wonk, (B) one of the editors, Tom Schreiner, is a favorite author of mine, and (C) I have a pastoral interest in Baptist ecclesiology.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I find the arguments made in Shepherding to be entirely convincing – and even compelling. I specifically found the chapters touching on the polity held by other Christian traditions, specifically Presbyterian (written by Nathan A. Finn) and Anglican (written by Jason Duesing), fair and irenic.
The one point I found a bit of quibble I have with Shepherding, however, comes up in this specific section – Finn seems to argue that it is a unique feature of Presbyterian polity to differentiate between “teaching” and “ruling” elders (based on 1 Timothy 5:17), asserting that Baptists have historically rejected this distinction. While it is true, as best I am aware1, Baptists have historically found no room for an elder who cannot teach (as Finn asserts) I also think it may be too great a reduction to say this text is merely functional or about compensation (pgs. 216-217).
I believe Andrew Davis’ chapter (11: Leading the Church in Today’s World: What It Means Practically to Shepherd’s God’s Flock) would be useful and encouraging to any church leader, regardless of their final conviction on polity.
I recommend Shepherding to anyone interested in broadening their understanding of how God’s word provides care for His people through human leadership. Furthermore, anyone thinking through or examining the Baptistic perspective on ecclesiology will come away with a developed understanding of the positive assertions and nuanced disagreements the separate Baptists from other Christian traditions. This is a strong work and I believe churches will be well served when and if their leaders give Shepherding a serious read.
1And far be it from me to challenge Finn on the subject of Baptist history.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I solicited this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review. I disclose this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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