Well, I was pretty disappointed from the offset on this book. I know, I know… what a way to begin a book review. Bear with me.
I really, really was excited about this book. As a person who has an interest in developing biblically sound leaders… this book jumped out at me as a great resource. Then it happened… the top of page 4: An elder is a man.
That is where my heart sunk. I’ve been pretty honest in other posts about my struggle with the role of women as Pastors. It was once something I was very against, morphed into something that became not quite so hardlined. There were clearly times where God called a woman to lead (Deborah) and there are references of women in the New Testament as apostles and deaconesses. It’s left me in a place currently where I feel as if the calling of women into headship is not outside of God’s character (even if it isn’t the norm). It has even challenged me to the previous post, If Not Here, Than Where? … I can’t deny that women are called to lead and we need to have a place for them to do so.
Additionally, even with a historical belief that women were not called to be Pastors, I’ve never attended a church where women have been excluded from the role of deacon or elder. In fact, it has been something I have seen Pastors embrace. To have a female perspective will give staff the pulse of the women in the church, to have an elder that can counsel women directly without question of impropriety is a good safety measure, etc.
The scriptures clearly call women to teach other women, and that would also be to lead and guide other women. Why could there not be an elder, deacon, or even Pastor that does not oversee women? Even if you were complementarian, I would think you could see that this would be an answer to the “if not here, then where?” question.
I wanted to keep reading though, and shortly found myself hung up again.
Thune states: Complementarianism is the theological term for this viewpoint. Men and women are complementary in their God-given design and roles, with men bearing the responsibility for spiritual leadership in the home and church.
He continues with the question: If the men in your church looked like the men this resource envisions, would you have any reason not to trust, respect, and affirm their leadership?
And… to that question, I answer emphatically NO! I would have zero reason to question their leadership. And… THIS IS THE VERY PROBLEM WE FACE IN THE CHURCH!
Right now statistically, women are comprising 60-65% of the warm bodies sitting in our pews every Sunday. They make up 80-90% of the volunteer force in the church. If you look at any church small group or bible study calendar, I would dare say that women’s ministry programs/events/studies will outnumber the male counterparts 4 to 1.
When I speak with women at events, do you know what the number one complain I get is?
I wish my husband was the spiritual leader in our home. I’m tired of doing this on my own. I don’t want the job. It’s not supposed to be my job.
When I speak with Pastors and other church staff, do you know what they give as a reason for not wanting women to go away on weekend long retreats?
If the women aren’t here on Sunday, the men don’t come and they don’t bring the children.
Now, I do not know if this is a regional thing. Perhaps in the area of the country Mr. Thune is from, men are still the spiritual leaders. But in THIS area, where I live, it is not the case. The women are picking up that role, whether they want it or not, and therefore they are leaders in the home and in the church. I’ve yet to sit in a church service, conference, or event locally that has challenged men to stand up to the occasion and change that direction. The men have not be challenged to come when the women can’t, but instead they women have been told not to go. A burden has been put upon their shoulders that was never meant to be, but the women are rising to the occasion.
It’s not that I disagree with Mr. Thune’s perspective on how God ordained the order of the family and headship. Hardly, ideally it is exactly what God would want… but it’s not happening… and can we afford for those who are stepping up into leadership to not receive the proper training and development?
John Piper once spoke at a conference about his parents. His father would travel for work, and while his father was away his mother stepped up to the occasion. She handled the home until his father returned, then it was returned to his care. Right now, our men are away… and we are handling the church… until they return. Women are waiting for their men to “come home” and lead. Until that time, we have a responsibility to our children and those who are in our charge.
If women are going to be spiritual leaders of their home, and in the church, picking up that slack… then they must be 1) equipped for the job with proper training and 2) held to the same standards a man would be in that position.
It is from that point forward, that I absolute LOVE and VALUE what this book has to offer in the way we are equipping our leaders. I’ve seen many elders appointed in my day, but do you know that I’ve never heard of any one of them going through any sort of intentional or purposeful development… especially like this book offers.
I think this is a great resource for your existing elder team to work through together, in order to have a better understanding of their role in the church, further their relationship with each other, and have a better understanding of theology for their own personal edification and in leading others. But, this is also a great tool for potential leaders in the church (not just for the role of elder). It allows for honest introspection, challenges our leaders to a deeper commitment, raises the stakes on integrity and ethics of the leadership role, clear expectations from a biblical perspective for our leaders, and exercises and conversation that cause our leaders/potential leaders to really think about whether or not eldership is a calling on their life now (or ever).
The more I dug into the remaining content, the more I caught myself nodding my head in agreement. THESE ARE THE MEN WE NEED IN OUR CHURCH. Where are they?
Will they answer the call?
My review of “Gospel Eldership” is entirely my own opinion. I received the copy of “Gospel Eldership” from New Growth Press with the intention of a review. Any thoughts expressed are my own and not influenced in anyway by the author or publisher.