Lynn Anderson has written this book as an introduction to biblical eldership. Lynn has done ministry for 40 years and learned many of the lessons in this book through trial and error. The book doesn’t include a ton of stories, but he references a few of these stories as he teaches the foundational principles of Eldership.
The first section of the book articulates the 3 functions of an elder. He spends a significant amount of time to the idea of shepherding, the Bible’s first and foremost image of an elder (and the book’s namesake image). Drawing heavily from Jesus teaching in John 10, Anderson points out the intimate and dependent relationship the sheep have with a shepherd. He also uses this section to dismantle some other leadership styles: Cowboys drive the herd, CEO model whose distant from the operation, or the Hired Hand model who works for the paycheck with no care for the sheep, and the Sheriff model who makes and keeps the laws. The shepherding model is clearly the one Jesus chose. His next function is that of mentoring. This section, in my opinion was extremely weak. He did not offer up his view of mentoring other than opening your life. Mentoring comes in many shapes, sizes, and structures. He encouraged leaders to open their lives (which we need more of) but didn’t offer up any methodology to it. Here is some that he neglected to offer. The last part of the functions are his words on equippers. Once again, he adequately supported the idea that elders are equippers, but didn’t offer up any ways to implement training to the body. I have known many in leadership, who say they want to help, but offer nothing tangible. Anderson offered up teaching on how Jesus did it (1000à100à72à12à3) but no way for the modern church.
The second section of the book depicts the type of people who do the work of an elder. This section was stronger than his first. He beings with a character sketch of what an Elder looks like. He brought up a point that was new to me that I really enjoyed as he discussed the “qualities” (not qualifications because that sounds like a checklist) of an Elder. When looking at the qualities as recorded in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, the lists of qualities are not identical. Most of the time, the lists are harmonized and combined creating a super list. Anderson argues that the lists, instead of supplementing one another, pose two different types of elders for two different types of churches. This seems to make sense as I have got to spend time around great elders from all different walks of life, each of whom have a very situation-specific ministry. The one character trait I wished he had fleshed out more is that of an elder needing vision. He didn’t mention this but it needs to be said: elders make decisions for a church they probably wont see. Elders make decsions now that in many cases wont be fully understood for 10 years or more. They need to be forward thinkers, and learners. He glossed over the fact that elders need to be men who continue to learn (he hinted at it, but never posed it). Leaders are Learners.
Overall the book was a fairly easy read. He has not written this book on a very deep level, nor does it really discuss ideas or theory. It is a very practical book, except for his use of endnotes which makes looking up his scriptures harder. He didn’t do a great job of what needs to be start up when it comes to becoming an elder. There are men who are willing to serve that must be trained…I would have liked to hear his ideas on training elders and how to mentor and pour into them. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a cursory view of eldership and the men that need to fill the role, but for anyone who has been around it for some time, Anderson isn’t going to say anything in the book that will blow your mind. For a deeper study of eldership, Biblical Eldership: An urgent call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership by Alexander Strauch is the best and most thorough book on the ideas, theory, and exegetical discussion on Eldership. But the most practical book I have read on the subject has been Jack Coffee’s book Elders: A Practical Guide to New Testament Leadership. A friend of mine, Nate Bruns, suggested it to me after attending one of Bob Russell’s Leadership retreats. Jack was one of Bob Russell’s elders at Southeast Christian Church in Kentucky. It is an extremely helpful, cheap, practical, and short book on the topic of Eldership.