Church leadership is an issue that has long interested me. With so many forms of church government out there which is one is actually the best? Is there one best way or should we consider leadership structure on a case by case basis? Does it matter? This morning, while writing a paper on the Pastoral Epistles – 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus – I came across Benjamin Merkle’s 40 Questions about Elders and Deacons. The 40 Questions series is a great idea; the author asks grouped questions from every angle you can think of. Merkle did his dissertation on elders and overseers and therefore is an excellent choice for author.
First of all let me say that when choosing a book, agreement with the author should not be your first criteria. Why read it if you simply want someone to say what you already believe? No, what you should look for is a sensible author who will make you think. Merkle is Baptist; I’m not. That means we are going to disagree on issues such as prophecy. The important thing is that reading these questions and his discussions will make you think about your own answer to each of these questions.
That being said I do agree with much of what he says, at least as much as I could find out by skimming. He believes churches should have two groups of leaders: elders and deacons. There should be a multiplicity of elders with no head pastor, but a “first among equals” elder, exactly the phrase I’ve used for this position. Based on what I’ve read, I disagree with him concerning the continuance of apostles and prophets (not to add to the Bible of course) and I believe there should be male and female deacons.
Whether you are a church leader wanting to steer your church towards a Biblical model of leadership or simply want to wrestle with what the Bible says about this important topic this book is worth picking up.