Paperback, 182pp. Published by Opal Trust, 1 Glenannan Park, Lockerbie, Scotland, DG11 2FA. ISBN 978-1-907098-15-4.
It is clear, from the focus of this book, that the authors are aware of the importance of spiritual leadership within each local church. They set the tone early by stating, ‘It is vital the church is guided by quality leaders if it is to grow and develop’. Who could argue that true shepherds amongst the flock of God are difficult to find but highly important?
What makes this a frustrating and, at times, enigmatic book is the approach taken by the authors. One reviewer, quoted on the back of the cover, describes the book as ‘profoundly biblical’, yet I found it strange that so little reference is made to such key Bible passages as 1 Timothy chapter 3, Titus chapter 1, 1 Peter chapter 5, or Hebrews chapter 13. When dealing with the topic of ‘The marks of a great leader’ the qualities listed are all mentioned in the first two passages above but the authors fail to trace them back to these biblical roots. There are certain references to biblical leaders, such as Moses, Joshua, and Nehemiah but little reference to New Testament doctrine and apostolic delegates like Timothy and Titus, yet there is a whole chapter entitled ‘Passing on the Baton’. Equally, whilst the book is addressed specifically to elders, and those who have that exercise, I felt, at times, that there was a lack of clarity in relation to the fact that ‘elders … are among you’, and that they are responsible to the ‘chief Shepherd’, 1 Peter 5. 1, 4. We must all be reminded that the local assembly is not ours but His and our responsibility is to serve Him rather than pursue our own agenda.
For many, the fundamental difficulty that this book presents is not necessarily that elders need to be trained but that such training should be formalized into a college course and that reference should need to be made to extra-biblical material such as that of Huggett, Fisher, Ury, and Patton as a consequence. It is a pity that a book which contains much useful ‘common sense’ and refreshing honesty may be rejected because of its superficiality from a biblical perspective.