Thabiti M. Anyabwile. Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012.
Reviewed by Michael Nelson–
Usually when the average church is looking for an elder or deacon, the most common qualifications sought after include whether they are well liked in the church and perhaps respected in the business world. Now of course most church committees want to be biblical in their selection of elders and deacons, so they might read through Scripture and quickly assess the character qualities of their chosen man. The problem is that most churches and even leaders of those churches struggle to know how to assess potential elders and deacons. In an effort to help churches and their leaders, Thabiti Anyabwile in his book Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons provides his expertise as an experienced elder in identifying and reproducing leaders within the church.
The way that Anyabwile sets up his book is a significant advantage to the reader. The chapters are short and to the point. Anyabwile adds illustrations and personal experiences, but yet he stays on task with the meaning of the scriptures. Despite having 29 chapters which at first might look daunting, the brevity of each chapter makes this book an easy and accessible read. But the strongest advantage of this book is the practical side of each chapter. After detailing what the Scriptures say about a certain quality that should be displayed in an elder or deacon, each chapter has an equal or longer section of questions and observations, traits to watch for, or both. This is displayed in an expanded list which helps the reader truly decipher how to evaluate a potential candidate for the desired office.
In his first section, Anyabwile begins with the definition of a deacon. After detailing what a deacon is, Anyabwile explains the first qualification of one from Acts 6:3. He says deacons should be known as men full of the Spirit (24). The reason for this is because deacons should be people who know how to live by God’s precepts, and apply them to life’s situations (24). Anyabwile then moves through the rest of the qualifications for deacons by examining 1 Timothy 3:8-10. In each of these chapters the main quality expressed is not ability but character. Deacons should be people who are not double-tongued (28), sober and self controlled (31), a model of truth (39), and people who stand the test of time (42).
In a very similar manner in the second section, Anyabwile examines the character qualities of elders. He begins with an overview chapter to introduce the office of elder. When communicating the fundamental quality of an elder, Anaybwile points to Jesus Christ by saying, “all good shepherding finds its root and model in the life and love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the shepherd we need is Jesus himself” (49). As under-shepherds, elders are to care for the flock that Christ has purchased with his blood. He is the chief shepherd whom elders are to trust in and look to. The role of elder is much different than the role of deacon. While they are two enduring offices, deacons serve the practical needs while elders serve the spiritual needs (49). With this as the background, Anyabwile follows with 11 chapters that walk through 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
Perhaps the most valuable section of Anyabwile’s book is the last. Here he explores Titus 1:9 and 1 Timothy 4:7-16 as he details the role of a good pastor. As important as it is to know how to evaluate future and potential elders and deacons, it is even more vital for an elder to “watch his life and doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:16), as he leads the flock entrusted to him from God. An elder should be sure to set his hope in God (123) setting before his flock an example of exemplary conduct (138), teaching (144), while growing himself (145), as he serves the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons is a valuable resource among many put out by 9Marks that should be on every pastor’s shelf. It is biblical, clear and concise, providing an easy read and even easier reference points. The call to every elder is to carry on the faith through entrusting the truths of Scripture to faithful men (2 Tim. 2:2). This book aids in taking this call seriously.
Michael Nelson is Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Osceola, AR.
This review comes from the recent issue of Credo Magazine, “Francis Schaeffer at 100.” Reader other reviews today.
The year 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984). It is difficult to think of an evangelical figure in the 20th century who so seriously engaged the philosophies and ideologies of the secular world and set them over against the Christian worldview than Francis Schaeffer.
But Schaeffer was no ordinary evangelical. The man wore knickers and knee high socks when he lectured, sporting not only long hair but a goat’s-chin beard! Most importantly, Schaeffer did not fear man, but feared God. Not only did he engage secular worldviews, but he confronted his fellow evangelicals, even rebuking them for doctrinal concession and compromise.
As many have observed, it is not an overstatement to say that the Schaeffers transformed, reshaped, and in many ways reformed American evangelicalism. Those writing in this new issue of Credo Magazine are proof, each writer bearing testimony to how Francis Schaeffer has made a monumental impact on how we understand and articulate the Christian faith and life in the world of ideas. Contributors include Bruce Little, William Edgar, Bryan Follis, and Stephen Wellum, and many others.