Review: “Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership” by Alexander Strauch

This book has become the standard for works on eldership, and deservedly so. If you’re only going to read one book on church leadership (other than the Bible), this is the book to read. If you plan to study pastoral leadership extensively, this is still the perfect place to begin. Strauch is thorough, he covers all of the relevant passages, and his exegesis is consistently sound and balanced. His writing is clear and easy to follow. The book is not only enjoyable to read, I find it spiritually edifying as well.

The first five chapters examine core principles of biblical eldership: pastoral leadership, shared leadership, male leadership, qualified leadership, and servant leadership. In chapter six, Strauch gives an extensive biblical defense of a plurality of pastoral leaders for each congregation (without a senior pastor). The following chapters provide exposition of all the relevant passages. There is occasionally some overlap, but this actually fits the layout of the book and proves to be quite helpful, especially considering how entrenched most of us are in traditional leadership models that lack any biblical support.

His exegesis is outstanding, and the presentation is excellent throughout. When you’ve finished reading this book, you should have a good handle on this view of church government—whether you agree with it or not. (Although I haven’t found any substantive critiques of Strauch’s work. In my opinion, his interpretation of Scripture is so sound and well-reasoned that it’s hard to refute.) Along the way, he responds to common challenges to a plurality of pastoral elders and shows how they are fallacious.

Strauch wrote this book to “clarify the biblical doctrine of eldership,” so it is “primarily doctrinal and exegetical in nature.” There are other books that help with practically applying these principles. I would particularly recommend Christ in Church Leadership by Paul Winslow and Dorman Followwill and Eldership in Action by Richard Swartley. These are great supplements for Strauch’s work, but I recommend that you start right here. This book provides a solid, biblical foundation for further application.

Some have thought that the lack of examples and specific applications is a weakness of the book, but I actually consider it a strength. Strauch does offer some very practical insights, but he sticks to the biblical principles and avoids giving us a handbook on distinctive leadership practices from his particular church background. His balanced, focused approach has allowed this book to be utilized by churches from very different traditions, and widely varying sizes, to great benefit.

This book is helpful at putting to rest many common misperceptions about biblical eldership. It is not leadership “by committee;” it doesn’t demand that all elders serve in exactly the same way and in the same capacity; it does allow for dynamic teachers or leaders to fully use their gifts; etc. The biblical model provides us a well-defined framework for church leadership, but also great freedom in how we apply the scriptural principles. Strauch clearly shows that many churches that include elders in their leadership structure do not actually have a biblical form of eldership. He also carefully explains that many churches that seem to have all the expected terminology of a ‘biblical eldership’ actually have a senior pastor model in everything but name.

This is an excellent resource and still the best book available on biblical eldership. I can’t recommend it more highly.

6 thoughts on “Review: “Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership” by Alexander Strauch

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  3. Thank you for pointing me to Strauch’s book, Curt! I’m not quite finished reading yet, but I can say that I heartily recommend this book. It has changed my thinking about church leadership, and that was not something I expected. I was already on board with most of what Alex Strauch says about church leadership, but his point (and yours) about there being only one senior pastor (Jesus) and that all church elders are equals, those who are “first among equals” notwithstanding, was not something I had previously embraced.

    Suddenly it became clear to me why so many church leaders either burn out or blow up. It is because they are exposed to pressures and bear responsibilities that God never intended for them to handle alone, without the strength and support of co-leaders in the church.

    Personally, this has freed me from thinking that I need to fit into a preconceived mold in order to shepherd God’s people. There truly is room for all kinds of personalities and giftings in church leadership. And there is strength in diversity.

    I also think Strauch does an excellent job of bringing into focus the qualifications for church elders and explaining why they are important, making his book a great resource for developing and strengthening church leaders.

    Thank you also for recommending the other books by Richard Swartley and by Winslow & Followwill. I’ve put them on my reading list.

  4. That’s great, Cale! I’m so glad this book has been helpful to you. I remember when I read the first edition of this book back in the early 90s. At the time, I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness on these issues. Finding Strauch’s book was incredibly encouraging. And I agree with you about how useful it is for church leadership. I consider it a classic! Let me know if you have more insights after finishing the book.

  5. Hello Curt…I have been teaching this message (by revelation) since I was 20 years old; I am now 64 y/o. I, just this morning, “happened” upon your articles…reading them with such joy & many tears. Our ministry, and subsequent message, has suffered tremendous assult over the years so it is with great joy that I write you now. On the most part my wife and I have been itinerant for over 20 years preaching “this” gospel of Jesus Christ. I will be ordering Alexander’s book right away. If you have an email so we can possibly discuss this in more detail, it would be greatly appreciated. ….God Speed…..it would be so great to one day sit with you over a cup of tea…..ty

  6. Hi, Ty. Thank you for your encouraging comment! This can be a lonely stance to take, a bit like “Athanasius against the world, and the world against Athanasius.” It helps to learn that we’re really not as alone as we thought. Alex Strauch’s book was that encouragement for me when I first discovered it, and I’m so glad these blog posts served to help you in a similar way. It sounds as if you’ve had quite a struggle. I’d be happy to interact via email. My address is: cparton@icloud.com.

    Blessings!
    Curt

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