This book was written by leaders of a specific church movement: Dove Christian Fellowship International. They write from a somewhat Pentecostal/Charismatic viewpoint (expecting elders to have experienced a distinct baptism of the Holy Spirit subsequent to salvation, etc.), although this perspective doesn’t overwhelm the book. They caution against the abuse of prophetic utterances, and these warnings could be helpful for some churches. They have quite a bit to say about “five-fold ministry.” And they include their insights on current apostolic ministry, but without clarifying how, or if, apostles today are to be distinguished from 1st century Apostles of Jesus Christ. This could easily become problematic.
The bulk of their work, however, is devoted to the ministry of church elders. The authors provide insights that can be helpful for many readers. Very quickly, they establish their position as that of a plurality of elders for each church. (Curiously, this view contradicts that of C. Peter Wagner, who they approvingly quote in the same chapter.) They discuss the co-equality of these elders. They explain how they prefer to use terminology that will accurately describe biblical church leadership.
But then, in the first few pages, the authors interject the role of “senior elder”—a role not taught or even mentioned in Scripture. And, unfortunately, this principle is foundational to much of the rest of their leadership model, and referred to throughout the book. It would have been helpful for them to have provided us with the exegetical reasoning that led them to such a conclusion. Instead we’re given a few brief examples such as leadership within the Godhead, and King David in the Old Testament. Other than this, their assertion is supported only by conjecture—and not much of that.
We’re told that: “There is no such thing as a leaderless group. On a team, there must be one who leads; otherwise chaos occurs.” I would readily agree. But who should be this one who leads the elders? Should this primary leadership come from a solitary elder in distinction to his fellow elders, or from Christ? It’s compelling to me that the only place where the Bible uses the Greek word for a senior pastor/shepherd (archepoimēn) it is referring specifically to Christ (1 Peter 5:4). As far as I can see, the body has only one Head, and the kingdom has only one King. Just who should be the “primary leader” of the church? Are the elders to be led by Christ himself, or some intermediating “senior elder?”
The Scriptures give us a rich number of references describing the appointment and ministry of elders, qualifications of elders, and instructions given directly to elders—but not one mention of the role of a “senior elder.” It’s one thing to respect the ministry of one or more elders who are noted expositors, or leaders, or shepherds, etc. Because elders are not uniform, but uniquely gifted, there will be ‘first ones among equals’ in different areas of ministry. But to formalize this, focusing on only one specific leader in each congregation, and then to teach this as normative for the church, is to go far beyond the clear teaching of Scripture. If someone is going to teach the normative nature of such a distinct role, the burden of biblical evidence is on them to establish that such a distinction is scripturally warranted. I fail to see where the authors have made their case.
The pervasive assumption, unsupported by Scripture, of the distinct role of a “senior elder” makes this book unreliable for churches seeking to follow a biblical pattern of church leadership.