06 Jan Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons – Book Review
Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons
Thabiti M. Anyabwile
Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. 1
73 pages, $8.98, paper
Reviewed by David Penno, PhD
DMin Project Coach
Seventh-day Adventists Theological Seminary
Berrien Springs, MI
Who should serve the church as elders and deacons? And what are the essential elements of their job descriptions? These are the two basic questions that Thabiti Anyabwile seeks to answer in his book Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons.
The main focus of the book is on elders, with less than twenty-five pages devoted to the deacons. The book is based primarily on chapters three and four of 1 Timothy, where Paul discusses the qualifications and duties of the deacons and elders.
The author has served as an elder and assistant pastor at the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and as an elder at the Church on the Rock in Raleigh, NC. He is currently the senior pastor at the First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. So his experience as a local elder as well as a pastor would seem to give him some insight when discussing these offices.
Anyabwile’s purpose is not to write a theology of spiritual leadership in the church; rather his goal is to offer a practical guide for selecting and training elders and deacons in the local church. His book would be the most useful to those tasked with selecting and/or training deacons and elders in the church, or those on a pastoral search committee. So his theological perspectives are not presented as arguments, they are simply assumed. His focus is on how to apply in a practical way the counsel of Paul concerning leaders in the church.
I should mention here that some who read this work may be offended by the author’s intentional use of non-inclusive language when discussing these two groups of church officers. Anyabwile never uses the words woman or female when referring to deacons and elders. They are always described as men. He also uses the words elder and pastor interchangeably, so one can assume that he would not support the idea of women as pastors of local churches either. No argument is presented in the book to substantiate this view; it is simply assumed throughout the book that all elders/pastors and deacons are men. So readers associated with churches that do have women in these offices will need to adapt and apply what is written to women who serve in these offices.
Also, in this book, the pastor is presented as one of the group of elders who lead the church spiritually, though the author does seem to accord the pastor a higher level of influence and accountability. So at times what is written seems to apply to both elders and pastors, but at other times, it seems that only the local pastor is the focus of discussion.