Book Review: A Well-Ordered Church

Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2015 in Book review
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I continue to be grateful for the current resurgence in the Church of Jesus Christ – a serious consideration of through whom and for what the Church consists. However, given the many positives in this resurgence there can be extremes, extremes that at the end of the day fall short of what the Scriptures teach concerning His Church.

Therein is the reason I am also grateful for this new title by William Boekestein and Daniel R. Hyde, A Well-Ordered Church: Laying a Solid Foundation for a Vibrant Church. The title and the sub-title offer a complete description of the goal or purpose of the book: to provide what the Scriptures proclaim and second what some confessions teach concerning the foundation for the Church, how the church is to be built upon that foundation, and how the Church will function within and without according to this structure.

The book is given in four parts: (1) Identity, (2) Authority, (3) Ecumenicity, and (4) Activity. The first two parts deal with the governance of the Church – Christ as the only Head (Identity) with earthly authority derived from Scripture and not the tradition of man (though the author’s do not discount the importance of traditions that are based on Scripture) that is fleshed out through the officers of the Church (elders/pastors and deacons). Of course, as with any book dealing with church governance (ecclesiology) there will be disagreement as to what the Scripture teaches – and the authors recognize that truth and do a good job of navigating the waters to stay on point. They emphasize the importance of a plurality of elders both biblically and practically and show the dangers where such plurality is lacking. They also give a biblical understanding of the deacons as servants of the church but also show the authority that comes with the diaconate. And they state that there is some flexibility in the Scriptures as to how this governance is practiced. As a congregationalist I found myself at times thinking that they had stated something too strongly. As an example, they point out that a church should not be absolutely autonomous.  Though they do not use the word absolutely I use it for other congregationalists who might wince at what they say concerning autonomy. There purpose is to show that just as the Scriptures do not allow for spiritual Lone Rangers, neither does it allow for Lone Ranger churches. The early churches fellowshipped and associated with one another and they provide a model for the church today. Regardless of how that fellowship is fleshed out, whether through denominations or local associations, whether formal or informal, the authors contend that for the purpose of accountability and edification a local church should be in close association with sister churches, and I heartily agree. Congregationalists will find a few other points of disagreement where we can agree to disagree.

The final two parts are built upon the first two. Part 3 on Ecumenicity takes the fellowship of churches a step further. Anticipating the question of how far is a church to go in associating with other churches within a denomination and without (“How big a tent are we talking about?”), the authors give some sound biblical, confessional, and practical guidelines to consider. Again, depending on your particular ecclesiology there may be places where you agree to disagree with the authors, but the importance of ecumenicity in the church universal for the sake of the kingdom is their focus. They quote the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck, “Every local church is therefore simultaneously an independent manifestation of the body of Christ and part of a larger whole.”

The final part (Activity) fleshes out how a local church then practice church in six chapters. The church is to teach, worship, witness, and repent (the practice of church discipline). Each chapter is fairly brief and this is the one part of the book that could have provided a bit more detail. However, each of these chapters has entire books written on the subject and the authors do an adequate job of setting forth important points. I would encourage you to consider their recommendations for further reading at the end of the chapters for further study.

While there have been numerous books published over the past twenty years on the church, and many like this one, I think you will find A Well-Ordered Church to be a brief yet valuable resource to turn to and to offer to others. The questions at the end of each chapter are good for church leaders and members to consider for the purpose of the Church – His Church, not our church! Taking from the foreword from Dr. Cornelius Venema, you will come away with a greater appreciation for the way Christ is present and active in the life and ministry of the local congregation.

I received a copy of this book free of charge from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

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