The second track of leadership books discusses congregational leadership. Exemplified by Alexander Strauch's Biblical Eldership, these books discuss a team approach to leadership, where congregations are led by a group of multiple elders who are co-equals in the congregation. There may be a preacher, but he is a co-equal with the rest of the elders, not a sole leader.
Emerging Elders fits into this second track of books. Emerging Elders, by Ron Clark, a minister with the Agape Church of Christ in Portland, Oregon, is even more unique because it is written from a Restoration Movement perspective, which means it includes particular concerns that matter to those within the Churches of Christ.
The title is interesting and indicates what Clark's main idea is for the book: that congregations ought to continually develop men to be elders. In this way, elders "emerge" over time, through regular study and identification. (In Clark's vision, men serve as elders but also serve with their wives; husband-and-wife teams mentor, minister to, and serve members of the congregation together.)
There are three sections in Clark's book. In section one he examines the concept of developing elders and why this is crucial to the long-term ministry of the church; in section two he looks at good shepherding; and in section three Clark offers his reflections on "issues facing today's good shepherds."
Section two is well-supported with scripture study. Clark visits all of the main passages of scripture that deal with elders and leadership, paying special attention to God's modeling of leadership in the Old Testament, God's criticism of the bad shepherds in Ezekiel 34, and the traditional texts on elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
One special note that I found particularly insightful was Clark's description of what "oversight" actually means. Typically, we would say that elders are charged with the oversight of the congregation. This plays out many times such that elders make decisions about who may or may not teach classes, what material will be taught, what the Sunday morning worship style will be, how much the preacher will be paid, and what the overall congregational budget will be.
Drawing from the Old Testament, Clark points out that oversight has a relational element to it. Oversight includes paying attention, both individually and organizationally, to who or what is being overseen. It requires accountability to both God and the church (Ezekiel 34:10; 1 Peter 5:4), awareness of what is going on among congregants (Acts 20:28, 31), visitation of church members to aid awareness (Acts 20:28), and empowerment of church members for ministry and maturity (Ephesians 4:11-16). Much different than what often passes for oversight. ;)
In section three, Clark discusses some issues that are vital to the future of our churches, from promoting unity, to dealing with dysfunction and abuse, to why and how elders needs to shepherd ministers, to who the real predators are in churches.
In this final topic, he examines our history (in the Churches of Christ) of interpreting the phrase "sound doctrine" in a doctrinal-teaching sense. We have labeled those who teach differently (erroneously or not) "false teachers." Clark correctly demonstrates that "sound doctrine," in both the ancient world and the New Testament, corresponds to moral living. We are to lead others by our moral example. The real predators in churches, then, are not those we might label false teachers but those who abuse members (and non-members) sexually, mentally, physically, or doctrinally (through control). This chapter alone is worth the price of the book.
Clark concludes this book with recommendations for training elders. He suggests six modules which include scripture study and study of books on leadership, coinciding with a theme. This appears to be a sound strategy for identifying and training candidates for elders. Coupled with solid mentoring from existing elders, this system will go a long way towards maintaining a cycle that produces "emerging elders."
I cannot say enough good about this book. It lays a biblical foundation for elders and shepherding and covers topics that are vital to today's church. Because if focuses on areas of interest that are unique to Churches of Christ, it is set apart from many leadership books that are useful but must be adapted to our particular circumstances. I highly recommend it.