In writing Don’t Fire Your Church Members Jonathan Leeman has provided a needed exploration and defense of biblical congregationalism. From my experience in seminary and in pastoring a local church I have seen a wide range of mistaken concepts of congregationalism, and seen congregationalism rejected in favor of an elder or pastor ruled church structure.
Leeman makes a foundational statement that should truly transform how people look at the local church and their involvement in his introduction. Leeman states, “The church is its members. Membership is an office. And members never step out of that office because they are the church, and because theirs is the work of representing Jesus and projecting his gospel in each other’s lives every day (2).” In the first two chapters of the book Leeman provides what is in essence the biblical theology of congregationalism and the ways that authority is invested in individuals as found in Scripture. Chapters 3 and 4 address the issue of the concept of the keys of the kingdom and how they are entrusted to the local congregation as evidenced in Scripture. Chapter 5 addresses how pastoral authority is invested and balanced in biblical congregationalism Leeman addresses the areas that are entrusted to pastoral leadership, while also acknowledging there are some areas that are not fully clear and would depend upon the church itself such as expenditures. Chapter 6 addresses how autonomous local churches can and should work together demonstrating their interdependence and their common faith, Lord, and mission. The final chapter provides the structures needed for for healthy biblical congregationalism to flourish.
I cannot commend this book enough to those preparing for minister or who are currently serving in ministry. From my experience it seems there is a growing reluctance among pastors of my generation to fully embrace biblical congregationalism. I have heard fellow seminarians argue that when Jesus makes the congregation the final authority for church discipline that Jesus really meant the elders/pastors of the church. Many Baptist churches are in terrible situations because they very truths explored in this book have been ignored by local church leaders. This book has helped me to take more seriously the nature of church membership as an office that requires carrying out certain responsibilities.
Disclosure: I received this book free from from the publisher for providing this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html