What do you think about church government? If we polled 500 evangelicals at churches across the country this weekend, I wonder what we would hear. I suspect that church government does not top the list of subjects of discussion among many church goers and church leaders today. And this is precisely why Baptist Foundations is such a timely and helpful volume. In fact, it is so timely and so helpful, I’m giving it the coveted #1 Book of the Year Award! Seriously, it is the best book I’ve read in 2015. I love it. And you should too. Let me tell you why.
The book is divided into 5 main parts: congregationalism, the ordinances, church membership and discipline, elders and deacons, and the church and churches. Published by 9Marks and edited by Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman, the work aims to provide an enduring collection of resources on a highly neglected but nevertheless important subject. This is a timely book an age that is increasingly anti-institutional with churches that are increasingly agnostic about church polity.
In addition to Dever and Leeman, the contributors include 9 other scholars who make an exegetical and theological case for a Baptist polity. Men such as Tom Schriener (Baptism & Lord’s Supper) and Michael Haykin (History of Congregationalism) join Dever (elders and deacons in history), among others to provide a compelling argument for a Baptist polity.
Another aspect of this book is how practical it is. For example, after a fairly dense chapter by Leeman entitled, “A Congregational Approach to Unity, Holiness, and Apostolicity: Faith and Order” where Jonathan gets down into the weeds of church history and exegetical arguments of who holds the keys of Matthew. 18, he gets very practical with a dozen or so important implications for a local church. One major implication is the independence and interdependence of local churches (chapter 19). It was extremely helpful.
Sometimes I give a guy a book on baptism or church membership but I really want him to get the main point and then to connect those dots with other important aspects of church life. This book provides me with a resource that is able to provide that accessibility across the board, from a Baptist perspective, and introduce the reader to other key areas as well. It is a welcome work.
Our elders here are reading through it together right now and love it. It will be something I recommend and reference for years. Pick it up–it’s the book of the year after all!