My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m very glad that this book was written. Reading it was helpful to me. And frequently bemusing.
Why glad? Because it’s about what the Bible says concerning church government. There are many wise people who have written about aspects of running church, but fewer recent books directly on the biblical data.
Waters convinced me that ‘Church government is a gift of the risen and reigning Jesus to the church, and perpetually reminds the church that Jesus is on his throne.’ (p.149)
In other words, I was encouraged to look again at elders and deacons, at the nature of church, and other matters like this – all of great importence.
In considering biblical data, I do have one disagreement with Waters. His definition of church, I believe, does disservice to the New Testament. He speaks of the church invisible (all true believers through all time), and visible (all the gathered, on earth). There’s much of use here – but the book seems to ignore the gathering or congregation focus of the New Testament. In my mind, this is a significant misreading of the biblical descriptions of church.
The bemusing parts were all to do with Waters’ Presbyterianism. It’s understandable that a book by a Presbyterian clearly explains the (American) Presbyterian system. Yet I think he overplayed the perfections of this system!
Frequently I was with the author as he argued a biblical point – for example the New Testament pattern of plural eldership. But then read with a chuckle as he proved that this equals Presbyterian government as expressed in (some) North American denominations. The final proof or argument was usually a quotation from a Presbyterian book of order.
I am happy to agree that the Presbyterian system is consistent with biblical precepts, but far from convinced that it is prescribed by the Bible. Here’s a wild guess – is this something to do with the Presbyterian fascination with the regulative principle?
Anyway, this book has plenty of good material. There is most definite great value in a thankful use of church government – that reminder alone was worth reading the whole book.