How to Be Mission-Oriented Elders: A Review

When I read my friend James Matichuk’s review of Eldership and the Mission of God: Equipping Teams for Faithful Church Leadership, I wanted to get my hands on it as well. While, unlike James, I am not a pastor, I am on my church’s leadership team, and wanted to read something that would help me reflect on what it means to function faithfully in that position. I also was looking for something that I could recommend to the rest of the team, and after reading it I found that this book fits the bill.

Eldership and the Mission of God is written by Bob Hyatt and J.R. Briggs, two pastors of missional churches who had met through their involvement in the Ecclesia Network. I had read Briggs’s previous book, Fail, and liked it. While I had not read anything Hyatt had written, I knew that he was the founding pastor of the Evergreen Community in Portland.

The book deliberately looks at church leadership through a missional lens. Briggs and Hyatt write in the introduction:

This book is not an exhaustive academic or theological treatise on biblical eldership. It is for church leaders and practitioners who want their faith communities to possess an ethos that is undeniably anchored in God’s mission. Good books have been written on eldership that approach the topic from a theological perspective. This book, however, seeks to do something few—if any—have done before: explore eldership through a missiological lens and discuss its practical implications within local congregations.

They see elders as tasked with constructing “floating docks” (see the picture on the cover) that can remain anchored in God’s mission while adapting to the current cultural water levels. The book includes chapters on the nuts and bolts of eldership, such as how to select elders, what the qualifications of an elder are, and what the roles of elders are in leading the church and making decisions, but this emphasis on mission runs throughout the book.

Briggs and Hyatt do not disqualify women as elders (they even include a chapter at the end called “What about Women Elders?” in which they make a brief case for this and include references for further exploration), so churches that do not permit women to be elders might not be able to endorse this book fully. Nevertheless, I would recommend this book to any pastor or church leader who is interested in exploring what eldership in their church would look like if it were primarily shaped by mission.

Note: Thanks to InterVarsity Press for a review copy of this book. I was not asked to give a positive review.