We live in a time when local churches come and go. Sometimes a person gets a “vision” to plant a church, so they just go ahead and do it with very little planning or purposely formed biblical foundations. On the other hand, some local churches that have been around for a while simply go on and end up moving away from a biblical foundation. A biblical foundation is absolutely essential for a true Christian church. Speaking of church foundations, here’s a good book on the topic: A Well-Ordered Church by Bill Bookestein and Danny Hyde.
This is a readable survey of the biblical principles of a church. It’s under 200 pages and includes a few study questions at the end of each of the eleven chapters.
There are four main parts to the book: 1) Identity, 2) Authority, 3) Ecumenicity, and 4) Activity. The first half of the book is structured liked Ephesians 2:20 – Christ is the cornerstone, the apostles and prophets are the foundation. After talking about Christ the head of the church, the discussion moves to Scripture as the authoritative Word and then talks about the officers of the church who serve under Christ and his word.
The last half of the book talks about the church’s activity, which includes teaching, worshiping, witnessing, and discipline. Here Boekestein and Hyde highlight the importance of preaching and how the Scriptures inform our worship services (which are aimed at praising and glorifying our triune God). The appendix is the URCNA’s 17 Scripture based foundational principles for Reformed church government.
I appreciate and recommend this book because it is biblical, outlined/organized well, and an easy read (in the very best sense of the term). I also thought the discussion on ecumenism was helpful and balanced. I do wish there was more talk about the sacraments and church membership (though I do realize a book can only cover so much ground). Even if one disagrees with a few things in the book, I submit that its strengths far outweigh its (very) few weaknesses.
The book will for sure be a help to any one who wants a basic overview of a Reformed ecclesiology. It would be good to give to someone coming into a Reformed church, or it would be a good read for those who are in Reformed churches and need a readable “study guide” to Reformed ecclesiology.
Rev. Shane Lems is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and services as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hammond, Wis. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.