Shepherd the Flock. By Donald Norbie. Port Colborne, CO: Gospel Folio Press, 2010. 38 pp. Paper, $1.59.
This booklet summarizes the NT teaching about the roles of elders in the local church. Norbie has four chapters, “The Motivation,” “The Qualifications,” “The Work,” and “The Discipline of the Elders.” For the most part, Norbie’s observations are simple and solid. For example, in the first chapter, Norbie makes the point that elders should be motivated to please the Lord, not to make a salary. Occasionally, he subtly interjects his own opinion, such as his disapproval of salaries (pp. 9-10).
In the second chapter, Norbie makes some brief comments on the qualifications of an elder. I appreciated what he said about being “able to teach.” Norbie writes, “This means he will discipline himself to spend hours studying God’s word. He will build a helpful library with aids to help him in this life-long study of the Bible. A good exhaustive concordance, Bible dictionary and an [sic] one volume commentary will start him on the path of building a library…He must spend hours studying so he can feed God’s people” (pp. 22-23). Being a good student of the Word does, indeed, take hours and hours of study. The Grace New Testament Commentary would be a good start.
In the third chapter, Norbie emphasizes the elder’s work of evangelism, teaching, and visitation. Regarding evangelism he says, “If months go by and none are being saved it should be a matter of grave concern” (p. 28). Perhaps. It seems, though, that many smaller churches evangelize steadily and yet may not see people come to faith for long periods. Yes, we ought to evangelize, but “the wind blows where it wishes” (John 3:8). Our job is to sow, but is it not up to God to save?
Norbie advises that elders should show special care to new believers. “Young believers also require special attention. They must be encouraged to begin nursing on the Word of God (1 Pet 2:2-3). To read the Scriptures and to pray must become a daily habit” (p. 28). That is sound advice. It means teaching young believers to feed themselves on God’s Word and not be dependent on being spoon-fed by someone else.
Lastly, Norbie says elders should know that “a great day of reward is coming” where they will be held accountable for “care of the flock” (p. 37). Norbie does not explain what that day is, or what the rewards will be. It would have been helpful to say a few words about the Judgment Seat of Christ and the nature of eternal rewards.
This booklet can be helpful as an introduction for church members about the role of elders. It would not be sufficient to train elders themselves. I recommend it as a teaching tool, but not as essential reading.
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society