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Faithful and Fruitful: Essays for Elders and Deacons, edited by William Boekestein and Steven Swets

Shane Lems

Faithful and Fruitful: Essays for Elders and Deacons, ed. by William Boekestein and Steven Swets. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformed Fellowship, 2019, 328 pages, $16.99.

Elders and deacons have important roles in the life of the local church, and Scripture is clear that these men need to carry out those roles in a godly, wise, and biblical way. Most men simply aren’t born with elder or deacon intuitions, so training is a good and necessary part of becoming an elder or deacon. We should welcome Reformed resources that help local churches in training these men to carry out such important roles in Jesus’s church. Faithful and Fruitful is one of those Reformed resources that is worth putting on the “officer training” book list.

Faithful and Fruitful—a companion to Called to Serve[1]—is a collection of essays on various aspects of the roles and services of elders and deacons in the local church. The essay topics include hospitality, ministering to the sick and dying, managing the tithes and offerings of a local church, knowing the congregation’s needs, sabbaticals, how to be a clerk at meetings, catechesis, singing, and serving on a pastoral search committee.  Some of the chapters are specifically for deacons (e.g. managing offerings), some are designed for elders (e.g. evaluating your pastor), but most are useful for both elder and deacon (e.g. avoiding burnout and serving as a clerk).

I appreciated several aspects of this book. Deacons should pay attention to the chapter that helps them learn to know the needs of the congregation. The chapter on a pastor’s sabbatical is also a good one that will assist elders to figure out a wise way to give their pastor sabbaticals. Another beneficial chapter is the one on ministering to the sick and dying.

To be sure, if an elder or deacon is experienced or previously has had good training, much of the material in this book will be a review. These essays, however, will be very useful for inexperienced elders and deacons as well as for training would-be elders and deacons. And while for the most part the essays are aimed at elders and deacons in United Reformed Churches, elders and deacons in other confessional Reformed churches also will benefit.

I wish this collection of essays had more overall structure. It would have helped to have the book divided into sections. As presented, the essays don’t seem to have any particular order. Some of the material in this book is found in other officer training resources in print and online (e.g. prayer, leadership, missions). Some essays, however, cover topics that haven’t been frequently discussed, such as how to clerk a meeting and how to handle church offerings/tithes.

Faithful and Fruitful is not one of those trendy and fluffy Christian books.  Nor is it a book with “celebrity” selling power. In fact, the men who have contributed to this collection of essays are pastors, professors, and missionaries of Reformed churches who are not well-known superstars. That is one of the strengths of this collection because the writers labor in typical churches with everyday issues. They are therefore qualified to write on elders and deacons serving in local churches. 

Faithful and Fruitful is a good officer training resource for Reformed churches. It’s well worth putting on the church shelf!

Endnote

[1] Michael Brown, ed., Called to Serve: Essays for Elders and Deacons, (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2007).

Shane Lems serves as pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Hammond, Wisconsin. Ordained Servant Online, March 2020.