Leadership for Growing Churches – Clarence Bouwman

Leadership for Growing Churches Clarence Bouwman
Leadership for Growing Churches: Paul's Recipe for Prospering the Church in Crete by Clarence Bouwman
Published by Wipf & Stock Publishers on March 2, 2016
Genres: Non-Fiction, Leadership
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Would a book on how to lead a successful business answer the question of how to grow a church? The Apostle Paul would think not. Taking seriously God's instruction in the Scriptures Paul had, the apostle instructed Titus what he had to do to grow the church in Crete well--and it was not to follow a business model. This publication seeks to assist today's reader as he works his way through Paul's letter to Titus. Along the way we'll grapple with such questions as - How do you make a church prosper? - What should leadership in a church look like? - What role are individual members to play in the Lord's church? - How does one handle dissent in a church? - How does the church thrive in a culture of deceit? A fresh look at this letter's answers can only be beneficial as one seeks to grow God's way in today's business-minded world. ""There are many solid and helpful commentaries on and expositions of the 'Pastoral Epistles'--1 & 2 Timothy and Titus. Far too often the unique message of Paul's letter to Titus is overshadowed by Paul's more familiar letters to Timothy. Reverend Clarence Bouwman's sound, wise, and fearless exposition of Titus and the controversies it addresses is a great resource for God's people interested in those things 'faithful' churches do to be 'faithful.'"" --Kim Riddlebarger, Senior Pastor, Christ Reformed Church in Anaheim (URCNA); cohost of the White Horse Inn Radio program; author, A Case for Amillennialism ""Clarence Bouwman has written a readable and thought-provoking book on Paul's letter to Titus. At least three aspects set this book apart from other publications: (1) the discussion of Old Testament background throughout, which often sheds additional light on Paul's exhortations, (2) the practical applications which will be enjoyed by office-bearers and lay people alike, and (3) the author's punchy writing style. Warmly recommended."" --Arjan de Visser, Professor of Diaconiology, Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary, Hamilton, Ontario Clarence Bouwman received his MDiv degree from the Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary. He has served congregations in the Canadian Reformed Churches and in the Free Reformed Churches of Australia. He is the author of Spiritual Order for the Church (2000), The Overflowing Riches of My God (2008), A Vow to Love (2008), and The Privilege of Parenting (2011).

The book of Titus is one of Paul’s most personal letters. It’s written to a young pastor on Crete charged with the leadership position of developing the church. As such, it’s a wealth of wisdom and information on leading a local church, engaging relationally with one’s congregation, and managing growth. Clarence Bouwman focusing on that theme of growth to view the book of the Titus as a blueprint through which growing churches can be managed. Leadership for Growing Churches takes Paul’s plan for the church in Crete and draws out timeless truths that the modern church can use today.

In many ways, Leadership for Growing Churches is more Bible commentary than it is leadership manual. The focus is more on Titus than it is leadership, but Bouwman’s leadership lends provides the commentary with a perspective that more traditional commentaries are not prepared or geared to provide. Bouwman plods through the book is expositional order, working section by section as he parses the book and disseminates the leadership value from the text.

Each chapter concludes with discussion questions, making this book a good resource for church leadership. Whether you’re a church plant or an established congregation, there is always a need for lay and professional leadership to continue to grow in the faith. One great way to build friendship, camaraderie, and the closeness needed to lead well is to study Scripture together. Leadership for Growing Churches is presented in a way that would allow church leadership teams to do just that.

Things do fall apart a bit when we get to the more controversial areas of the book of Titus. Bouwman is unapologetically complementarian without nuance and without discussion. Referring to Genesis 2, he writes that “God assigned to the man the role of head and to the woman the role of helper.” He does not discuss that the word for “helper” is ezer, a word most often applied to God himself. Bouwman writes of female submission in terms that, quite frankly, should have been red-flagged by an editor. He says that Paul would not have to write of the need for women to submit if it was already the norm, thus “the cry for female freedom” is not new. Bouwman acknowledges that women feel “trapped” by patriarchal interpretations of Scripture, but still goes on to uphold a patriarchal interpretation anyway. All the good of the book is undone by the way in which he presents his complementarian theology.

It’s one thing to be convicted of complementarianism. I think it’s based on a fallen cultural background of patriarchy and poor exegesis, but I can understand it. What I cannot understand is how someone can write about it in a way that acknowledges the pain and suffering that women have endured in the name of complementarianism and then simply say “but it’s God’s will.” It’s a damaging message that drives people away from the church. Bouwman is Reformed, so of course he’s going to write from that perspective. Should I, as a reviewer, criticize him for position that’s integral to his presuppositions? Yes. And not because he doesn’t believe what I believe, but because the way in which he presents his belief is harmful. There are gracious, loving ways of being complementarian. I don’t see that here and the entirety of the book is undermined as a result.

In the end, if you’re complementarian and Reformed, this book is a good study of Titus. But overall, I cannot recommend it on the basis of how Bouwman—in my opinion—not only misinterprets Paul and the Old Testament on the role of women, but on how he presents that argument with arrogance and bluster.