Books On The Study Of Ecclesiology (Doctrine of the Church)

9415130_origHere’s a doctrine with a wide variety of viewpoints. For that reason, you will probably find fewer books that you agree with than in the study of other doctrines. Even among independent Baptists (like me) there is an incredible amount of debate. The debate, in my opinion, is hardly worth fighting over.

When did the church begin? What is the Church? Is it only local? Or is there a Universal Church that is the Body of Christ? Then as you spread out among Christian people, there is the issue of church government. How do we do baptism? The Lord’s Supper? Are denominations acceptable or should every local church be autonomous?

It often starts more fights than it answers questions, but there are places to read to decide what you believe.

Best place to start:

In this case I recommend beginning with the Systematic Theologies out there.

1. Systematic Theology Volume Four: Church/Last Things by Norm Geisler

He writes well and as a teacher of many years he is understandable. He fairly presents differing viewpoints and that is especially important on this subject. I love his 4 volume set.

2. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem 

He supports a form of church government I wouldn’t follow, but he presents it well and you will understand where they come from. I love to read him after Geisler.

3. Christian Theology by Millard Erickson

Presents in a way different from the above two and well worth having. I am glad to have it.

There are others like Charles Ryrie worth consulting too.

Baptism/Lord’s Supper

1.The Meaning And Use Of Baptizein by T. J. Conant

The nuts and bolts of why we immerse.

2. Baptism: Its Mode And Subjects by Alexander Carson

An influential classic.

3. Understanding Four Views On Baptism, edited by Armstrong and Engle

These Four Views books are awesome to really understand a concept.

4. Understanding Four Views On The Lord’s Supper

Another winner!

Local Church

There are some helpful material out there. I recently reviewed Believe and Belong by Clarence Sexton. Peter Masters has written some helpful pamphlets and books like Do We Have A Policy For Church Membership and Growth? We need more here.

Baptist Church

1. Principles and Practices For Baptist Churches by Edward Hiscox

The first place to look.

2. The Church: Its Polity and Ordinances by Hezekiah Harvey.

A good secondary source.

3. Baptist Church Manuel by J. M. Pendleton

I’ve seen some Baptist churches that made it a higher authority than the Bible! Still,  it lets you see what has been believed.

Happy studying!

Believe and Belong by Clarence Sexton

believe and belong

Here’s a timely subject where you wonder why more hasn’t been written on it before. In this volume entitled Believe and Belong by Pastor Clarence Sexton the subtitle says it all: “The Joy of Church Membership.”

It is a needed corrective to the prevailing notion that church membership is irrelevant at best and unbiblical at worst. It is born of our excessive personal independence that scorns even the most gentle accountability. The interdependence that is inherent to the idea of the local church is just too much for many. No doubt, the loss is truly theirs.

As a pastor, I appreciate his emphasis as this is a battle we all face in dealing with folks. Pastor Sexton writes with the intensity and candor you might expect from someone who has been in it over 40 years.

He makes a good case for membership as well as what a church really is. That is foundational to the local church ever being both what it can be and what The Lord intended it to be. His discussion on God’s Word being our guide is critical in a day when many forget that our cry should be sola scriptura (“by the Scriptures alone”).

He actually covers most of the things found in a discussion on the local church: baptism, the Lord’s Supper, prayer, the pastor. He warns of “grievous wolves” and ends on a push for the Great Commission. Along the way comes out strongly for soul liberty and the priesthood of the believer, which, strangely, is rare among Baptist pastors today. Yes, that was Baptist people’s most unique feature in previous generations.

This book is fine for new Christians as well as seasoned Christians who need to consider a subject they have thought little of in the past. Pastors, we will find ideas here of how we might present this truth. I recommend this book.

DISCLAIMER: Unlike other books I have reviewed on this blog, I know this author. While that could be some bias, I still feel this a truly helpful book.

clarence sexton