Richard Coekin is an old friend; he was a real help to me when I was a young Christian and he’s one of the key people in the story of me getting ordained. He now runs a network of churches and church plants in London.
This is a series of 22 essays, probably based on talks or seminars, about what priorities the Church should have, based on Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:17-38. Some of them are very clearly rooted in the text, others are using the text as a springboard for looking at other Biblical themes (e.g. the hope of the New Creation).
I found it really devotionally helpful, and good for thinking through and evaluating what I’m doing as a church leader, and for giving me some helpful corrections where I’d drifted a bit. There are certainly chapters I’d use myself in various contexts. I’d certainly recommend the book to other church leaders to read themselves.
That’s not to say I agree with everything in it; it’s very rare that I find a book where I do, but where I didn’t agree 100%, I usually found it a helpful dialogue partner, and often found that it helped me refine my thinking. I think I found one factual error (Ephesus was the capital of the Roman province of Asia, not Galatia), and there were a few places where I’d actually like him to have expanded on his view. For example, he takes a variant of the standard conservative evangelical position on male leadership in the church (p.25). I don’t agree with his conclusions, and I know that his views would make this book difficult to recommend to some within the C of E, which is a shame. But I’d love to hear how he gets families needing male headship from 1 Timothy 2 (a chapter which I’ve never heard a fully convincing explanation of), what that means for families where that isn’t a possibility, and what that means for the wider church where there simply aren’t enough willing men to lead it.
The only other place where I found myself dramatically disagreeing was over our attitude to Roman Catholics (p.131-6), where I’d want to distinguish more strongly between the official teaching of the Roman Catholic church and the actual views of most of the Roman Catholics I’ve met. Indeed, I could point to distinctly objectionable things in the official doctrine of many denominations, including Presbyterianism and Anglicanism.
There are some areas where he’s much better than many conservative evangelical writers – for example on the importance of “remembering the poor”.
I also love the fact that he doesn’t abuse the DNA metaphor. Most church leaders who use it abuse it horribly, usually by suggesting it’s something that we can decide or control when part of the point of DNA is that we can’t.
All in all, I really enjoyed and benefited from this book. I’d recommend it to other church leaders, provided they were willing to learn from a conservative evangelical who has been greatly used by God. [And if they aren’t willing to learn from him, they should be!]