Book Interaction: Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology
By Taylor Lazenby
Biblical ecclesiology matters. Biblical ecclesiology is important particularly for Baptists whowant to be as biblically faithful as possible when it comes to policy, structure, and ministry. In his book Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology, John Hammett provides just that: a robust understanding of a biblically structured, defined, and functional church. Hammett is the senior professor of systematic theology and the John Leadley Dagg chair of systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has a bachelor’s from Duke University, a Masters of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, a Doctor of Ministry from Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Prior to becoming a seminary professor, Hammett served in pastoral ministry and as a missionary.
The overwhelming strength of this book is that it is extremely cogent with the biblical teaching regarding the church. As a matter of fact, Hammett takes time to lay out during the introductory chapters how he would address “the church.” One of these such ways he sought to examine the church was to take each topic that he addressed and filter it through a paradigm that addressed Scripture first, then he enriched that understanding with church history, then he developed a systematic theology of that topic and, finally, brought that to bear on practical ministry (16).
This book caused me to rethink the ministries of the church. Not that my understanding of the ministries of the church was lacking, but rather my understanding of the ministries of the church needed to be simplified. This book provided that for me.
Hammett describes five separate and distinct ministries of the church: ministry of teaching, ministry of fellowship, ministry of worship, ministry of service, and the ministry of evangelism. All of these ministries of the church are based on the well-known passage of Acts 2:42-47. The way that Hammett was able to simplify the ministry of the church was helpful. I work for a rather large and historic First Baptist Church. Within our church are a plethora of ministries, many of which fall under these categories. Some, however, do not. My understanding is that the ministries that are not should be nixed in order to more deeply pursue these five ministries.
The mission of the church has and forever will have an objective. The mission of the church is defined by Jesus himself before his ascension in Matthew 28:18-20: make disciples. The largest refocusing that my soul gained from this book was to reorient what I believe the out workings of the mission of the church should be. Everything that the church does should further the church’s calling of making disciples. All things should be done in accordance with the Word of God, empowered by the Spirit of God and for the glory of God.
Overall, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology by John Hammett successfully builds a foundation of the doctrine of the church and the out workings of the church in accordance with the God-given mission of the church. It has helped shaped me to be more Word-centered, God-centered, and Spirit-empowered than I was previously (not to mention more Baptist as well). I would highly recommend this book to anyone that needs to more fully develop their understanding of ecclesiology in a thoroughly biblical manner.