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Encountering God Together

By David G. Peterson
August 2013 | Review by Kevin Bidwell


'I am often disturbed or disappointed by what I experience when I "go to church",' says David Peterson. 'At first glance the issues seem to be practical... Mostly, however, these practical failings seem to reveal a poor understanding of why we gather, little awareness of how to lead a gathering effectively, and an inadequate grasp of what we should expect from our time together.' In response, Peterson offers this accessible and stimulating exposition, intended to help everyone involved in planning and leading church services think more biblically and creatively about this important ministry. Our ultimate aim should be to honour and glorify God as we take our part in the edification of his church. 'We encounter God by listening to what he has revealed to us in Scripture and by responding to the work of his Son, as the gospel directs. The gift of his Spirit enables us to minister his truth to one another and to take our part in the building of his church. In biblically informed singing, in reading and reflecting on the Bible together, in biblically driven prayer and praise, and in sharing the Lord's Supper together, God confronts us with his character and will for us and makes it possible for us to submit to and serve him appropriately in every area of our lives.'

  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-84474-607-1
  • Pages: 192
  • Price: 9.99
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Book Review

Encountering God together


David G. Peterson

IVP, 192 pages, £9.99, ISBN: 978-1-84474-607-1

Star Rating : 2


I would categorise this book as appealing to a broad evangelical audience though rightly excluding Charismatic influences. David Peterson seems to view worship services in two primary categories, ‘traditional’ or ‘more contemporary’ (p. 13).

      I understand what he means, but herein lies a danger. All too often these convenient labels are used without asking the question, ‘What is the biblical pattern for worship?’

      There are ten chapters, which paint with ‘broad brush-strokes’. I believe that one of the aims of this book is to help those who lead church services to do so more effectively.

      The opening line of the introduction states: ‘I am often disturbed or disappointed by what I experience when I “go to church”’ (p. 11). This sentence sets the tone and, if you are similarly frustrated, then the author may give you some answers.

      The second chapter is called ‘Worshipping God’. While Peterson seeks to provide answers on his overall theme ‘Encountering God together’, he asserts that ‘nowhere in Scripture is worship actually defined’ (p. 28).

      On the one hand he supplies answers, but on the other hand says that Scripture does not provide clear answers. On such a theme as worship, I find this statement perplexing. The first four commandments of the Decalogue frame what worship is with unmistakable clarity.

      ‘Patterns of service’ is the fourth chapter and it describes a whole range of valid possibilities for worship gatherings. Again we face one of the author’s indefinite ideas, as he writes that ‘the New Testament gives little indication of how early Christian gatherings were led’ (p. 74).

      In my assessment, it was elders who were responsible for spiritual leadership in the church (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) and this has ongoing implications for the church today.

      Peterson holds a broad leadership model which pervades his thought on this whole matter. He believes pastors ‘should supervise the process of planning and conducting edifying gatherings, even if others are given substantial responsibility in this area’ (pp. 77-78).

       In later chapters he deals with preaching/exhortation, praying together, singing together, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. However, the approach is again broad, one that endorses many possibilities of practice conducted by a wide spectrum of participants.

      In conclusion, we are reminded that at the Reformation two models for public worship emerged. The normative principle for public worship is that if something is not explicitly forbidden by Scripture then it is permissible, but the regulative principle holds that only those things expressly commanded in Scripture should be practised.

      The author of this book holds to the normative principle, while this reviewer holds to the regulative principle.

Kevin Bidwell







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