Encountering God Together: Leading Worship Services that Honor God, Minister to His People, and Build His Church, by David G. Peterson. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2014. 191 pp. $13.20.
“The Holy Spirit gifts God’s people in various ways to minister to one another and to take their part in the process of edification” (183). David Peterson, emeritus faculty member at Moore Theological College, offers this important statement about edification in Encountering God Together. The purpose of this book is to help ministers think more creatively and biblically in their planning of the church service (12). Peterson attempts to prove that the church’s liturgical goal should be the church’s edification and God’s glorification. He argues his point by examining church history and biblical teaching of the liturgical components.
The author opens with an explanation of why the church should gather, and then he delves into the meaning of true worship. Chapters discussing the edification of the Body and the shape of the liturgy follow. Next, he delves into details of the liturgy including the ministry of the Word, prayer, praise, and singing together. He closes with chapters explaining the necessity of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Peterson argues that the ministry of the Word is a necessity in the edification of the Body and the glorification of the Lord. He states that “the public reading of Scripture with an explanation and application of what is read, should be central to the life of our churches” (186). To defend his claim he uses early church history (Acts 2:46, 4:1-4, 5:42, 17:18, 22:2–21, etc.). The early church met daily to hear the gospel proclaimed and Scripture explained, and Paul preached the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles (82–83). He further defends his argument by using 2 Timothy 3:14–17 to prove that the Holy Spirit speaks through Scripture read and exposited (85). Peterson explains how the ministry of the Word edifies the church. He believes that the application of Scripture strengthens the church when questions are asked and answered (84).
In addition to the ministry of the Word, Peterson argues that praise of the Godhead is a necessity. He states, “As well as being a means of delighting in God and confessing what he is like, praise can function for the edification of the church and as a means for evangelism” (111). Peterson supports his claim that praise is one delighting in God with Scripture, including Psalms 8:1-9, 9:1-6, 33:1-11, and 48:1. The belief that praise can edify is defended by the multiple occurrences of praising God together in Scripture (114). The author also uses early church examples to support his argument, such as Paul bringing glory to God in Romans 1:25. Scripture calls for the Body to praise the Lord.
Peterson also explains the importance of the Lord’s Supper to the edification of the local church. He states that “celebrating ‘the joy of the Lord’ with food and drink together is a significant way of expressing Christian fellowship” (186). He uses biblical teaching from Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24–25 to explain how the Lord’s Supper is to be observed in remembrance of Christ. The Corinthian passage states that the Lord’s Supper proclaims Christ death until he returns (167). The author also defends his argument by stating that the Lord’s Supper not only represents fellowship with Christ, but also the fellowship of the Body by Christ’s salvation. Peterson traces the history of the Lord’s Supper beginning with Christ’s final Passover meal through the Reformation. He explains the progression from the simplicity of the New Testament church to the sacrificial language of the Catholic Church. He states that the Reformation rediscovered “the potential for the Lord’s Supper to edify the church and proclaim the meaning of Christ death until he comes” (178). The Lord’s Supper is an important part of the liturgy not only because of the Scriptural command to do so, but also because it edifies the congregation.
The author makes many strong arguments. His argument for the necessity of the Word and Lord’s Supper was particularly convincing because of his thought progression and use of Scripture. A Baptist reader will find disagreements with Peterson’s discussion and view of paedobaptism. A section about reverence, during the entire liturgy, would enhance the book. Clarification is needed when the author mentions “emotional journeys” (72) as well as concerning the statement “bodily movement in association with praise is encouraged” (125). The reader is confused about whether the author is speaking of charismaticism (less likely with the author’s denomination) or aestheticism.
This book is helpful for all curious about the parts of the liturgy, and it should be easily understood by anyone with a collegiate reading level. It makes a nice addition to the field of liturgical studies. Suggested readings and illustrations are included. This reviewer strongly recommends this book be read and pondered.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, TX