Igniting our hearts and minds

How the Church Gathers as God’s People
By Matt Merker
Crossway Books (9 Marks). 174 pages.
£11.99 (hardback)
ISBN 978 1 433 569 821

If there’s one book on gathering, worship and singing that I could give to everyone on our music team, it’s Corporate Worship by Matt Merker. In fact, I will do so, as we relaunch into the new normal following the lifting of restrictions, and I’d love to see my whole congregation reading it, too.

Emerging from a season where we’ve not been able to gather for corporate worship, I can’t think of a more vital time for our churches to rediscover the joy of gathering as God’s people in God’s presence. What Matt has achieved, quite brilliantly I think, is to present a balanced, nuanced, well-illustrated and explained survey of the central Biblical teachings on matters surrounding corporate worship in a short, accessible book that’s a delight to read.

Particular highlights include the way he shows us how Scripture frames the gathering as something the living God calls us to each week, and how that dynamic radically affects every facet of our gathered worship. (That makes it a vital read for church leaders, too; get your pastor a copy!)

I hugely appreciate the way he clearly preserves the balance of Scripture in expressing how we gather in God’s presence and for His glory and to edify and encourage one another and before the eyes of the watching world, without pitting these realities against one another as many are prone to do. That’s the real strength of this book: thoughtful, simple and holistic presentation of what God calls us to in Scripture regarding corporate worship that ignites hearts and minds to treasure our gatherings.

The sample orders of service from a variety of traditions, discussion questions at the end of each chapter, and Matt’s continual and specific applications throughout the chapters (not just to singing together, but to every aspect of our corporate worship) means this is far from being an academic study, but gets right down into the nitty-gritty of church life.

My hope is for our music team (and beyond!) to discuss over lunch what’s encouraged them, inspired them and caused them to think, before heading in to rehearsal – no doubt buzzing from seeing again the spiritual realities at play as God calls us to worship, and humbled yet privileged to play their part in aiding the worship of God’s church. Perhaps you could consider getting a bunch of copies for the musicians and leaders in your church so you can read, discuss, apply and pray together into your church context.

So, as we get back to gathering as God designed, and as we gear up to plan worship services, lead, and participate in congregational singing, you could have no greater boost of encouragement and wisdom than this timely, profound-yet-small book. May the Lord use it in your church to bless you as you rediscover the joy of gathering for corporate worship.

Ben Slee

Ben Slee (@BenSleeMusic) is the Music Pastor at Christ Church Mayfair in London. He’s a songwriter and the author of The Dwell Richly Course for church music leaders and musicians.