Gather: Loving Your Church as You Celebrate Christ Together – Tony Merida

Gather: Loving Your Church as You Celebrate Christ Together by Tony Merida (Author), David Platt (Foreword)
Series: Love Your Church #2
Published by Good Book Company on January 1, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Renew your understanding and enjoyment of gathering with your church and be excited by the ways that your presence can encourage others.

Why do we meet on Sundays?

Now that technology allows us to access services remotely, many see little need to meet face to face every week. Others think that because we have a personal relationship with Jesus as Christians, church is an optional add-on. For some, they know deep down that there is a reason why gathering on Sundays is important, but they are weary and don’t feel excited about it. So what is the purpose of corporate worship, and what is our role in it?

In this book, Tony Merida highlights how in-person Sunday gatherings are central to God’s plans and to our faith and joy. He reminds believers of their privileges as citizens of heaven, members of God’s family, and stones in God’s temple.

Readers will see how each part of a church service (preaching, praying, singing, baptism, Lord’s Supper, and building each other up in conversations) are ways to enjoy and share God’s grace, and are therefore essential for spiritual endurance. You’ll also be reminded that your presence in corporate worship matters because you have a part to play in encouraging your brothers and sisters and spurring them to love and good deeds:

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Read this book to renew your understanding and enjoyment of going to church and to be excited by the ways in which your presence can encourage others.

In this book, pastor Tony Merida explains why corporate worship is so important for the Christian life. He writes about why embodied gathering is essential for the church, and goes through different elements of the service to explore each one in turn. He quotes from Scripture passages that highlight the importance of each element of the service (singing, preaching, experiencing the sacraments, etc.), and shares basic action steps for Christians to be more intentional in engaging at church.

Gather: Loving Your Church as You Celebrate Christ Together is part of the new Love Your Church series. Each book is by a different author and covers a core concept about investing in the local church. They are fairly basic in scope, and are best for Christians who have not thought deeply before about the role of the local church or their importance to its mission. People who have already studied and thought about the church a great deal won’t find anything new here, although they may find the books encouraging. This series is very basic, and doesn’t delve into more complicated issues facing the church today. The books are also primarily relevant for people in Reformed evangelical congregations, and do not include examples of other ways of doing church that would give this series a broader scope.

There is nothing particularly special or striking about Gather, and I didn’t find the contemporary elements related to the pandemic helpful. It’s very brief, encouraging people to reconnect with church without dealing with any of the emotional and relational fallout of COVID-19. Merida does mention in passing that some people can’t attend church regularly because of health issues, which I appreciated, but he includes this as a caveat without engaging with any ideas for how the local church could encourage or help members who are not able to appear during weekly gatherings. I wish he had spent time sharing wisdom for special scenarios like this, instead of just summarizing the general order of service.

Overall, this book was fine, but unless someone is reading this book with a church group anyway, I would recommend that they read the author’s previous book on the same subject instead. Love Your Church: 8 Great Things About Being a Church Member covers the same topics while also addressing some more complicated issues, including how to recognize narcissist leaders. (As a side note, Gather is published in association with Acts 29, an organization that has attempted to clean house after its own issues with a narcissistic leader and associated cover-ups.) Although Gather isn’t a bad book by any means, it doesn’t have enough unique elements to stand out.