8 Feb 2008

Mark Powell Reviews “A Gathered People” in The Christian Chronicle

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bobby's World, Books, Ministry, Preaching, Worship
Christian Chronicle Reviews A Gathered People

I learned on Wednesday that the Christian Chronicle published a review of A Gathered People: Revisioning the Assembly as Transforming Encounter in the February 2008 issue on p.36. Mark Powell, professor at Harding Graduate School, penned an article nearly an entire page for the Chronicle.

I must say that I was delighted with the positive tone that Powell takes with our book. I think he correctly sees that we articulate an alternative vision of worship to what has been foisted on the Stone-Campbell Movement through the “Five-Acts Model” and the “Edification Model.” Powell’s only real criticism is that we did not wrestle with the issue of congregational singing in public worship. That is an omission but we were seeking to wrestle instead with the fundamental nature of the assembly. I like the closing two paragraphs of Powell and will quote them here

“Too often discussions of worship revolve around peripheral issues that, even if important, never lead to a deeper understanding of the assembly. Hicks, Melton and Valentine have provided a valuable service by transcending the worship wars and presenting a compelling theology of worship.

Our corporate assemblies would be richer and more spiritually forming if every minister and informed church leader would read and prayerfully meditate on the vision of worship presented in this book.”

I am grateful to Dr. Powell for his kind words and I thank God for putting a little bright light into my life right now.

If you do not get the Chronicle you can read all of Powell’s review here.

Seeking Shalom,
Bobby Valentine

11 Responses to “Mark Powell Reviews “A Gathered People” in The Christian Chronicle”

  1. Falantedios Says:

    KC class starts this Sunday at Holly Hill — being taught by one of our elders!

    AGP is on my list, I promise!

    in HIS love,

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Wow. I am interested in how that goes.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby V

  3. Frank Bellizzi Says:


    My copy of the Chronicle came earlier this week. Powell’s review of A Gathered People was one of the first things I read. Like you, I thought it was a very nice piece. I haven’t read the book yet, but that review raised my interest in it. Congratulations on getting some big-time publicity. I hope the book will be a blessing to many.

  4. Rex Says:

    Mark Powell is also a great teacher too.



  5. Gardner Hall Says:

    Will check out the Chronicle review. As I’ve already mentioned to you in a personal note, I think “A Gathered People” has a powerful message. I marked my copy up pretty well and most of my highlighting is to call my attention to its useful points. However, in spite of the abundance of super valuable observations, I think it has a serious flaw. In rejecting a common sense approach to Bible authority regarding our worship (as difficult as that may sometimes be to pin down), you are really left with no objective criteria to determine what is and what isn’t acceptable.

    You seem to at least partially acknowledge the danger in stating, “Not every diverse expression of the worship assembly is worthy of the gospel.” (p 160) But, how can we determine which expressions are and which aren’t? To reason in the context of command, example or inference is ridiculed by so many today. Then what, other than subjective opinion do we have to determine what is and what isn’t worthy? One man’s rosary that helps him in prayer is another man’s pagan symbol. Another’s prayer cloth is a television evangelist’s gimmick. The door is left open for all kinds of weird displays, entertainment oriented fluff and other wayward inventions all in the name of “worship.” And of course, most sincerely think that their creations are “worthy of the gospel” and one such opinion about that is “as good as another” in our postmodern age.

    You are right in the book that many of the “worship wars” among known brethren have involved carnality and pride. However, in spite of all the problems that have come from them, I feel the solution is not to toss out a common sense scriptural methodology to determine acceptable ways to approach our God in worship, but rather massive doses of teaching about love and longsuffering as we try to sort out some of the more difficult issues. The latter approach may involve some loving differences and at worst some Paul/Barnabas types of respectful separation. However, I feel that the former will eventually lead to the confusion, chaos and carnality such as that seen in the wild world of Pentecostalism. If we reject the need for a simple appeal to Bible authority, we’ll be like the lady trying to sweep away the sea as we try to control all the worldly incursions!

    You’ve evidently been going through some challenges and I’ve prayed for you in them. God bless,

  6. preacherman Says:

    Congratulations on the review brother.
    May God continue to bless your life.

  7. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:


    Thank you for joining the conversation again. I do not reject commands, examples or inferences. I reject the framework in which they have been placed in restoration hermeneutics however. I believe there is “criteria” for making the evaluations you ask for and we articulate those in A Gathered People itself … which I believe takes the text of scripture seriously.

    The problem with so called “common sense” is that nature of scripture that hermeneutic assumes. And which I believe can be demonstrated empiracally to be false. The Scripture is not a constitution or legal code. It is not a series of naked commands. And examples by themselves do not prove a whole lot and the inferences cause a great deal of trouble. Scripture is covenantal in nature (cf. 152ff). That is how I understand them anyway. Thanks for being a great conversation partner.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby Valentine

  8. dagwud Says:


    I did just the opposite of Frank when I saw the review. I saw there was a review in the Chronicle, bought the book, but didn’t read the review. I’m reading the book this week. I’m actually in the middle of a series called “Back to the Heart of Worship.”

    Looking forward to the read.


  9. Gardner Hall Says:

    Thanks Bobby as always for your loving response. Your points in your book about the Bible being primarily a covenantal document rather than a legal one are excellent. However, even in characterizing the scriptures as covenantal, we are still left with the practical task of determining from them what is and what isn’t acceptable worship. God’s communication with Cain and Abel and with the children of Israel could be described as covenantal and yet there was still unacceptable worship among them and such still exists today! What should we do about it?

    So many arguments about scriptural authority come from those who look at the scriptures as a lawyer or prosecuting attorney would look at a document, either to defend or attack someone. (We agree that many brethren in the “Texas tradition” have looked at them as prosecuting attorneys.) However, Jesus doesn’t describe his followers as attorneys or prosecutors but as sheep! When I talk about a “common sense” approach I’m not talking about some official legal hermeneutic that a lawyer, prosecutor or theologian would appeal to, but rather simply looking at the words of the Shepherd to get some kind of an idea of what he wants us to do. In doing so, I don’t think it’s wrong to ask if there is some command, example or inference, not as a part of an official sectarian hermeneutic, but rather to evaluate, just as sheep might analyze the actions or words of the shepherd to determine what he wants. (Examples and inferences can be problematic when looking at the scriptures as a lawyer or prosecutor [to condemn or defend], but they can be very enlightening when looking at the scriptures as “sheep.”) If there is no indication in the scriptures that a certain type of action or worship is from heaven (examples and inferences can be very useful in determining that), but rather from men, it is best avoided, even as we pray for God’s mercy for ourselves and for others that may not be as careful as we are in our application.

    I think the reluctance to ask for common sense scriptural authority to determine what is and what isn’t acceptable worship leaves us with some practical problems. How would you go about showing someone that the rosary, candles, incense, Friday night communion, prayer cloths, etc. are wrong in worship? (You can either take that as a rhetorical question or respond if you like.) I would simply respond that there is no authority for them or anything like them in the New Testament. Could you respond with that simple statement?

    Your blog is one of my favorites because in the Lipscomb tradition, you invite different points of view and respond courteously to all. May God continue to bless and strengthen you. Sorry for the length of this post, Gardner

    P.S. Don’t ever think I’m characterizing your work as not taking the scriptures seriously! I think your approach to authority leaves you with some practical problems, but you do take them very seriously and I’ve learned much from you.

  10. Keith Brenton Says:


    I just finished A Gathered People last week and wanted to meditate on it a bit before thanking you (and John Mark Hicks, when I get back to his blog) for undertaking the work and doing it so well.

    I think the only conclusion I’d disagree with is a word choice – that scripture is covenantal and therefore both a love letter and instructions from God’s heart, rather than neither.

    Gardner, I think the authors did a fine job addressing the authoritarian view of scripture as incomplete at best. Not everything in scripture can be viewed as law. Some things are explicitly asked for and others forbidden by God in scripture. But there are a lot of other things that scripture never deals with.

    But why do we proceed from the assumption that they are automatically wrong if not mentioned by scripture? Why do we view God as being intent on condemning people who seek to praise His name?

    I know we use the term “acceptable worship” a lot, but scripture doesn’t. At all. “Acceptable” is used in connection with “gift,” “offering,” “sacrifice,” and “service,” but not “worship.”

    As the authors point out, there were lots of things Jesus participated in (synagogue, Feast of Lights, etc.) that were never authorized by the scripture that preceded and spoke of Him. Neither were they forbidden – and as choices unmentioned by scripture that men made to seek God and draw closer to Him, He blessed them.

  11. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Keith thanks for the kind words on the book.

    Seeking Shalom,
    Bobby V

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