Book Review: Gathered Together, by Karl Deenick


Karl Deenick, Gathered Together: The Beauty of Living as God’s Church. Matthias Media, 2022. 145 pages.


In July of 1961, the Green Bay Packers gathered for the first day of training camp. The previous season had ended in heartbreak; they had lost a late lead in the NFL Championship against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The minds of the Packer players had no doubt been thinking about this brutal loss for the entire post-season, pondering again and again how certain victory could’ve been snatched from their grasp. They dreamed of how they might advance their game to another level and start working on a new program to get them ready to reclaim their spot at the top of the NFL.

As the team assembled for a new season, head coach Vince Lombardi shared a surprising lesson with this group who, just months prior, had come within minutes of winning the sport’s biggest prize.

“Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”

His biographer explained, “[Lombardi] took nothing for granted. . . assuming the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before.”[1]

Remembering the fundamentals paid off. Six months later, Green Bay beat the New York Giants 37–0 to win the NFL Championship.

The Apostle Peter, in Lombardi-like fashion, wrote in his second letter: “I think it is right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Pet. 1:13, emphasis added).

That which was learned only once will soon be assumed and will one day be forgotten (Heb. 2:1–2).

As Christians, we need to consistently revisit the basics of the faith. And as pastors and members of local churches, we need to consistently revisit the basics of the church. Gathered Together by Karl Deenick will reintroduce you to God’s glorious vision for his church and “stir you up by way of reminder.”

Deenick writes, “My aim is not simply to help you understand the church; the aim is to help you love it. . . This is a book to help you Iive in the church as a faithful member or better still as a faithful partner and co-worker” (8–9).

With seven brief chapters written from the perspective and for the practice of a regular church member, Gathered Together is an accessible, biblical primer on the body of Christ.


Deenick writes, “This book is . . . on the church—what it is, what it does, and how it does it” (9). The author opens with a helpful chapter on where the church finds itself in redemptive history. Situated between the already-but-not-yet realities of the kingdom of God, we live as “the church militant”—that is, engaged in spiritual warfare—while awaiting our glorious homecoming.

Holding up this theological vision of future glory is an excellent way to begin such a book. While we might be tempted to “get practical” right away, nothing is more practical for our day-to-day, week-by-week, year-in-year-out engagement with the local church than keeping our heart’s future hope alive. If we’re going to love the church, we need the “why” behind the “what”—to see what God is doing in and through his bride on earth, that we might be sustained to selflessly serve her for a lifetime.

From there, Deenick dives into the identity and functions of the church. Providing a survey of the people of God from the Old Testament to the New, Deenick defines the church as “the people of God who have been gathered by the Spirit around Jesus in the heavenly places” (48). Moreover, the church is “the collection of sinners reconciled to God though Jesus’s death, recreated through the work of the Spirit, united together in the family of God. . . It’s the people across the whole world who regularly gather in little outposts of that heavenly church to be built together into the dwelling place of God.”

Then, taking his cues from the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, Deenick traces out the chief functions of the church. Called to love God and neighbor by making disciples of all nations, Deenick puts the two together: “The goal of the Great Commission is to win more people to loving, adoring, and serving Jesus. In other words, the goal of the Great Commission is the fulfillment of the Great Commandment” (61).

In the remainder of the book, Deenick discusses how the church “gathers” and “scatters” to fulfill such responsibilities, how pastors equip the saints for the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11–12), and—in an insightful concluding chapter—how the church rests.


At a time when church attendance is on a decline in the West, and when churches around the globe need practical resources, Gathered Together is a worthy addition to every pastor and member’s toolkit. For pastors, the book is especially useful for creating a new members class, teaching a Sunday School class, or preaching a sermon series on life in the church.

If you’re a pastor who regularly gives away books, add Gathered Together to your list. It will equip your people to think and live centered around the church. And if you’re a member, by all means, purchase a few copies of Gathered Together and work through it with fellow church members.

In the end, revisiting these basics will lead to something even more eternally significant than winning the Super Bowl.

* * * * *

[1] David Maraniss, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi

Mark Redfern

Mark Redfern is a pastor of Heritage Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY.

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