Monday, May 21, 2007

Stop Dating the Church – Joshua Harris

Pastor and author Joshua Harris has made a name for himself writing relationship books. He reached the status of fame with his first book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Then he became one of the pastors of a church and met a woman with whom he felt he could spend the rest of his life. His follow-up response: Boy Meets Girl. He showed that he understands American young people when he wrote about the challenges of sexual temptation in Not Even a Hint. Harris now serves as the senior pastor of Covenant Life Church, where he had been serving in an associate role. He admits to have been an avid “church dater” before being confronted by the teaching of his pastor, C.J. Mahaney (who preceded him in the senior pastor position).

This short volume comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. The opening scenario in which Harris likens the response of most church-goers and their commitment to a dating couple in which the woman is ready to have something of a stable relationship while the young man is happy to have a good time without any strings attached really catches the reader's attention. Harris understands the new generation’s disenchantment with what they see as an irrelevant church. He himself went down that road. He describes the “church dater” as a person who knows Christ, but doesn’t have the desire to become a part of any one church. This person is one who is willing to go to worship—anywhere, anytime—but don’t ask them to become an active part, that would mean they must give up the freedom to go where they want to, to judge what is happening, and even decide to stay away from the established church altogether for awhile.

Many of the points made declare the biblical and even God-mandated participation in (1) the Church created by Christ and (2) the local expression known as church. Joining and being active in church shows your commitment to Christ and indicates the reality of your faith. The final chapter offers an invitation to the reader to say yes to a real commitment, though it waxes soft compared to the material between the opening and closing of the book. Halfway through the book Harris assumes he has made his point and gives advice on how to determine that you do want to join a church and even how to determine which church will be best for you. The criteria he uses center on the marriage of the church’s commitment to being and doing what God desires and the believer’s decision to do the same.

All in all the advice is good advice. It is sound and biblically based. The book is readable and succinct. I would recommend two audiences for this book: first, those who fall into the category of “church dater.” If you have not yet come to the point of wanting to join a church, if you are a believer in Christ and are satisfied with just watching from the sidelines, if you’ve bought into the philosophy that says you can worship and serve God without joining the spiritual club called church, then you should read this book. Read it with the understanding that Harris comes out of that point of view.

A second audience for this book is the leadership of local churches everywhere. If we have given the impression that people need not be a part of the church and so now we must program and address the “felt needs” of the masses in order to get them into our pews, we need to re-think our approach to church. Harris includes a list of ten important questions to ask when looking for a church to commit to. It is imperative that church leaders begin to evaluate their church on the basis of these questions rather than on the basis of their “target audience.” If we commit to becoming the church that is about living and doing God’s Word and His Will, we will see that we are also becoming the church that is appealing to new believers in Christ who are disinterested in a church that simply plays at the game of church.

If there is a drawback to the book, it is in that Harris is now trying to win a new generation over to his way of thinking now that he is a pastor. Some may find the book self-serving in this manner. However, I believe that if you actually read the book you will find in Harris’ words a genuine desire to lead true believers into true followship of the Lord they say they love and serve.


Sherry said...

I've added a link to your review of Mr. Harris's book to my Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. ( Please feel free to add links to your reviews any Saturday.

Benjie said...

Thanks for visiting. Come back often.

sage said...

good review, interesting thoughts and the book sounds timely, thanks. here from semicolon.

Becky said...

What an interesting book....I may have to read it soon. I enjoy listening to the sermon podcasts at Covenant Life.

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