Stop Dating the Church

14 04 2010

Just finished the book, Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris last night and thought I would share a brief review.

Harris, Senior Pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD, begins with a story that we’ve all heard about, seen, or been a part of in our own life.  He tells a story of how a boy named Jack fell in love with a girl named Grace.  At first Grace was everything in the world to Jack.  She was “the one”. But after a few years of dating the “spark” is gone.  Jack is dating Grace more for the familiarity of the relationship.  There is no passion and he has no intentions of marrying this girl. “One night, when [Grace] asks if they can define the nature of their relationship, Jack blows up ‘We’re together, aren’t we?’ he asks angrily. ‘Why isnt that enough for you?’ Obviously, Jack isn’t ready for commitment. And it’s unclear if he ever will be…” (pg. 12).

Harris enlightens his readers that there are “millions of Jacks walking around today. And Grace isn’t a girl. Grace is a church.”

In our culture today commitment has become less important.  My generation will change careers several times in their life and some will go through several marriages.  We are so busy with so many things that it is difficult for us to commit to one single thing… Unfortunately, for Christians, this mentality has carried over to the local church.

Harris emphasizes a high view of the local church.  Now, this is not a “high view” of the church as seen in the Roman Catholic tradition, but a high view in the sense that Harris sees the local church from a biblical perspective.  It is the bride of Christ! Harris does spend some time talking about the Church universal (all Christians united by the Holy Spirit) but his main focus in the book is the local church.  He even says that our involvement in a local church should be enough to keep us from moving to a different location, even for a job change! He also emphasizes his life-long commitment as a pastor to his church.  Obviously God can and does (at times) move pastors around, but if more pastors had a higher view of their involvement within the local church, perhaps churches would be in better shape…

What are you committed to? We give so much of our life to other “priorities” that we forget the place church must have in our lives. Here is the profile Harris gives for a church-dater:

1. They are me-centered: In this attitude we ask “what can the church do for me?”
2. They tend to be independent: They go to church because they are “supposed to” but avoid any real commitment.
3. They are critical: Yes, we are fallen and every church will have its flaws. But, should we treat the church with a “consumer mentality- looking for the best product for the price of our Sunday morning”? (pp. 16-17)

The local church is the vehicle by which God has chosen to carry out His great plan.  Don’t you want to be a part of that? Don’t you want your life to be about so much more?

“God has not only saved us; He has invited us to participate in His master plan…The church community is where we learn to love God and others; where we are strengthened and transformed  by truth from the Word; where we’re taught to pray, to worship and to serve; where we can be most certain that we’re investing our time and abilities for eternity; where we can grow in our roles as friends, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers…” (pp. 20-21).

Harris goes on to discuss the purpose of the local church and the reason that it is vital to our walk with Christ that we be involved members. Charles Spurgeon says the church is “the dearest place on earth” (p. 129).  When we understand our responsibility and joy within the church we will understand Spurgeon’s quote to be an understatement!

Personally, my favorite part of the book is Harris’s “high view” of Sundays! No, he’s not saying that Sunday is the new Sabbath, but he is saying Sunday is the Lord’s day (this is the Biblical view by the way).  He is even so bold as to say that we should schedule our weeks around Sunday (instead of visa versa as so many of us do).  He says that we must be careful about our scheduling on Saturday night, so that we can give our best Sunday morning.  He encourages singles and families to read the Bible and pray on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings before church anticipating all that God will do during the service.  It breaks my heart that Sundays have become unimportant to Christians.  They go to the lake, or ballgames, or fishing, or just stay home, instead of being with God’s people! I’m not saying we can’t ever take a vacation with our family, but you know your own heart and motivations….

This book is only 129 pages long.  With just a few minutes each night you’ll have this book read in a week! I promise you it’s well worth it… You’ll come away with a better understanding of what our relationship is to be with the local church.  This will challenge and encourage you in your own walk with the Lord!

Are you a church-dater?