Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Book Review -- Stop Dating the Church

Every church has them: people allergic to commitment. Christians with a casual, pick-and-choose relationship to the local church. Joshua Harris calls them “church daters” and issues a winsome call for them to cut it out.

In his previous books on dating and courtship, Harris warned against “directionless relationships that were romantic and physical but had no intention of moving toward commitment.” Here, Harris turns the spotlight on similar, half-hearted relationships that believers often have with the local church.

In Stop Dating the Church! Harris confronts the me-first, go-it-alone, extra-critical attitudes that characterize Christians who have not yet fallen in love with the family of God. The confrontation is easy to swallow, however, because the author starts with himself. Harris tells his own story of going from “church dater” to senior pastor and the theology that got him there.

In the first three chapters, Harris tell us why we need the local church. In easy-to-read, engaging prose, he draws out the biblical themes of the church as the bride of Christ, as God’s new covenant society, as the community where the Holy Spirit’s “sanctification project” is accomplished and the place where God uniquely dwells. He makes the church sound appealing without minimizing her faults. The basic message is that Jesus loves His bride (dare I say, “warts and all?”), and so should we.

Harris dishes out a practical ecclesiology in the next three chapters. With concrete, thought-provoking suggestions, he gives wisdom on what a God-pleasing commitment to the local church should look like, what to search for when choosing a church (10 good reminders to us who lead congregations!) and how to prepare to engage fully in worship on Sundays.

In the last chapter, “The Dearest Place on Earth,” Harris invites us to commit. Just as Jesus told Peter that if he loved his Lord he needed to feed His sheep (John 21), if we really love Jesus, we, too, are called to care deeply about His flock.

All of that, in only 129 “Jabez-sized” pages. This primer on church commitment is a resource book to give away and a perfect companion to this year’s EFCA Leadership Conference, “The Church in Real Time.” We’re going to buy a copy for every family in our church!

[Reprinted with permission from EFCA Today, Summer 2005, published by the Evangelical Free Church of America. Read more about this book at which includes resources for churches to use this book to its fullest potential.]