I've had the conversation so many times. "Why should I join the church? I attend. I give. I help out when I can. The Bible doesn't say anything about church membership, so it must not really matter."
And, honestly, sometimes that seems to make a lot of sense. The only problem?
It's not true.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Originally published as Stop Dating the Church, Josh Harris goes with what he is best known for: relationships.
Starting with the concept that "church = community" and "community = commitment", Harris comes out strong with the simple truth that a Christian who is not committed to the church is simply "dating" the church. And lack of commitment in a relationship looks a lot like cheating.
Consider what is lost when church dating becomes a way of life. When we resist passion and commitment in our relationship with the church, everyone gets cheated out of God's best.
You cheat yourself. You cheat a church community. You cheat your world. (page 8)
Keeping with the relationship theme:
- Chapter 2 considers the Church as the Bride of Christ
- Chapter 3 explores the need for global community to be lived out locally
- Chapter 4 describes the kind of passion that drives commitment
Those were great chapters, but I actually liked chapters 5 and 6 the best. In chapter 5, Harris tackles "The Ten Things That Matter Most" when looking for a church to which you can commit wholeheartedly. Yes, I was excited when music or dress code or programs didn't make the list.
But I was thrilled to see his first three, because I agree completely. Choosing a church should start here:
- Is this a church where God's Word is faithfully taught?
- Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?
- Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?
If those aren't your first three questions, you're looking for something, but it's not a church.
In chapter 6 Harris argues that Sunday should be the best day of the week for a Christian. But it takes work to make that happen, most of it at home on Saturday night and Sunday morning, long before the first note is played or you are greeted at the door. Sundays are what you make them.
Overall, I can't recommend this book enough. At only 119 pages it's a quick read. And there are discussion questions in the back for group study or just to help you get the most out of it. In my opinion, it's all of 5 stars.
Get a copy and read it for yourself. Then read it again. Then make sure you are serving Christ and your church with everything you have.