First, I want to the Blogging for Books program and WaterBrook Press for the free review copy of Why Church Matters in exchange for an honest review.
Joshua Harris, well-known for his I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl anti-dating, pro-courtship books, has entered into the realm of giving advice on church. Unsurprisingly, he uses a dating metaphor and asks are we dating the church, or are we married to the church. Harris makes many excellent points about the trend to be very non-committal when it comes to the local church. I see it every day; church tends to be what we do when we have nothing else going on. When asked if their youth will be at the next youth event, I’ve heard many parents say, “well, if there isn’t a soccer game,” or “yes, but we have to leave early to get to band practice,” or “if the debate team gets out early enough to get her there.” Excuses abound, and people refuse to devote themselves to the church.
Harris, while making many good points, also delivers some very poor advice. Some of the worst advice you can give young people is found on page 59, “Don’t go away to college or university and away from a thriving church experience.” He does say that he knows some young people who left for college and found great church homes, but ultimately he is arguing that if you have a good church, you should not move away to college. This means what? A student should settle for a community college or local college that doesn’t have their major? We are called to go out into the world, and without leaving our parents home and church I do not believe that we can make our faith our own.
One other sticking point is this: on page 80, Harris states that “you want to find a man you can trust whose example you can follow.” This patriarchal language is simply unacceptable. From other comments Harris has made, I fear that he actually believes that only men should be pastors, and that is a true shame. Furthering the oppression of women is not something that I am willing to support, and comments like the ones in this book work against Kingdom of God.
Although it does make a few good points, I would not outright recommend this book to anyone I know. If you find yourself locked in a hotel room or a cabin on a rainy afternoon with nothing to do and the books is sitting on the table, give it a read, but I would not seek it out for purchase.