Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris

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Harris has written a simple yet extremely helpful little book calling for heart-felt involvement in the local church. He pulls up short the numerous Christians who hang out on the fringe of the church. To such, he calls to love what Christ loves—the church; not just the universal people of God but the visible, flesh-and-blood local assembly of believers.

Not only does Christ love the church but He commands us to do the same; such love is evidence of our love for Christ. I appreciate a Mark Dever quote, “Do you want to know that your new life is real? Commit yourself to a local group of saved sinners. Try to love them. Don’t just do it for three weeks. Don’t just do it for six months. Do it for years. And I think you’ll find out, and others will, too, whether or not you love God. The truth will show itself” (p. 57).

While there are many church daters (those who hang out on the fringe) in the world it is virtually impossible to mount a biblical argument for such a position. As Harris rightly observes, “One thing a local congregation does best is to show your non-Christian neighbors that the new life made available through Jesus’ death on the cross is also the foundation for a new society” (p. 47). As a matter of fact our involvement in the local church is a powerful witness to the truth that “every Sunday since [the resurrection] has been an anniversary of that amazing morning. The Savior has risen—and everything has changed” (p. 104).

Is it possible, Harris wants us to consider, that we “can be as good a Christian by disobedience to our Lord’s commands [concerning church involvement] as being obedient” (p. 46)? The answer is obvious.

The Puritans called Sunday the “market day for the soul”—“a day for stocking up spiritually for the week ahead” (p. 115). Harris would have us view the “Lord’s Day” in the same way. But if we are to stock up spiritually through our relationship with a local body of Christ, we must choose a truly biblical expression of that body. Toward this end, in a most practical way, Harris offers us a “must-have” list for identifying a good local church (pp. 83-96). The ten “must-haves” are summarized as:

• You want a church that teaches God’s Word.

• You want a church that values God’s Word.

• You want a church that lives God’s Word.

These he claims are the nonnegotiables (p. 96). I would agree.

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