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Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God (Lifechange Books) Hardcover – September 23, 2004
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About the Author
Joshua Harris speaks nationally and has led New Attitude, conferences for college students that aims to spread a love for biblical truth combined with a passion for the presence of God. Joshua lives outside Washington, D.C. , in Gaithersburg , Maryland , where he has been executive pastor at Covenant Life Church since 2001, and will resume role of senior pastor in fall 2004. This role allows him to focus his energy on his young family and the church he feels God has called him to serve. His bestselling books include I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Boy Meets Girl, and Not Even a Hint. Joshua and his wife, Shannon, have two children, Emma Grace and Joshua Quinn.
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Harris believes that this is not God's design for our relationship with the Church. Harris argues that the way we treat the Church dishonors God's love for the Church and God's intent for us to be locked into a local body for the purpose of our own spiritual edification. He writes, "As we become genuinely involved in the church's work in the world, we put ourselves in the best possible place to allow God to do His work in us." From Harris's point of view we rob ourselves of the opportunity of magnifying God through our lives by putting the Church and its needs on the back-burner of our priorities.nbsp;He goes on to say, "The plain fact is, 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."
n a compelling argument for why we should stop dating the Church, Harris reveals very well why we lack such resolve for supporting and locking into a local Church. He argues, "You see, the strongest argument I know for why you and I should love and care about the Church is that Jesus does. The greatest motivation we could ever find for being passionately committed to the Church is that Jesus is passionately committed to the Church." We should follow the example that Jesus sets in Ephesians 5. However, I think the case is that many people just do not value and love the Church the way Jesus does. This is exactly why so many people date the Church. They do not put the Church's needs before their own plans.
After Harris frames this confounding argument for why we should love the Church. He teaches on how we ought to look for the right Church. As one of Harris's friend puts it, Harris instructs on how to go from being a Church consumer to being a Church communer.
Within these other chapters of the book, Harris leads the reader through how to choose a Church and how to rescue Sunday from our critique. The advice within these two chapters is exceptionally helpful. I loved how he emphasized the important parts of choosing a Church. Meanwhile, Harris surfaced some of the wrong priorities people make when selecting a Church home.
When selecting a Church Harris emphasizes the priorities of faithfulness to the Word of God, sound doctrine, the centrality of teaching the Gospel, and the purpose of the Gospel, which is reaching people. Then he emphasizes character matters. Are the leaders humble? Do the people strive to live by the Word? Do the people serve? Will the Church practice Church discipline with its members? Lastly he has two questions that make one think about their personal fit in the Church.Will I fit into the culture of the Church? Will I be able to accept this Church with enthusiasm and faith in God?
To Harris the point of rescuing Sunday is so that we might appropriately meet with God. He emphatically points out how many people are very critical of how a Church might prepare for their Sunday meeting, when these people have not examined themselves and undergone proper preparation for meeting with God on Sunday. Harris talks about such important matters as praying for your Pastor on the days leading up to his sermon. He points out that we ought to schedule our Saturday's so that we will have plenty of rest before coming to Church on Sunday. Then Harris also make critical points on being a good follower and being ready to engage with the sermon while it is being preached. One of the most convicting comments he made in this chapter on rescuing Sunday is this, "I will be held accountable for what I have heard regardless of whether it moved me emotionally." This comment alone ought to leave the reader reeling from his mis-framed expectations of the Church.
This book is an excellent read on how to love the Church as Christ loves the Church. You really ought to add this book to your future reading list. I suggest reading it before you start looking for a new church. If you read it now, your heart may change about ever looking for another church again.
View more book reviews by Joey Cochran at jtcochran.com.
Stop Dating the Church!: Fall in Love with the Family of God (Lifechange Books)
Path: Harris describes the life of a church dater, or church shopper, who refuses to commit to a real relationship with the Bride of Christ. He explains why we need the church, how to love the church, how to find a church, and how to get the most out of church.
Sources: Harris shares life experiences from confessing church daters. Writers such as J. I. Packer, Donald Whitney, Mark Dever, and C. J. Mahaney all have impacted the author.
Agreement: The central theme of this book is sorely needed. We must listen closely in a time when we can go to any church we want to get our "fix" of socialization, spirituality, positive thinking, "worship", or entertainment.
Jesus Christ died for His Church. Settle down and love what He loves. Loving Her means planning, sacrificing, serving, and committing.
I appreciated his plan for making the most of Sunday.
Disagreement: This is a good book to put into a church dater's hands. It isn't comprehensive. With that said, I would have appreciated a little more depth in the various categories. I think that I would hand this book out first, then follow it up with some of the 9Marks books.
Personal App: Am I loving what Jesus loves?
Favorite Quote: "Because the local church is the key to spiritual health and growth for a Christian" (15).
It would be worth another read and I would recommend it. I also used the free discussion questions found online.
This is the third book by Josh Harris that I've read. One of my favorite things about his books is that his writing style is so conversational and unassuming. I feel when I pick up one of his books as if I've sat down with a friend for a cup of coffee and encouragement sprinkled with confession. He uses a variety of examples, but many of them come from his own life - his own shortcomings and mistakes. And yet, his books are always grounded in scripture and demonstrate a satisfaction in Christ that many only secretly dream of.
In Stop Dating the Church!, Josh breaks down the arguments for church dating and explains why God desires that we have the close relationships with other Christians found only in a local church. Like with any commandment of God, there are real, tangible benefits to obedience. Commitment to a local church takes effort, but the benefits far outweigh that effort. Unfortunately, many of us are too committed outside of the church to have a real relationship with the other members of our local body.
In the book, Josh offers real advice on how to commit to the church and what commitment looks like. He also discusses choosing a church, including what things are a matter of taste and what things are vital to a healthy church family - and, by extension, a healthy Christian. He then talks about how to make the most of Sunday, including the church service and the rest of the day.
I highly recommend that you read this book, whether or not you think you might qualify as a church dater. I found the book convicting, but also encouraging and insightful. It's helped me to look at my own relationship with my church in a new light and I am looking forward to applying more of Josh's suggestions.