Josh Harris is all grown up. The man who brought us I Kissed Dating Goodbye when he was just twenty-one, and who is best known for bringing courtship to a whole new generation, is now senior pastor of a large and growing church and no longer speaks at conferences. Stop Dating The Church is his first book targetted at an audience wider than merely teens and parents of teens.
Harris believes that many, and perhaps even the majority of Christians, have a fear of committment to the church. Rather than committing to a local body of believers, most Christians “date the church,” refusing to commit to a long-term relationship. He says, “This is my third book on relationships, but it’s unlike any of my previous books…this book is about how you should relate to the family of God” (page 12). In Failing to commit to the church, we cheat ourselves, we cheat our church community and we cheat the world.
Over the next six chapters, Harris explains the beauty of the church, our need for the church, what committment to a church involves, what to look for in a church, and how to make Sunday the best day of the week. He draws liberally from the books and teachings of Charles Spurgeon, Don Whitney and John Piper, and builds convincing, biblical arguments. Chapters five and six are particularly engaging. The fifth chapter lays out ten criteria by which to choose a church. The sixth chapter provides some suggestions for redeeming Sunday and restoring it to a place of distinction whereby we use it deliberately as a day to refuel our spiritual batteries.
I must admit that this is the first of Harris’ books that I have read, and I was thoroughly impressed by his committment to Scripture, to expository preaching, and to the historic tenets of Protestantism. The men under whose influence he has grown seem to be theologically-sound, showing that he has a true committment to biblical doctrine.
There is not much in this book that has not been said elsewhere more thoroughly and perhaps even more convincingly. But what this book adds to the discussion is accessibility. It should appeal to many young people who already know and appreciate Harris’ ministry, and will engage young people who may shy away from longer treatments of the subject. Weighing in at only 129 pages (and small pages at that) this is a book that can be read and digested in a couple of hours. It will undoubtedly benefit all who read it and I give it my recommendation, especially to young people who are disillusioned by the church and may be turning their backs on her.