Book Review: Why Church Matters

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why Church Matters is a re-release of Joshua Harris's book previously published as Stop Dating the Church.  Along with the new title comes small group discussion questions at the end of the book, a helpful addition.  Joshua Harris is probably most well-known as the author of the controversial anti-dating relationship book,I Kissed Dating Goodbye."  While I appreciate Harris's approach to dating, I don't completely agree with him on everything related to that, but I was still excited to read this book.  My husband is a youth minister, and with the church being such a big part of our lives, I have to say I completely agree with Harris in "Why Church Matters."  

As Christians, we are all part of the Church body, that is the Bride of Christ.  That's the big picture, and while grasping this concept is critical to living your life to the fulness that Christ intends, understanding the smaller picture is also important-- the local church.  Harris writes, "to be part of the universal church isn't enough... Every Christian is called to be passionately committed to a specific local church."  He goes on to flesh out in the following chapters exactly how involvement the local church is critical-- as in NOT optional-- to spiritual growth and health for all Christians.  

Harris calls out a growing population of church attendees... the church "daters."  He explains that "experts describe America as a nation of 'believers' but not 'belongers'."  However, the problem does not solely lie with the attendees, but with the churches themselves.  Too many of our churches today are me-centered, and we are quick to adapt that mindset ourselves.  As a pastor's wife, I cannot tell you how many complaints I have heard about Sunday mornings.  The sad part is, 99% of them are me-centered.  The music was too loud, too dated, too high of a key; the sanctuary was too hot, too cold, the seats too noisy or uncomfortable; the preacher's message was too long, etc, etc, etc.  You know what I hear when I hear those kinds of things? "ME! ME! ME! ME! ME!"  Harris is spot-on when he writes that "we go [to church] for what we can get-- social interaction, programs, or activities.  The driving question is, 'What can church do for me?'"  You don't have to look very far into the New Testament book of Acts to learn that this is NOT what church is about.  I've been a part of a church that was all about the "health and wealth prosperity" as opposed to the true Gospel message.  If we can begin to grasp how near and dear to the heart of God His Church is, we will have no other option but to fully commit ourselves to involvement in a local church.  Harris says it well when he writes about the bigger picture importance of the church: "The church matters because Jesus chose it to tell and show the world the message of His love.  And this message, carried forward through history and lived out for all to see, it the world's only hope."  He goes on the say "God has not only saved us; He has invited us to participate in His master plan of redeeming a people for His glory."  As Christians, being part of a local church is our duty, our calling and our privilege.  

Harris does a great job explaining why the Church is Christ's passion, and why he still calls us his bride.  He also addresses many of the excuses people have for not going to church.  I have to be honest that I saw myself in some of these excuses.  When we were part of the "health and wealth" style of church, I have to admit, I was not a regular attendee and I was anything but passionate about getting involved there.  Though some if it had to do with the church, it also had to do with my attitude.  I am so thankful that we have moved on to an amazing, God-centered, Bible preaching, Gospel-living church family.  My attitude has also changed... I see the importance of getting involved, investing my time and energy in the church and our surrounding community.  But even now, I hear complaints and excuses from others who are not getting involved, or who do not see the importance of gathering weekly to worship.  Harris puts out a bold statement (as he is known for doing) that "for sincere followers of Christ, there Bible allows no disconnect" for a believer to be connected to the universal Church yet have no link to a local church.  Charles Spurgeon writes that for a Christian, failure to join a church is disobedience. "It is in the local church that we are attached to God's work around the world."  And as Christians, isn't that our ultimate joy and purpose in life?  To bring glory to God and to make his name known to the nations?

I could rave on and on about this book, but I"ll sum it all up by just saying "Read it!"  Whether you are a CEO Christian (Christmas and Easter Only), a spotty, here-and-there attender, or a regular, committed part of a local church, this book is for you.  It is honest and hard-hitting without tearing the reader down.  As someone who has devoted my life to service in the church, it could be easy for me to tell other people to get involved.  I get so fired up reading about the early churches from the book of Acts.  I love studying the epistles to churches in Galatia, Ephesus, Corinth and Philippi.  But it goes much deeper than that- I have a passion for the greater, unified Church, and believe that every single Christian can have that same passion too.  Not only can they have it, but the should have it.  And part of living out that passion is plugging in to a local church.  Towards the end of his book, Harris gives some great pointers on finding a church that is solid and Christ-centered.  But the bottom line is this: no more excuses.  Find a church to get plugged in to, commit yourself to developing a relationship there, and serve that local church with all you've got!  

You can read an excerpt from Chapter One of Why Church Matters HERE.

You can buy the book on Amazon HERE.

(Full disclosure: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

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  1. I could not agree with you more. Very interested in this book.


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