Recently I read Joshua Harris’ book Stop Dating the Church (Multnomah, 2004). It’s a small book, pocket sized, and only 129 pages; you could easily read it in a day. In the book Harris argues that an unfortunate culture has risen in church circles where people casually “date” the church rather than commit to a serious relationship. Welsh language denominational churches are an obvious example of the phenomenon Harris talks about because church attendance at most churches are at best half it’s registered members. Members don’t even turn up to worship without mentioning further commitment. Harris argues that the Church is important because God himself sees the Church as important; so important in-fact that God the Father gave God the Son, Jesus Christ, the Church as his bride. Harris goes on to explain that Christianity is a faith that is meant to be lived communally in relationship with other Christians. The book also contains challenging chapters on how we should choose a church and how to spend our Sunday; one should treat it special he argues, but not in a legalistic way.
Although Harris has plenty of good things to say in his book there are a few weaknesses, especially reading it from a Welsh perspective. While you read the book you must keep in mind that Harris leads what would be classified by our standards here in Wales as a ‘mega-church’, he is the Pastor of Covenant Life Church, the founding church of Sovereign Grace Ministries, in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA. It is obvious that Harris has never come face to face with some of the main problems we face here in Wales. This is no criticism on Harris, it’s just a warning to those who would be tempted to apply his words exactly as they read in the book to our situation in Wales. One must contextualize. He comes to the subject with a blank page and therefore gives no advice to those of us who’s got a page blotted already with nonconformist scribbles; i.e. the legacy of Welsh Chapelism.
Despite the weaknesses and the US culture-specific aspects of his narrative I would strongly recommend this book especially if your interested in Church renewal.