Earlier this year I wrote about a time when I didn’t want to go to church anymore. For the past few years, I’ve thought and prayed a lot about church—that’s church with a lowercase c, meaning the local church, not capital C, meaning the Church worldwide. As a part of my preparation for a sermon, the last in a series about images of the church as seen in Scripture, I read two short books last weekend.
The first book was Philip Yancey’s Church: Why Bother? Reading Yancey’s first was a little unfair to Joshua Harris, the author of the second book, Why Church Matters. I always love Yancey’s writing style and investigative-like reporting. He is a writer as a profession, whereas Joshua Harris is a pastor. I don’t mean to knock pastors who write—for I am one, sort of—but Harris’s book just isn’t as good, though it has some key features Yancey’s doesn’t.
Joshua Harris (of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame) writes about how we should stop dating the church and tie the knot already, how God wants us in a relationship with his Church, one that is defined by both passion and commitment. Harris writes from the perspective of one raised in church and who never left, while Yancey was also raised in church but became skeptical and fairly critical of the church. Harris seems to be writing to churchgoers (possibly disgruntled ones), not people curious about church.
Harris does offer some practical tips on how to choose a church, and encouragingly, nowhere does he mention anything about music, kids’ programs, buildings, or any of the other items church shoppers usually have on their checklists. He includes
- teaching driven by the authority of Scripture
- celebration of the gospel
- finding leaders that are trustworthy
- an environment of connection
and six others. If you’re looking for a church, this is a great resource, though you’re not likely to find one that does all of these well.
The best part of the book for me is when he encourages worshipers to get more out of Sunday morning. Preparation begins on Saturday night, he says, what you choose to do and not to do. I’d estimate that at least half of all churchgoers don’t really know what Sunday morning is for. They don’t know what to expect in that hour or so. But they keep going. This is changing, of course, as church attendance continues to drop steadily. For many just don’t see the point, and their packed calendars are intruding on a time that used to be sacred.
I’m just not sure Harris answers the question for me: Does church matter? For instance, the first century Church looked a lot different than churches in 21st century America. Why should I attend a regular church down the street over meeting regularly in a home with Christians?
Yancey gives greater examples of a local church’s impact, which is why I recommend his book over Joshua Harris’s Why Church Matters, though his chapter six (“Rescuing Sunday”), and maybe five (“Choosing Your Church”), might be worth the price alone.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”