Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stop Dating the Church

I recently read a little book titled Stop Dating the Church by Joshua Harris and highly commend it to you. The strength of the book is not that Harris says anything that hasn't been said before, but instead that he provides an easy-to-read and concise argument for why professing believers should lay aside our independent and critical consumer mentality and instead begin to truly invest ourselves in a good local church.

Some of the most memorable and powerful words in the book are not from Harris but instead from his friends and mentors, like Pastor Mark Dever. Here's what Dever has to say on church membership:

“If you are not a member of the church you regularly attend, you may well be going to hell. I don’t mean for a second that you literally have to have your name on a membership card in a church somewhere to go to heaven. I believe in justification by faith alone in Christ alone by God’s grace alone. At the same time, in the New Testament is seems that the local church is there to verify or falsify our claims to be Christians. The man in 1 Corinthians 5 who was sleeping with his father’s wife thought of himself as a Christian."

"I don’t care how much you cry during singing or preaching. If you do not live a life marked by love toward others, the Bible has no encouragement for you to think that you’re a Christian. None."

"Do you want to know that your new life is real? Commit yourself to a local group of saved sinners. Try to love them. Don’t just do it for three weeks. Don’t just do it for six months. Do it for years. And I think you’ll find, and others will, too, whether or not you love God. The truth will show itself."

"Joining a church won’t save you. It’s only the death of Christ that saves you. He alone is our righteousness. But if He really is our righteousness, if we really love Him whom we have not seen, it will show itself by us loving those that we do see."
Harris also provides a list of ten important questions to ask when choosing a local church. I've listed the questions below, but I encourage you to take a look at this excerpt from the book if you'd like a fuller explanation of any particular point (like question #9, for instance).
  1. Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?

  2. Is this a church where sound doctrine matters?

  3. Is this a church in which the gospel is cherished and clearly proclaimed?

  4. Is this a church committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?

  5. Is this a church whose leaders are characterized by humility and integrity?

  6. Is this a church where people strive to live by God’s Word?

  7. Is this a church where I can find and cultivate godly relationships?

  8. Is this a church where members are challenged to serve?

  9. Is this a church that is willing to kick me out?

  10. Is this a church I’m willing to join “as is” with enthusiasm and faith in God?


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this book! I thought it would make me feel badly for having such a hard time finding a good church, but it really confirmed that what we wanted in a church really was the most important thing -- and sadly THAT is hard to find these days!! We have been thrilled to find the Word of God faithfully taught at River City and soooo excited to become members there!
(I remember looking at River City's blog before we visited and seeing the 9marks website in the sidebar and almost FREAKING OUT with excitement!!).

David said...

Yes, it is a blessing to have such a good church here in Sacramento. The book did have some good advice toward the end about what to if there isn't a good church anywhere near where you live. One option he suggest is move!