I’ve been dating my church.
I’m currently reading “Stop Dating the Church!: Fall In Love with the Family of God” by Joshua Harris. It’s a small book – roughly 130 pages – and I just finished chapter 3. I’ll be honest, chapters 1 and 2 really didn’t do much for me; in fact, at one point I almost decided to shelf the book completely and start reading something else.
My first issue with the book is that the author uses different versions of the Bible… several different versions. I felt as though he strategically picked which version he wanted to use for what verses, so they would better “match” the point he was trying to make. There’s just something about the NIV’s translation that just isn’t right… something’s missing… it seems shallow. For example:
“In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph. 2:21-22, NIV)
“In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:21-22, KJV)
See what I mean…? It sounds… “watered down”… cheapened. (Please don’t send me hate mail. If you disagree, that is your prerogative). 🙂
My second concern with the book was where the author started talking in chapter 2 about “unity” with the “universal church.” I’ll let you read it for yourself:
So you don’t have to think of denominational differences as the enemy of unity, but as something that makes true unity more achievable. We agree to agree on things of first importance; we agree to respect disagreements on things of lesser importance. “Denominations allow us to have organizational unity where we have full agreement,” writes Richard Phillips, “and allow us to have spiritual unity with other denominations, since we are not forced to argue are way to perfect agreement but can accept our differences of opinion on secondary matters.”
In the most important way, Jesus’ prayer for unity has been answered. Because of the Gospel, there is unity. Our job is to maintain it. How do we do this? By rejecting a denominational spirit in our attitude. By praying for God to work through other Christians even though they might worship differently than we do. By being humble about doctrinal differences of secondary importance. And by rejoicing when we hear of others being used to advance the Gospel.
Draw from it what you may, but here’s the feeling I got from the words the author penned: Disregard the fact that that group is catholic and their pope is “forgiving” their sins. Disregard that other group who believe their child is going to heaven now that their priest baptized him. And them? Well, their intentions are good even though their doctrine (of “second importance”, as the author stated) is way off. We can still work together and get the job done! But my Bible says differently (see Amos 3:3).
He states that we should “agree to agree on things of first importance… [and] respect disagreements on things of lesser importance.” The problem I have is this… he never states what the things of “first importance” are, and later states that the Doctrine is the things of “secondary importance.” Doctrine does not change. You’re either right or wrong. We either agree or disagree. You cannot have it both ways. And quiet, complacent, ignore-the-issue attitudes will never get the job done.
On the other hand, I did get something out of chapter 3. Josh states that there are two types of church-goers. There’s the “consumer,” who is constantly comparing and critiquing the church; and there’s the “communer,” who is goes to church to worship the Lord and further the cause of Christ. I realized that I have played the role of the “consumer” more times than I have been the “communer.” I’ve been casually “dating” my church – going steady with it to see what I could get out of it – instead of being in a committed “relationship” with my church – giving myself to serve in the ministries which further the Gospel. I’ve been selfish with my time, my talents, and my testimony.
I’ll finish reading the book, and I’ll even give a final book review when I’m done. My dad always taught me that in every situation – even when we don’t agree on things – there is a chance to learn something or see things from another perspective. I believe I will learn something. Pray for me as I finish reading the book.