In a day and age when it is no longer scandalous to attack, demean, and mock the church, Joshua Harris’s Why Church Matters is truly a breath of fresh air. In it, the author provides clear, Biblical reasons describing the vast importance of not only belonging to the Universal Church of all believers throughout all time, but also of belonging to a local gathering and assembly of believers.
Harris, in his gentle, warm manner, graciously leads the reader to understand that the church matters for so much more than what it has to offer us. Rather, “the greatest motivation we could ever find for being passionately committed to the Church is that Jesus is passionately committed to the Church” (21). It is Jesus’s love for the church — his commitment to the church despite her flaws and imperfections — that should lead us to follow his lead and give ourselves to the church as well. On a more personal level, that means that Jesus’s unwillingness to give up on and abandon the local church that you attend (or don’t attend), and his commitment to that church that should create in you a desire to love and serve that church as well.
The book is definitely worth the brief amount of time it requires, but two chapters stuck out in my reading specifically. These chapters, I feel, offer the most usefulness for anyone either looking for a local church home, or looking for things to consider in order to gain more out of their time in their local church. In chapter 5, Harris offers 10 things to look for in any church, including such questions as, “Is this a church where God’s Word is faithfully taught?” and “Is this a church that is committed to reaching non-Christians with the gospel?” For those who may be ready to take the next step and join a local church, this chapter is an invaluable resource.
In Chapter 6, Harris offers well thought-out suggestions on getting the most out of church participation – especially in regards to The Lord’s Day. These suggestions include preparing our hearts and minds before our time in church, during our time in church, and after church.
Why Church Matters is a book that needed to be written. The church has been under attack for some time now, but it “is the only institution God promised to sustain forever” (6). This book is an excellent resource to place in the hands of anyone holding onto the belief that the church doesn’t matter and that the Christian life can (or even should) be lived alone.