reload The Race by Maurice McCracken

Saturday, October 08, 2005


posted by Little Mo | Permalink |

Ok - I reviewed a lot of books a bit negatively recently. So time for an extremely positive one. This book is total genius.

Joshua Harris is author of such titles as "I kissed dating goodbye" (maurice=NOT a fan) and "Boy Meets Girl" (maurice=a bit more of a fan). This is by far his best book, as it challenges the post-modern approach to church, and says "you may believe you are geting the best deal by dipping in and out of church, but you are only missing out."

There are loads of great things about this book - excellent advice about choosing a church, brilliant practical stuff about how to get the most out of it when you go, fantastic stuff about using Sunday to it's best potential.

But the best thing is that Harris takes what Jesus thinks of the church as the basis of what we should think of it. IE, this book is not legalistic (like some of his dating books have tended to be in my opinion) but grounds our commitment to church in relational, Gospel, grace terms. Church matters to Jesus more than we realise.

It's also immensely readable, short, and theologically clear without being at all heavy. You could easily give it to people who don't read much - students and teenagers and they wouldn't be bored or intimadated. And people who don't read Christian books much are the people, in my experience, who most need to hear the message of this one.

You know, I felt challenged by this working for a para-church movement. Often we can think, in my line of work, that we do the exciting pioneering stuff and the church is like the backstop or beneficiary of our missionary zeal. But the church is the point of it all. Jesus loves the church - the universal church represented by the local congregation, and our aim must be to be a resource and supporter of the local church.

One thing I'm not sure about, and I'd be interested in your views. Harris says that "corporate worship" is a special time, when we "worship" uniquely and differently to when we are alone. "Something happens" that can't quite happen when we are alone (or even gathered together with Christians outside the local church body.) I'm not sure what I think of this. My school of thought (heavily influenced by the conservative evangelical theology of Sydney Anglicanism, to which I owe much) says that the special presence of God with the gathered congregation is an Old Testament thing. Church is now about learning and encouragement to worship with our lives the rest of the time. Obviously Joshua Harris (and other people he is influenced by who I respect a lot, like John Piper and Mark Dever I think) don't agree with this sort of binary qualification on this. What do you guys think?

Oh - also, Joshua Harris has a subtle but definite dig at Blue like Jazz in this book - which also made me smile.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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4:09 AM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

Something is different corporately... but it is hard to see how that is a "presence of God" thing.... clearly there is a (Colossians 3) horizontal element of corporate worship that isn't there in individual worship... And I say that with all the charismatic fervour scipture insists upon.

Have to say, I love this book too. The 10 things to look for in a church is superb and it really helped me get properly in love with local church - coinciding with us joining our current church a year ago. Church is great!

Certainly some challenges for us parachurch workers!! Still denominations and the like are probably a bit part to justify scripturally too...

7:50 AM  
Anonymous B.J. said...

I couldn't agree with you more about the importance of church and getting involved in one.

A book I've just finished reading recently (Fearfully and Wonderfully Made - Dr. Paul Brand & Philip Yancey) really hit home for me the importance of collectiveness and community for us as Christ's Body.

One analogy I absolutely loved was that of an amoeba and a macrophage (a type of white blood cell). Both cells are very similar in size and structure to one another - basically as tiny little blobby things.

But if you look at each one individually, the amoeba seems so much cooler. It can move around unrestrained, eats whatever tasty morsels it comes across, and essentially lives a life of complete freedom.

As for the macrophage, all it can do is float around in the fixed highways of the bloodstream - with very little ability to control where it goes. It's entire life is spent eating up nasty bits of cell debris, virus-infected cells and poisonous bacteria. What a boring and monotonous life - especially in comparison to the great freedom of the amoeba.

BUT, when you look at the macrophage's role in the human body, you see how incredibly important and significant they really are. Without macrophages, the whole body would be overcome by invading pathogens and completely destroyed. So while the these macrophages may appear to have incredibly dull and boring jobs, they serve a far higher calling and purpose in the human body.

And when you look at the big picture, the human body really does kick way more butt than the single-celled amoeba.

Similarly, we as members of Christ's Body can be seen as macrophages. Individually, our lives may seem relatively restricted and (at times) boring in comparison to our non-Christian amoeba friends. But collectively as a church - the Body of Christ - we kick some major ass =)

(hope you're not offended by that last line)

11:12 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Hey Mo, I'm interested to check this one out. What's this book Finding Joy that's been mentioned a couple times?

3:24 PM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

Finding Joy by Marcus Honeysett

3:50 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

Thanks for the link! IVP cranked (I'm really hoping this dosen't have a bad meaning in Britain - it seems like one of those words that could) out another good one, huh? have a lot of blogs going for you there...

7:59 PM  
Blogger thebluefish said...

er, yeah. only one main one... the rest are functional things...

3:54 AM  
Blogger étrangère said...

Thanks for the thoughts Mo, I've been thinking through this. I think something is different corporately, and that mysteriously it may be a presence of God thing in relation to Jesus' promise of Matt 18.20 - God's particular manifesting of his presence is now no longer in the temple but in the body of his people gathered in Jesus, and is no longer vaguely his 'glory' but is revealed to be Jesus. It's all in Jesus but there's no reason why God should not still choose to make his presence especially known to his gathered people, in Jesus, and I think Matt 18.20 suggests this. I'm aware of the context of this verse relating to prayer, church discipline etc, but it holds that Jesus' promise to presence himself among his gathered people (through which our prayers to the Father are answered) may be in some way different from his presence in us each by his Holy Spirit. ...?

I don't see how this would differ between the 'local church' setting and in gathering in Jesus' name outside of that, unless it's because it's because of the 'church discipline'-like setting of Matt 18:20. Does Harris justify this or is it just implied from what he writes?

On the whole Syndney Anglicanism influence in theology of worship and church, I found this interesting (don't let the rhetorically purposeful caricatures put you off!) It's written by Bill James, pastor of Emmanuel Evangelical in Leamington.

4:13 AM  
Blogger Sean Clokey said...

Hey Maurice. Was interested to see this stuff. If you have time in your schedule you could download some talks by Willie Philip where he talks about worship in whole life context and corporate context. Go to the inline audio section

8:27 AM  
Blogger AcousticJS said...

Bob Kauflin, who is part of Joshua Harris' church, writes a regular column for Crosswalk called Worship Matters and he's writing specifically about what we mean when we say the God is "present", even though the Bible clearly teaches His omnipotence.

It's delivered by email each week and you can sign up for it at I can't seem to find an archive of previous emails, and if you were to sign up now you'd get the third in this particular series. So if you want the previous two, drop me an email ( and I'll forward the first two on.

11:12 PM  

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