I know that this has been mentioned briefly on various other threads on this blog but thought it merited its own thread and more discussion.
Here are some points that Joshua Harris made in a message entitled “Coursthip Smourtship: What Really Matters in Relationships” given on November 20, 2005. In this message he acknowledged that how some of single men and women in his church related:
- Could be described as standoffis, overly reserved, a certain level of uptightness
- Isn’t how relationships should work in God’s family
After acknowledging these problems Harris indicated what he thought was proper for singles:
- Felt desire for God to bless single men and women with the good gift of marriage in his time.
- Didn’t want the singles ministry to become a “meat market” but one in which godly friendships can lead to purposeful courtships and God glorifying relationships
- Purposeful courtship can only happen when if mature men and women first feel the freedom to get to know each other in brother/sister friendships
- Men not scared about initiating friendships with women
- Felt there had been some confusion
- It is ok for brothers and sisters to go out to lunch/dinner together, grab coffee, and email one another.
- Should ok talk church lobby w/o asked when is the wedding date
Harris also clarified his views on singles “guarding one’s heart.” Harris even felt the word was misapplied:
- One should not become self focused in attempt from ever being disappointed.
- Not to guard your hearts from attraction (don’t run away from a friendship when there is attraction) God can help process that it in godly way;
- If attempt guard ourselves against attraction/disappointment will cut ourselves off from the good gifts of friendship/fellowship that God has for us.
- If not mutual attraction/interest God help you walk through that. There will be times of disappointment.
- Some walk out courtships decide not to get married; successful if walked out in integrity;
I admire that Harris did have the courage to acknowledge problems at his church. Usually one is well on to solving a problem after the problem has been acknowledged. Hopefully this message at least brought about changs at CLC with how the singles relate. The message was given 2.5 years ago. For those of you reading this still part of a SG Church what change have you noticed at CLC or within SG as a result of this message?
It is interesting to note that even at Harris’s own church there were significant problems with how singles related. From reading his books and looking at his website you would think that only dating had problems. Harris doesn’t mention any problems with his system in his books. People say that there is never a “perfect church” but when I read his books one would think he has found perfect system for singles.
This is probably my biggest issue with the way Harris has presented his “kissing dating goodbye” approach; he fails to admit any problems this approach can have. In other words, he is setting people up for false expectations when he doesn’t warn of the problems with his approach. It is like saying he found the “perfect church” when there is no perfect church.
One problem I have with all of this is when I look at Harris’s website I don’t see these problems mentioned He mentions where he has added these messages to the DVD package he sells but doesn’t mention any of the particular problems on his website:
Wouldn’t it have made sense to spread the word about the problems with his approach to correct the imbalance his books created by not mentioning any of these problems? I am sure they exist in other churches. If he mentioned these problems on his website maybe other groups could learn from the problems that occurred at Harris’s own church.
Some Harris defenders cite this message as when people criticize Harris and his books. The only problem is that he doesn’t seem to be widely sharing these problems he found in his own congregation with his approach.
One other thought on this is “so what else is new.” The problems he acknowledged have seemed to have always coexisted with the group/courtship approach. Sovereign Grace had been using Harris’s approach of “kissing dating goodbye” for almost 20 years when Harris wrote his book. At least in this message the problems were finally acknowledged by someone in leadership. My thought in the past was that pastors only wanted to hear what they wanted to hear about this approach (only the good).
One person on the Sovereign Grace Uncensored blog (now sgmsurvivors.com) conjectured that Harris was between a rock and a hard place on this. He has a large following among the home schooling crowd that admire the group/courtship model he has set up. It would be hard for him to come out and backpedal on what he has said is such a good system.
These messages are now again available for downloading (free of charge):
Enter “courtship” as the search term.
I am interested in hearing what comments people have on this.
Tags: Add new tag, Betrothal, Boy Meets Girl, Courtship Betrothal, Covenant Life Church, Covenant Life Criticism, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, I Kissed Dating Goodbye Criticism, Josh Harris, joshua harris, Sovereign Grace Ministries