Joshua Harris and his books, I Kissed Dating Good-Bye and Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship were household names in my student ministry and friend group when I was in high school in the early 2000s. His books had a far-reaching effect on a generation of young evangelicals in those days. Recently, Harris has disavowed himself from the books and announced that he will discontinue publication. I want to offer some lessons for pastors to learn from Harris’ experience. But first, I will give my personal history with his teachings and examine his official statement.
MY PERSONAL HISTORY WITH HARRIS’ BOOKS
When it came to a Joshua Harris book when I was in high school, we’d meticulously pore over every word looking for the keys to a better, more godly way to pursue relationships with the opposite sex.
We took Harris’ word as gospel and oriented our dating (or non-dating) worlds around it for that season of our lives. We took sometimes year-long “fasts” from dating so we could focus more wholly on our relationships with God. Then we would break those fasts prematurely and feel guilt over it. Contrite and repentant we would restart the fasts.
His books basically produced a lot of guilt in us over failing to meet arbitrary rules that we misinterpreted as biblical mandates.
For someone like me who had no skills to begin with when it came to talking to girls, Josh’s teaching made it even more intimidating. Not only was I not good at talking to girls, but after reading Harris’ instructions I would have to ask a girl’s dad for his blessing in our MARRIAGE as we begin our courtship – before I ever really expressed my feelings to her! I can think of few things more awkward than that conversation. Ugh.
I slowly but surely began to tire of trying to pursue relationships according to Harris’ prescribed method. I eventually rejected most of his teachings while holding on to the basic heart of it which is to honor God in your relationships.