Why Joshua Harris Kissed His Megachurch Goodbye

Pastor and author compares his life to Benjamin Button: ‘I have lived a sort of backwards life.’

At 40 years old, Joshua Harris has already pastored a megachurch for a decade and authored six books, including the bestselling I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Now, he wants to go to college.

“I have lived a sort of backwards life. Without meaning to, I have experienced life out of the normal order and sequence of events,” Harris told attendees at Covenant Life Church (CLC) in Gaithersburg, Maryland, on Sunday, January 25. “I haven’t completed any post-graduate study. I don’t even have an undergraduate degree. In fact, I have never attended a formal school full-time in my life.” [Full statement]

Harris, who was homeschooled, has enrolled at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, for the fall of 2015. His last day as CLC senior pastor will be in April. He leaves with his church’s blessing.

Harris began his “crazy, backwards life” in high school when he began publishing his own magazine geared toward fellow homeschoolers. He broke onto the national scene in 1997, at the age of 21, when he published I Kissed Dating Goodbye. The book became a runaway hit. Shortly thereafter, Harris connected with C. J. Mahaney, the founder of CLC and Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM).

Mahaney stepped down as CLC’s senior pastor in 2004, and a 29-year-old Harris took over the 3000-member congregation “with no formal theological training and no formal training in organizational leadership.”

In 2011, Harris resigned from SGM’s board, just weeks after Mahaney took a leave of absence as president of SGM in order to address “various expressions of pride.” (Mahaney returned after six months, and later left SGM leadership in 2013.) In Harris’s first …

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