Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Review: Jim & Casper Go to Church

I just read Jim & Casper Go to Church by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper. This has been on my wish list for a while but I didn’t read it until our directing pastor was cleaning out his library and put it on my desk. The basic premise of the book is this: Jim Henderson, who spent years as a pastor but is now running an evangelism organization, paid Matt Casper, a self-proclaimed atheist to visit some of America’s biggest and best known churches (and a couple you may not have heard of.) The result is quite insightful. If you have been around church for a while, you may find some of Matt Casper’s insights stinging if not offensive. You may want to argue with him when you think he has missed the point. But, that is sort of the point. When new people are visiting our churches, for them, perception equals reality. For instance, we can truly be the most friendly people in the world and we can be doing everything we can to make people feel welcome and comfortable. But, if someone comes to our church and leaves with a feeling that we are unfriendly and unwelcoming, it doesn’t really matter if it is true, does it?

The one thing that left me wanting while reading the book was that I would have loved to hear more from Matt (the atheist) and less from Jim (the Christian.) It is not that Jim’s insights weren’t useful, but the raw expressions coming from Matt were incredibly helpful. Matt comes across as a pretty easy to like atheist (if you find that surprising, you ought to spend more time with atheists, they are not all militant, anti-God people.) He knows a lot more about the Christian faith than many Christians He lacks some clarity of understanding of some of the key doctrines of the faith, and this causes him to make some judgments on what he experiences, but we shouldn’t fault him for that. First of all, he is not a Christian and second of all, an awful lot of Christians lack clarity of understanding of some of the key doctrines of the faith. What is most compelling is that, at times, he comes across as a seeker. I almost felt like that if someone could overcome his objections, he might take another look. Most of his objections seemed to be about relevance. In other words, he seemed to be asking, “What differences does all this make? How does it change people? How does it change the world? If it doesn’t, what is the point?” Good questions.

This book is not perfect but should be required reading for all Christians especially those who think they know what will bring unchurched people into the life of faith. We tend to make decisions about how to bring people into relationship with Christ based on what would work for us. This book at least stirs that pot a bit.
If you read the book or have already read it, your comments are always welcome.


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