I read the most fascinating book over the weekend. It’s called Jim & Casper Go To Church, written by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper. Jim is a director of an evangelism organization, and Matt (known as Casper) is an atheist. Jim hires Casper to travel the country with him and visit some of the most well-known churches and give him his honest opinion from an “outsider” POV. We don’t realize how much of our Sunday morning rituals involve language and tradition that is familiar and comfortable to us, but downright weird for someone who is not familiar with that environment.
Some of the most interesting observations:
- Defending the faith vs. Defending the space: instead of arguing and debating with those who don’t believe the same we do and telling them what we believe and why they are wrong…instead of that, LISTEN to what they are saying and what THEY believe. Build a friendship, and not just for the manipulative task of converting them.
- “Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” (in relation to big buildings, lights, fog machines, offering plates, etc.)
- Outreaching vs. Inbreaking – instead of asking them to join us (“outreach”), join them where they are (“inbreak”). That’s what Jesus himself did.
- Labels: how would we feel to be called “christian” or “non-atheist”? Instead of using the word “lost” (which implies hopelessness), Jim uses the term “those Jesus misses most”.
It was a short, intriguing book that raises a lot of questions. Casper, being outside of the grace-based theology we all so fervently grasp, was quick to observe our lack of works and lack of unity. He often questioned the reasoning for big-budget church buildings and programs when that money could be used in the community for helping others.
The dialog is a little stilted at times, and Jim rarely – if ever – argues theology with Casper, which was a little frustrating, but exactly the point. He wasn’t there to convince Casper of the truth. He just listens and hopes to gain enough insight to question why we do what we do and how we can do it differently and more effectively. (And Honeycutts, they did do a chapter on visiting a home church, which Casper enjoyed very much!)
Pick it up and take it to the pool! Sunday morning will never look the same.