Item description for Jim & Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians by Jim Henderson, Matt Casper & George Barna...
Overview A Christian and an atheist offer a unique perspective on the church and Christians, helping Christians understand the change in attitudes and actions required when shifting from defending the faith to defending one's personal space.
Publishers Description Jim Henderson pays people to go to church. In fact, he made national news when he "rented" a soul for $504 on E-Bay after its owner offered an "open mind" to the highest bidder. In "Jim & Casper Go to Church, " Hendrson hires another atheist--Matt Casper--to visit ten leading churches with him and give the "first impression" perspective of a non-believer. What follows is a startling dialogue between an atheist and a believer seeing church anew through the eyes of a skeptic, and the development of an amazing relationship between two men with diametrically opposing views of the world who agree to respect each others' space. Foreword by George Barna. FEATURES: Unique perspective of both Christian and atheist on the church and Christians in the USA Intelligent and respectful, seeking dialogue between key characters Helps the Christian understand the change in attitudes and actions required when shifting from defending the faith to defending "sacred space"--from talking to listening, from strength to weakness, from debate to dialogue, from manipulation to intentionality
From Publishers Weekly It could be the pilot script for a sitcom: a pastor hires an atheist to help him critique several Christian churches throughout the United States. For the authors, however, this experiment was no joke. Henderson, a veteran Protestant minister, truly believes that evangelism requires listening to the good, the bad and the ugly about Christianity in order to be a better minister. So he hired Casper, an atheist copywriter and musician, to serve as "fresh eyes" and observe how a variety of Christians engage the Divine through worship. Their travels took them to a mission-minded church, an Emergent church and to Joel Osteen's megachurch, among others. In the book, Henderson peppers his partner with questions about each service, and Casper comments on everything from preaching to music to the geographical location of the churches. The take-home point, which is simultaneously simple, profound and of great importance to Christianity is, "Why are there such glaring discrepancies among churches regarding what it means to be a follower of Christ?" The two authors include some banal dialogue at times, but this is a minor distraction. Anyone interested in contemporary evangelism, especially pastors, will enjoy and learn from this humorous and heartening travelogue.
Citations And Professional Reviews Jim & Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians by Jim Henderson, Matt Casper & George Barna has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Publishers Weekly - 02/26/2007 page 81
CBA Retailers - 05/01/2007 page 43
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 7.74" Width: 6.04" Height: 0.78" Weight: 0.75 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2007
Publisher Tyndale House Publishers
ISBN 1414313314 ISBN13 9781414313313 UPC 031809113318
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More About Jim Henderson, Matt Casper & George Barna
Jim Hendersonis executive director of Off The Map, an organization committed to normalizing evangelism for ordinary Christians. Off The Map's live events help Christians think and feel differently about the people Jesus misses most. Visitwww.off-the-map.orgto find exclusive book-related resources, including video interviews, discussion guides, and information on Ordinary Attempts a unique approach to connecting with non-Christians."
Reviews - What do customers think about Jim And Casper Go To Church?
Really great for what it is. Apr 7, 2010
Jim and Casper Go to Church is an excellent book for what it is. My fear however is that the message of the book will be brought too far outside of its original context and be misapplied to a context to broad to be useful and potentially damaging. But I emphasize again, the book is GREAT for what it is.
Here's what it is. Jim Henderson is a minister who's made many atheist friends. One of these self-described unlikely friendships is with Matt Casper and atheist who works in the area of marketing. Curious about what churches seem like to atheists, Jim and Matt team up to visit a variety of churches around the country. They discuss and document their reactions to these different churches in this book. I'll get to some of their observations a little later.
My fear about this book is that well-intentioned ministers will read the reviews of the churches in this book and automatically think that they've got to change the way they do church because of these reviews. I believe it must be reiterated that these reviews are the opinions of TWO individuals and do not necessarily represent a widespread opinion about today's church. A perfect example is Matt Casper's critique of the worship service at Saddleback Church. When Jim Henderson questioned Matt about why he didn't like the professionalism of the song service, Matt responded that it would be good for "people who like American Idol" (p. 4). Now, I'm no fan of big production worship services where professionalism overtakes authenticity, but it should be noted that "American Idol" is one of the top rated shows in the country and it's fairly obvious that millions of people are fans of American Idol. From a strict marketing point of view, it would seem that Matt's opinion of the worship service would be a minority opinion among those that the Church is trying to reach.
So that's what I mean about the books limitations. When you boil it down, Jim and Casper Go to Church contains the opinions of two men. One is an atheist and one is (quite frankly) an often cynical minister. I'll get back to the cynicism in a bit, but my point here is that neither of these opinions seem to be representative of what most people think either in the World or in the Church. For a pastor or leader to rearrange their ministries based on the opinion of these two men seems like it would be a misapplication of the information. Such a misuse of the context could possibly lead to dangerous changes that would work in opposition to their intent.
That being said, there are some conclusions I found in the book that, in my opinion, transcend the context of these two men and point out some lessons that just about all churches can benefit from. First is the idea that people, ALL people, are looking for connection. During their visit to Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, a member said to Jim and Casper, "I came here and really connected with the community and then with God." (p. 27) The old paradigm of people getting saved and then joining the church happens less and less. In today's culture, people want to join the church first and then possibly make the God connection. They're looking for a horizontal community before they're looking for a vertical one. I believe this attitude can serve as a help rather than a hindrance in evangelism as ministering the gospel of Truth through relationships build in community will lead to stronger commitments with more staying power. Today's churches need to reach out to people with an offer of community if they're going to draw the unchurched. This point is emphasized by Casper while at the Imago Dei church in Portland, Oregon when he said, "Imago Dei is not trying to get you to join them, so much as they're trying to join you." (p.95) Or as Jim wrote, "Jesus gave us a mission. I don't remember reading anything in the Bible written to missing people telling them to "go into all the church." They don't have a mission to adjust to us; we have to adapt for them. It's called the Incarnation." (p. 149)
Another idea that I think transcended the context of these two opinions is the idea of the importance of music. While at The Bridge church in Portland, Oregon, Matt the atheist is greatly moved by the music of the worship service. Matt says that the music appeals to him on a "higher" level and goes on to say, "There's something about music and art that is not entirely easy for an atheist to explain." (p. 109) There is something about art in general and music in particular that can break down walls that we've built between us and God. It's not about perfect harmonies or slick presentation. The music that breaks down walls is all about sincerity, connection and an understandable, meaningful message. In my opinion, churches should think less about sound equipment and performance and more about authenticity and openness in worship. The idea of worship in spirit and truth proposed by Jesus will draw many people, both saints and sinners, to the foot of the cross.
The appeal for money, especially in larger churches, was one of the off putting aspects of the churches Casper and Jim visited. Even if this kind of appeal works among the masses, Casper seemed to hit the nail on the head when it came to the ethics of such shake-downs. While visiting Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, Casper says, "They make appeals to people's greed, selfishness, envy, pride: `You're gonna get rich, you deserve abundance, you're better than nonbelievers.' ...Instead of talking honestly to people, they appeal to people's basest natures: greed, fear, prejudice. ...I don't think it's a very Christian (thing to do)." (p.123). The way we appeal for finances to promote the Kingdom of God should not be based on what works. It should be based on what's righteous. Our appeals for finances should be opportunities for discipleship. If we can't get as much income with that kind of appeal, than we should learn to live with less.
Another question that Casper raised as he observed these churches was, "is this what Jesus told you guys to do?" In other words, was it Jesus' command to the Church that "the most important thing they should be doing is holding church services"? (p. 148) With the emphasis that's placed on that Sunday morning meeting, it seems that's what we think. In answers to criticisms that they only visited the Sunday morning services of those churches they were critical of and not the small groups, Jim wrote, "When they make it as easy and convenient to experience small groups as they do Sunday services, then they can cry foul, but until then church will have to live and die based on what happens on Sunday morning in the big room." The lion share of discipleship for our churches is going to take place in Sunday Schools and other small groups, not in Sunday morning services. Until pastors are ready to sacrifice some of the ego boost of the big crowd and invest more time and energy in smaller groups, we are hampered in our ability to follow the Great Commission.
These were all excellent ideas I got from Jim and Casper Go to Church. However, there are a couple of points that made me feel a bit uneasy. The first is the cynicism I mentioned earlier. Truth be told, I enjoyed Jim's cynicism in the book, but I don't think that was the best part of me. I know that there are people who hold up their cynicism as a badge of honor, but for me it is a dragon that I must fight and slay daily. To automatically assume ulterior motives and expect the worse from people may keep us safer and make us feel superior, but it also builds a wall to connecting with people. I also think it can limit our reception of what God has for us.
The second thing that made me uneasy is Jim's mission to help Christians "become more `normal'" (p.xxv). We are called to win the lost, to grow in Christ, to worship God, to connect with our fellow believers and to serve others. Nowhere in the Scripture to I see normalcy as something we're called to. The difference I have here with Jim may be one of semantics, but there are things about a life in Christ that are ANYTHING BUT normal! We are called to be separate, to be light and salt. Being normal for me brings to mind being the same as the World, and that to me is a bigger problem than any of those addressed in the book. What I like much better is Jim's idea that the purpose of his ministry is to help Christians "not be jerks." (p. xxii)
Jim and Casper Go to Church is an excellent examination of a number of churches in the Evangelical world and highly recommended. I would, however, encourage everyone to read it in its context and apply its truth only when looking at very similar context.
Agnostic's insights about popular churches Mar 29, 2010
Jim Henderson & Matt Casper, Jim & Casper Go To Church: Frank conversation about faith, churches, and well-meaning Christians (Carol Stream: Barna, 2007)
Reviewed by Darren Cronshaw
Jim, an experienced pastor, takes Casper, a friendly agnostic, along to a variety of American churches (compare [...]). They visit Saddleback, Mosaic, Willow Creek, Mars Hill and others; mega, missional, big-budget, mainstream, Pentecostal, liquid, segregated, black, contemplative and house churches. They question the widespread celebrity culture, money-obsession, segregation, proof-texting, sparse Bible-reading and myopic concern with personal happiness. They were amazed people so rarely talked to them, except rostered greeters. It is insightful what Casper notices. He looked for what people were being asked to do to make a difference. He was impressed when churches focused on "inbreaking" and joining existing community action, rather than just "outreaching" and inviting others to join theirs. The resulting advice is to shift from apologetics to apology, talking to listening, strength to weakness, beliefs to spirituality, debate to dialogue, and from defending the faith to defending the space for relationships with non-Christians, as real people not targets.
Darren Cronshaw coordinates leadership and mission training for Baptist Union of Victoria and Forge Mission Training Network. This review originally appeared in "Exploring faith .... Explaining rebirth ... Re-birthing Evangelism", Witness: The Voice of Victorian Baptists, No.3 (April), p.21.
Gave me reasons to think about why we do what we do... Feb 1, 2010
and it certainly showed me that the un-churched are not "wow-ed" by attempts to be appealing to them. It was truly eye-opening for me and it makes me re-think all the things the modern day church does to make the outsider feel welcome. I think in the end, most people who are not church goers are looking for something authentic and real and not a "softer side of Christianity" that so many of the hip churches are presenting today. It's a good quick read. Buy it. It might change how you approach ministry. It did for me.
Should Christians Listen to Atheists? Jun 4, 2009
Can an atheist tell us how we can "do" and/or "be" the church better than we currently are? Can an atheist provide solid insights as to how we can be more effective in our ministry efforts? Can an atheist tell us how we can represent Jesus to our world better? Could an atheist have a better grasp of Jesus' personality and humanity than most Christians?
I will not answer these questions. They are loaded. I can only imagine what some will think. Some may answer with a resounding NO!! Some may actually entertain these questions with an open mind. So why in the world would I ask such hair-splitting questions?
I had the opportunity to meet an atheist. No, he certainly was not the first atheist I have ever met. I have known several, but I don't think I will ever see an atheist quite the same again after hearing this guy talk. I met Matt Casper (the friendly atheist, as he so endearingly refers to himself) at the CMA Conference in California. He is the co-author of "Jim and Casper Go To Church" , along with Jim Henderson a veteran pastor and critical thinker and innovator within Christianity. I was able to have an interesting conversation with Casper after he and Jason Evans, who is featured in the book as a house church pastor and close friend of Casper's, gave and interview/group discussion talk about their journeys. It wasn't a long conversation, and it certainly wasn't intimate or anything, but we just both happened to be standing next to one another, and struck up a conversation.
Anyway, I bought and read the book. I don't think it unlocks the key to successful churches or anything, but this book will challenge you rethink your conversations with those who don't believe as you do. I have committed to no longer try to debate, convert, or enlist someone as a "project for Jesus". Instead, I want to have open conversations. Dialogue. I want to get to know people. I want to really understand where they are and why they believe what they believe. I want to accept people and be friends with those who don't necessarily agree with me.
This book will challenge you to think about why we do what we do as Christians. I certainly don't agree with every thought conveyed in this book. That is not the point. The point of this book for me is that we NEED open and free conversation about the things we do. We need safe places to talk about important issues with Christians and with non-Christians. These "spaces", as Jim Henderson refers to them, need to be "defended" from arguments, debates, cliches, and easy "churchy" answers. We need to step out of our "Christianese" little worlds and into the world where people are hurting and dying and longing for something that is real. People need a safe place to investigate the claims of Jesus. If we don't provide those places, who will?
Just read the book!
Can't please everyone Mar 17, 2009
You can't please everyone when it comes to style points and preferences of a church, but you sure can question whether it's true to the mission Christ has for it. Jim and Casper do exactly the latter. There's no reason in the world why a church can't take a little constructive critcism when it comes to it's appearances and perception. I understand that egos maybe fragile, but what's a stake here is more important. This book is reminding me to take a good hard look at myself and my attitudes to those who don't think like me.