Jim & Casper Go To Church is the title of a newly released book by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper. Jim is a Christian writer and Matt is an atheist. Jim and Casper visited dozens of churches across America and then wrote about their experiences. And they are brazenly honest.
Every church leader should read this book. Actually, every Christian should read this book. It blazes light all over how we can come across to those outside of the church. And we need to hear what it says.
With all of that said, there are a couple of cautions. First, Jim and Casper review some very high profile churches; Willow Creek, Joel Osteen, T. D. Jakes, etc. And as I was reading what they wrote I found myself reveling a bit in the criticism. Kind of like, “I knew they weren’t that good.” And then I found myself repenting and praying for God to use those churches and help them be all that He desires for them to be. Secondly, 98% of the people that visit a weekend service at church are invited by a friend or family member. Friends and family members that meet them at the door and walk with them through their first time church experience. Jim and Casper walk in pretty much cold. And because of that, their church “experience” is very different.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from Jim and Casper:
“Non-Christians–they’re real people to us, not targets. I think of it like this: They’re just like me, except they’re not currently interested in Jesus to the same degree I am.” –Jim, the Christian
“I can’t really tell what this church stands for, Jim. Is it helping people or growing the organization? Is it community or religion?” —Casper, the atheist
“We need to emrace the ordinariness of our lives instead of pretending to be something that we’re not. When we practice leading with weakness rather than strength, we let God be the strong one.” –Jim, the Christian
“Giving isn’t really giving until it interrupts your lifestyle.” –Eric from Imago Dei
“People are more and more comfortable talking about their spirituality and less and less comfortable talking about beliefs or religion.” –Jim, the Christian
“I’m not trying to go overboard in ‘keeping it real.’ But tell me why I should join a movement that preaches love and equality and one body but for two thousand years has itself essentially resisted the very change it preaches about? It makes a good case for being an atheist if the very people who claim to be serving God and obeying him aren’t doing what they say he’s telling them to do. What kind of religion is that?” –Casper, the atheist
“The question that just came up for me again and again–having read more than a few pages of the Bible–is this: What does the way Christianity is practiced today have to do with the handful of words and deeds uttered by a man who walked the earth two thousand years ago?” –Casper, the atheist
“I am very comfortable asserting my faith and my hope and my confidence that Jesus is God, but I will not say that I know he is God in the way I say I know there is gravity. I hope the story I have bet my life on is true, but neither Casper nor I will know for sure until both of us are dead. Atheists are very surprised when they hear me say this and wonder why more Christians can’t admit these things.” –Jim, the Christian
Sounds like I really need to read this book. I have this prejudicial bent against massive church buildings. I recently watched a video of Robert “Evel” Knievel getting baptized in the crystal cathedral and he said the building was a “beautiful compliment to God and to Jesus Christ” and I wondered if God agreed. I was so critical of the structure that I had trouble celebrating his batism. A local church is laying off staff and I am so critical of their new building. I no longer want to believe IN God. I just want to BELIEVE God.
The last quote by Jim that you listed, brings up a question I’ve been wanting to ask.
Is it really OK to admit I have doubts?
I’ve been struggling and wrestling with this for sometime now, years in fact. But, who can I honestly think out loud with?
I feel like I’m stuck in the middle between Christian and non-Christian. It is difficult to find people willing to be that open and intimate, myself included.
I think a lot of people who may be “in the middle” like me, might use the label “spiritual” for lack of a better one. How else can I answer someone when asked about my faith? To use Christian or various non-Christian labels is perceived as “firmly decided”. In actuality, I’m a work in progress.
Does anyone else have doubts? Couldn’t we discuss and reflect on them together?
I think we all have doubts. What’s the point of anything if we can’t be authentic in who we are and what we’re thinking? I don’t want to be part of something that doesn’t encourage honest discussion. It’s kind of amazing how my own “belief system” has morphed over the past ten years. The longer I’m doing this Christian thing, the less sure I am about a lot of things. BUT, I’m comfortable here because I know God is cool with my questions.
I love the question that Casper asks as to whether or not the church is for helping people or the actual organization of the church. I wonder that alot myself with attending a large church but having grown up in a small one I see the differences in both and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. Sometimes it seems that its all about the “big business” of the church. What happened to fellowship and growing close to the Lord together with freinds you have made in intimate settings? Who says you can’t have a great relationship with God and not attend church at all? I am no bible scholar by far but I do realize that God does want us to attend weekly to help keep our focus and to worship Him and that is the main reason for me going but my husband is very against organized religion and has his own Sunday morning “ritual” and considers himself a christian and I’ll tell ya what, he’s alot happier when hes not sitting in a church complaining about everything he feels is done the wrong way.
I’m Casper of “Jim & Casper.” We have a website for the book where Jim and I both comment/blog/etc. called http://www.ChurchRater.com.
There are more than a few folks with similar questions/concerns. Might be a cool community for you…
Oh yeah: Thank you so much for reading and writing about our book! I am honored by your thoughtful comments…
I can appreciate the question of a church helping people or simply functioning to keep the organization afloat. It took me almost a year at Rivertree to accept that the “show” was genuine. The desire to allow anyone to Come and Become is real. I have witnesses some excellent examples of non christians becoming faithful believers, and of christians making life changing, selfless decisions to follow Christ in real and effective ways. From a corporate view, the best example that I can point to is the move to branch facilities to serve the surrounding community. We were considering a land purchase and construction of a larger facility, but now we have found (or were shown) an effective way to meet a specific need. No doubt that all of as christians have a way to go, but positive and purposeful development in our lives is what we should strive for. Thanks for sharing the journey with a sinner like me. The road is smoother with all of you in my life.
No need to read the book. Just go to your local Starbucks and check out the passages printed on the cups such as “Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure.”
It’s better than just reading a book. The coffee costs as much as a book along with the jolt of the caffeine.