Jim bought a soul on eBay...or rather rented it for a time to spiritually inform it as the fine print stated. The flurry of media attention surrounding it spurred Jim to write a book about how churches are perceived by the unchurched, and searched to find an atheist who would fit the bill and be up to the challenge. Matt Casper picked up the gauntlet, and visited some of the best known mega-churches in America with Jim, along with some little known organic churches (mostly Emergent congregations, which seem more like Jim's preference). This is that book.
What could have been a dry rehashing of the obvious in the places of worship that they visited opens instead like a long conversation between two new friends who share a very open dialogue concerning matters of faith. Whether you agree with everything taught at these churches or not, Jim and Casper Go to Church gives you a glimpse inside some of the highest profile places and movements in contemporary American religion, including T.D. Jakes' Potter's House, Joel Osteen's Lakewood Complex, and Erwin McManus' Mosaic. Casper's blunt assessments sometimes collide with Jim's assumptions about how the services are perceived, but they maintain an informative and friendly discourse covering a lot of ground in the debates of relevancy inside church communities and how well churches embrace unbelievers inside their sanctuaries.
What does an atheist think about church? Jim Henderson decided that the best way to find out was to ask! So he recruited an atheistMatt Casperto visit twelve leading churches with him and give the first impression perspective of a non-believer. Week after week, this spiritual odd couple attended services at churches all over the country and documented their experiences at and reactions to each one. Along the way, they found the real value of their journey in the open and authentic friendship that developed as they talked, questioned, joked, andmost importantlistened. Follow along with Jim and Casper on their visits, and eavesdrop as they discuss what they found. Their articulate, sometimes humorous, and always insightful dialogue offers Christians a new view of an environment where weve become overly comfortable: the church.
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.