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Jim and Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians Hardcover – March 29, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

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. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From the Back Cover

“ Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?”

Light shows, fog machines, worship bands, offering plates―is this what Jesus intended? Atheist Matt Casper wants to know.

Longtime Christian Jim Henderson realized he’d been immersed in church culture for so long that he had no idea how a nonbeliever might interpret a usual Sunday service . . . or what might inspire him or her to come back.

So he decided to ask! Jim invited an atheist―Matt Casper―to visit twelve leading churches with him and give the “first impression” perspective of a skeptic. Week after week, this spiritual odd couple attended services at churches all over the country and documented their experiences and reactions. Along the way, they found the real value of their journey in the open and authentic friendship that developed as they talked, questioned, joked, and―most important―listened.

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 we’ve become overly comfortable: the church. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: BarnaBooks (March 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414313314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414313313
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #809,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jim Henderson is acclaimed by USA Today for having "blazed a new path as an innovator, author, church evaluator, self-professed subversive, and leader in the creation of new ways to be publicly and persuasively Christian in the twenty-first century."

Jim is a speaker, author, and producer. His most subversive act to date was buying an atheist's soul on eBay and then sending him to attend and review several churches. On the heels of that project, Jim hired another atheist (Matt Casper) to join him at various church services and share his feedback. Together, they recount their unique findings in a book titled Jim and Casper Go to Church (Tyndale, 2007).

After twenty-five years as a pastor, Jim formed Off the Map, an organization that produced live events designed to help people recover the lost art of being "unusually interested" in others, especially Outsiders.

Today, Jim's company, Jim Henderson Presents, produces live events and television projects that look at the important role of religious spirituality in our lives. Jim is known for asking the questions others skip.

Jim holds a Doctorate in transformational leadership and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fox News and This American Life with Ira Glass.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. Nitta on September 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I just finished the book today (and this is my very first review). It's a quick read. Not much as far as in-depth analysis. In reality it's only the first impressions of someone who is not familiar with church culture. In some ways it feels like the script from a reality tv show. Funny, interesting, but something of substance is missing.
That being said, I think what is worth thinking about the book are exactly those first impressions, particularly the line, "Is this what Jesus told you guys to do." That, I think is, how the book cashes out. But I must admit I was torn...

One one hand, there are certain ancient traditions that Christians still practice today (the sacraments) that would be hard for any person outside of the Christian community to completely understand. In fact, it would be presumptuous for us to conclude that someone who is not a follower of Christ would understand theological concepts such as substitutionary atonement, imputation, justification, and sanctification. And before you shut me out because these concepts are "theological" - two things. First, pastors used to be sort of the theologian/philosopher/shepherd in their local community. They were less concerned with lights, smoke machines, and what have you, and really concerned about the state of people's souls. Second, these concepts work themselves out in how we live the Christian life in practical and often mundane ways. There's no way around this.

On the other hand, I agree wholeheartedly that some of the practices that are a part of church today are not ancient but are new and in my opinion, kind of goofy. Some of the things that made Casper squirm are the very things that make me squirm.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jules Glanzer on April 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Jim and Casper Go To Church is a delightful and "fun" read that is loaded with challenging "zingers" that force the reader to stop and think about how Christians and the church is perceived by those who do not believe in God. Amidst the smooth and easy going conversation about their common experiences at various churches, the authors make salient points about the state of the church and Christians in the west. Each church visit seems to present a different challenge and identify a major hindrance to those who are not in the church. The book drips with integrity, honesty, and relationship. Jim and Casper seem like good friends. Both come across as very honest and forthright with a deep sense of integrity. Through out the book, when the authors want us not to miss the point, they step outside the story with "Defending the Space" commentary. These make for great discussion times.

I found the book convicting when Casper put to Jim the question, "Is this what Jesus told you guys to do? Having pastored for over 25 years, I found myself rethinking many of the practices that we employed all in the name of Jesus. At times I was embarrassed at the things we did. I was convicted as I considered Casper's question which all Christians and vocational church workers need to answer? It begs us to ask the question "What really is Jesus asking his followers to do?

As a seminary dean, I teach a course on missional leadership. I will be placing this book on my recommended reading list. The reason why is because this book will help the students understand more fully the mission of the church and gain valuable practical insight into what it means to be the "sent people of God." The implications of the experiences of Jim and Casper need to be taken seriously by all those involved in vocational ministry.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By O. D. Stanley on April 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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.
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