I just finished Jim & Casper Go To Church, by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, and I would add it to my <em>must read</em> list for churches. It is a keen observation at how churches look to outsiders—in this case an atheist named Matt Casper. A quote from the Foreword lays out the direction of the book.
In some ways, then, attracting people to a conventional church is a greater challenge than ever. And if a visitor <em>does</em> enter the building, then what? What do first-timers see? How are they treated? What are the central messages they glean? How do they process the experience? On what basis do they decide whether or not to return?
The book is the brainchild of Jim Henderson at Off the Map. Jim gives his full attention to creating bridges between the churched and everyone else. The idea behind Jim and Casper began when Jim hired (on E-Bay) Chicago atheist Hement Mehta to go to church with him. Hement was a kind and open minded man who visited churches with Jim and then blogged about it. The idea evolved, and then Jim hired Matt Casper to go to churches all around the U.S.
While I enjoyed the entire book, I think the hardest hitting parts came at the end. That is where Casper and Jim sum up their observations. Here are a few quotes worth re-quoting.
There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone who’s convinced he’s right. It’s like the conversation is over before it can ever begin. —Matt Casper
Casper simply could not imagine Jesus telling his followers that the most important thing they should be doing is holding church services. And yet this was the only logical conclusion he was able to come to based upon what he’d observed. —Jim Henderson
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? There are some wonderful things being done by the people in Christian churches….But there are some incredibly nonsensical things being done too…You’d have to apply an awful lot of spin to any passage in the Bible to make a case for that. —Matt Casper