If you haven’t read it, and you’re interested in the conversation going on among evangelicals who are tired of “doing church” the same old way, this is a great book to check out. It’s a fast read and one that will make you think differently about what happens on a Sunday morning.
Long story short, Jim is a long-time Christian and pastor who has dedicated the rest of his life to reimagining evangelism and enlists Caspar in a unique adventure to help illuminate the way Christians of various ilks come across to the target audience–namely, atheists. Caspar doesn’t believe in any religion or God, and he and Jim hit it off, heading across the country on a two-month jaunt to check out some of America’s most happening (according to somebody) churches. Jim is one of the architects of Off-the-map, a ministry that has been “helping Christians be normal” since 2001. The honesty of the conversation hinges on a pretty simple reality: none of this is intended to move Caspar closer to becoming a Christian, but is instead a simple extension of Jim’s passion to understand something potentially profound about Christianity in America today.
The book is a strong critique of the potential disconnect between the normal Evangelical practice of a Sunday (or Saturday, as the case may be) and the first time visitors that walk through the door. Obviously, for atheists and other variations of folks who don’t follow Jesus, to walk into a church service is to walk into a foreign land. They rate churches (See ChurchRater if you want to join in) according to various levels of authenticity and connectivity. Their ratings are, of course, completely subjective, and they state up front that that’s as it should be, because that’s the way people enter the door. Music, greeters, communion buckets, preaching, technical elements, and various other elements are critiqued, mocked, praised, and analyzed in ways that most churches would find scary and offensive. I find the honesty of the conversation refreshing, and there is much to learn.
Having said that, I’ll add that its a disquieting read. Expressions of spirituality are all over the map, and I’m not sure I’m very proud of what is revealed in Jim and Caspar Go To Church. I’m not sure I’m crazy about what it reveals in me. I love traditional church and I love most of the contemporary iterations of it, but when I think about Jesus walking the backroads of Galilee and Judea, I wonder what he had in mind. The question that comes up over and over from Caspar is a haunting one: “Is this what Jesus asked you guys to do?”
Makes you wonder…