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Jim & Casper Go to Church: Frank Conversation about Faith, Churches, and Well-Meaning Christians

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  551 Ratings  ·  109 Reviews
Jim Henderson pays people to go to church. In fact, he made national news when he “rented” a soul for $504 on E-Bay after its owner offered an “open mind” to the highest bidder. In Jim & Casper Go to Church, Hendrson hires another atheist—Matt Casper—to visit ten leading churches with him and give the “first impression” perspective of a non-believer. What follows is a ...more
Hardcover, 169 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by BarnaBooks (first published March 15th 2007)
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Aug 17, 2016 Rod rated it it was ok
Hmmm, a five star idea for a Christian book. I eventually reduced it to one star - But then the last chapter slightly attempted to deal with some of my concerns.

So an atheist and a somewhat failed X-Pentecostal "try anything to fill them pews" Pastor (church consultant?) go and critique a whack of church services. Now we have their non-theological opinions to fuddle through.

It seems X-Pastor "Jim" does a fair bit of mocking and zero Biblical theology. Here's how he see's God functioning in toda
Jun 08, 2012 Shannon rated it did not like it
I was so excited about this book when Rick & I first decided to read it together. I loved the concept of looking at the church through the eyes of someone who doesn't already love Jesus.

In the end, I was very disappointed. It wasn't long before I discovered that Jim & Casper had their own set of prejudices and judgements - something they ridicule most Christians for. While I still love the concept of trying to see our churches through fresh eyes and remember what it's like to be an "out
David Wright
Jul 10, 2016 David Wright rated it it was ok
Shelves: christianity
Readers can figure out pretty quickly what they are getting with this book (the shtick stays the shtick throughout the book), and while it is now a bit dated I found some parts of it helpful. I came away with two ideas to ponder raised in the course of the book. First, when it comes to schools and other learning communities, it is often taken to be a good thing that people have a *low* teacher to student ratio whereas in churches, success is often measured by having much high ratios. Perhaps ...more
Mar 02, 2016 LeAnne rated it really liked it
Jim (a Christian) hires Casper (an atheist) to go to church with him and give his honest reaction. They visit a variety of churches all over the US and evaluate friendliness, music, message, etc. Very informative. Although there are a couple medium sized churches and a house group, most of the churches are mega-churches. However, those are the churches whose methods most of us are trying to emulate (if it worked for them [as in thousands of members], maybe it will work for us), so that is ...more
May 04, 2011 Helen rated it liked it
I don’t know why, but my niece Gabi is interested in religion, thus she and I are visiting a different church every Sunday (well, almost every Sunday). We had only been to two or three churches when a friend brought Jim & Casper to my attention and it’s been the perfect book to accompany Gabi’s and my own little project.

The introduction is by far the richest part of the book, where Henderson explains his growth from a Three B’s pastor (buildings, budgets, and butts in the seats) to an evange
Apr 06, 2009 Christa rated it it was ok
I will say I was interested in what Casper had to say about his experiences (even if I didn't like what he said) so the book kept my attention.

I thought they went to too many large churches which is not really representative of the majority of Christian churches in America. I think the average American Christian attends a relatively small church every Sunday and I don't think that was adequately covered in the book.

Some of the complaints that Casper had are, quite frankly, things that cannot and
Mar 29, 2009 Linda rated it liked it
I suppose it shouldn't have surprised me, but it still did: in a book advertised as a balanced, open discussion about church between a pastor and an atheist, the pastor did most of the talking.

He certainly was more respectful to the atheist viewpoint than most Christians, and for that, I'm thankful. But I think he told a pretty big fib near the beginning of the book. Before they embarked on their Churchapalooza tour, Casper the Friendly Atheist said that he would be open minded about what he exp
Lynne Stringer
Feb 05, 2015 Lynne Stringer rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this and experiencing Sunday morning worship, something that is completely normal for most practicing Christians, through the eyes of someone who does not believe in Jesus. Casper is the kind of person most of us would be encouraged to bring to church so that he could be saved, but what does he see when he looks at us? Not much that makes him think Jesus is worth following. Whether you agree with Casper's conclusions or write him off as someone who's never going to 'get it' ...more
Mar 21, 2008 Krisula rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: christians
for the atheist: Interesting insights into the lives of your churched friends.

For the Christian: Directions on "how not to be a jerk" and insight into how your world view might seem wierd to those who believe differently from you.

For my friends - Guess which category I fall into - if we haven't talked recently you might be surprised.

Aug 26, 2015 Matt rated it liked it
It's not that this book tells you new things about contemporary church that might need re-thinking. It's that it confirms the things about church that bothered you already...
Todd Wilhelm
Jun 23, 2015 Todd Wilhelm rated it it was amazing
Great read. I really liked the book. I appreciated the honesty of Matt Casper.

"Casper asked me how I could follow someone who’s not around, and I told him that Jesus is around—he’s everywhere. “I’ve heard that before,” said Casper. “And I’m sure that Pastor Appel would say the exact same thing. So let me be more specific: If Jesus is everywhere, and everyone here is following him, what do you think this enlightened, impassioned, and above all, humble carpenter from Galilee would say about Plexig
Aug 04, 2007 Jeremy rated it it was ok
Shelves: church-stuff
I have two very strong, opposite opinions on this book.

First, I think the idea is brilliant (a former pastor and an atheist visit and candidly review various churches) and the unfiltered perspectives from Casper are invaluable to all followers of Christ. I was personally affected in the ways I'm thinking about what's important and what's not regarding the church I am part of, and in how I can genuinely connect with those that don't share my faith.

Second, I am very disappointed that Jim and Barna
Mike Paschal
Jul 24, 2010 Mike Paschal rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Church Staff, Small Group Leaders
Recommended to Mike by: Nick Warkentien
This book is a very quick read. I felt like I was walking right through the churches along with Jim and Casper. I knew that what I was about to read would make me re-think alot of my typical ideas and assumptions of "first time guest", but what I found was what I describe as disturbing.

I finished the book about an hour ago and already had a 30 min conversation with my wife about its content, yet there is one thing you must remember when reading. This is one man's opinion and he attended one ser
Feb 18, 2009 Dawn rated it liked it
So far I find this very interesting hearing the perspectives of both gentlemen, the Christian and the atheist. I have to agree with the atheist, that at times there are too many self-professed Christians that do not actually practice what I would call Christianity. I like that they have included the names of the churches because, there shouldn't be anything to hide at those churches and this is, after all, just the perspective of two people. Many, many others may have different opinions.

Now tha
Dec 30, 2009 Jeff rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-book-list
You're not going to like or agree with everything in this book. That's why you should read it.

If you love the local church, that's another reason to read it.

Long story short, Jim, a believer, and Matt Casper, an atheist, travel to several different churches and give us their feedback and perspective. Granted, it's a little dangerous to make conclusions after one church service, but then again, most first-time visitors do just that.

Here are some takeaways --

"Hidden in every new idea are the se
Feb 18, 2009 Alex rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I am a spiritual but nonreligious person. I'd be one of those "non-christians" that the book refers to. I believe in greater things than myself, but I'm not so sure that those greater things necessarily care if we believe in them, but more that they would want us to live good lives.

I think that the point of this book is something similar, at least the last part of that sentence. The basis of the book is that Jim (christian) pays Casper (atheist) to attend churches with him in order to get an out
Apr 30, 2012 Sharayah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a really interesting read. I think that self-evaluation is absolutely necessary for health, and that is true for individuals and bodies made up of individuals (the church). Jim and Casper Go to Church is helpful in that it is an evaluation of many different ways of doing church, and an exploration of how that is view by those who are not part of the church's own, or even the broader faith, communities. There are plenty of churches who are not following Christ or teaching the same Christ ...more
May 21, 2011 Mitzi rated it really liked it
A veteran preacher invites an atheist to visit 12 churches with him over a two-month period. The intent is not to convert him, but to hear with an open mind how a skeptic views churches and the Christian faith. This move from "defending the faith" to "defending the space" of open dialogue is refreshing.

Many times in response to seemingly non-sensical aspects of some forms of worship (fog machines, light shows, etc.), Casper the friendly atheist asks, "Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?" It
Mar 12, 2010 Morgan rated it really liked it
My life group and church WANTS to look crazy. We want to look completely nut-so, giving our money, time and things away to people who need them. We don't always do these things. Unfortunately "outsiders" see Christians doing the same thing that other Americans are doing. They are buying fancy cars, bigger houses and going for that great career. This is not the picture of God's Kingdom on earth. We need to look completely head-over-heels in love with the Creator. Our churches should be welcoming, ...more
David Gorgone
Jun 09, 2008 David Gorgone rated it really liked it
A few nights ago I watched a 60 Minutes look at a certain celebrity pastor. The more I watched him say just the right things and answer the questions with just the right amount of savvy I realized how glad I don't attend this persons church. Even the reporter noticed that this person managed to take Jesus almost entirely out of the equation. To which this pastor replied:
"I use some scripture to back up my claim."
And it was amazing to see this huge impressive building, rennovated with about $100
Beth Melillo
Aug 09, 2013 Beth Melillo rated it really liked it
Hilarious! I loved this book and thought it was a good jumping off point for a bigger discussion. Definitely recommend.

That said, I don't think the churches that Jim and Caspar attended are representative of the entirety of American Protestant/Evangelical Church tradition. They went to mostly big, well known, non-denom churches. Sure, this is a trend in American church attendance, and a good way to introduce someone (especially a "serious" Atheist of a person under the age of 40 to church.)

Jan 11, 2016 Michelle rated it did not like it
I hardly ever write reviews, but I was so annoyed after only 58 pages that I couldn't keep reading.

Here's a taste of the dialogue from a SINGLE page (notice a trend?):
"I bet a lot of those people would be relieved to not have to be nice every Sunday, Jim."
"That's where the 'just say hi' part comes in, Cas."
"What's that, Jim?"
"Just say hi, Casper."
"Sounds kind of canned, Jim... I see where you're coming from, Jim."

I suspect that because no one ACTUALLY talks like that, the use of the other perso
Mark C
Feb 11, 2014 Mark C rated it liked it
A good meditation on the state of church (little c) today, and how Christians present ourselves to the world. Interestingly, the primary concerns of the skeptic here were not generally those we worry about as church leaders. He didn't care about "polish" or having a "visitor center" or "coffee time" our a "welcoming committee". (Actually, he was generally put off by these things.) Instead he had two primary concerns (among others):

1. Engagement with the community (What he calls Jesus's "call to
Symon Pratt
Jan 03, 2014 Symon Pratt rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ministry-skills
I loved reading this book & reckon all Christians should read it too... to see what an objective outsider thinks of our traditions. Better yet, we should take up the challenge & bring an atheist/agnostic to church once a year, and just listen to what they have to say. Some classic lines in it such as "I silently wondered why we Christians seem to believe that it's our God-given duty to appear unusually happy - especially at church." And the constant question "Jim, is this what Jesus told ...more
Oct 24, 2014 Jenny rated it liked it
Very interesting concept. Jim is a former pastor. He takes Casper (an atheist) to several churches and asks his opinion. It's kind of like church secret shopping. This book offers some great insights into how an outsider sees the Christian faith. And it's not really what I expected. This book says that people (at least Casper) are interested more in what we DO than what we BELIEVE. They don't want fake/slick/professional services. They want genuine friendliness. They don't want to be asked for ...more
Apr 29, 2016 Chris rated it it was ok
I was not overly impressed with this book. For starters, I don't feel like it was very well written, and I found a particular weakness to be the conversations. They did not ring true and natural and didn't sound like anything real people would say. I was especially annoyed with the authors habit of tacking the other person's name at the end of a sentence - "Where are we going, Jim?" "Why, to church, of course, Casper! " And on and on like that. I was also disappointed by the subject matter of ...more
Jul 13, 2011 Daniel rated it liked it
This book had some really compelling and helpful insights about how the "church" experience strikes people. It also had quite a bit of stuff that seemed unfair and some claims about Jesus that are either unprovable or even untrue (which is especially hard to swallow from the Christian author, not as much from the Atheist author). I also sensed the self-righteous undertones I've grown accustomed to hearing from some of the authors this book cites, where the vibe is basically, "I'm better than you ...more
Jul 14, 2015 Alysia rated it really liked it
I read this book in 2010 (I think, or close to that time.) This is a REALLY good book that helps Christians explore why others choose not to go to church. Churches do many things that make them not comfortable places for people who have either never been to church, or have had past bad experiences at church. It also gives you an introduction to several of the evangelical movements that have swept through the United States in the past 20 years. What can we learn from huge "mega" churches that are ...more
Dec 24, 2012 Nate rated it liked it
Read this in one sitting one evening in bed.

Very easy read, style is a very conversational tone. While the "just the facts" feel of the descriptions of their visits to churches seems to be unbiased, the writer and his atheist friend are both biased and they say so in the beginning. However if you can get past the fact that they are that way you can find useful nuggets of insight from their impressions and the actions of churches that most seasoned Christians have gotten used to that can send a
Jul 02, 2009 Shiloh rated it really liked it
Recommended to Shiloh by: Stacey Davis
This book is about a former pastor and an athiest who visit churches, many well known, and Casper shares his impressions from a non-believers point of view. At first I had some concerns about this, knowing that we are called to be in the world and not of it, and there are just some things that a non-believer would not understand. Despite this, Casper was smart and insightful, and I would have to say I agreed with most of his observations. In fact it was often the things "of this world" that he ...more
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