Can an atheist tell us how we can “do” and/or “be” the church better than we currently are? Can an atheist provide solid insights as to how we can be more effective in our ministry efforts? Can an atheist tell us how we can represent Jesus to our world better? Could an atheist have a better grasp of Jesus’ personality and humanity than most Christians?
I will not answer these questions. They are loaded. I can only imagine what some will think. Some may answer with a resounding NO!! Some may actually entertain these questions with an open mind. So why in the world would I ask such hair-splitting questions?
I had the opportunity to meet an atheist. No, he certainly was not the first atheist I have ever met. I have known several, but I don’t think I will ever see an atheist quite the same again after hearing this guy talk. I met Matt Casper (the friendly atheist, as he so endearingly refers to himself) at the CMA Conference in California. He is the co-author of “Jim and Casper Go To Church” , along with Jim Henderson a veteran pastor and critical thinker and innovator within Christianity. I was able to have an interesting conversation with Casper after he and Jason Evans, who is featured in the book as a house church pastor and close friend of Casper’s, gave and interview/group discussion talk about their journeys. It wasn’t a long conversation, and it certainly wasn’t intimate or anything, but we just both happened to be standing next to one another, and struck up a conversation.
Anyway, I bought and read the book. I don’t think it unlocks the key to successful churches or anything, but this book will challenge you rethink your conversations with those who don’t believe as you do. I have committed to no longer try to debate, convert, or enlist someone as a “project for Jesus”. Instead, I want to have open conversations. Dialogue. I want to get to know people. I want to really understand where they are and why they believe what they believe. I want to accept people and be friends with those who don’t necessarily agree with me.
This book will challenge you to think about why we do what we do as Christians. I certainly don’t agree with every thought conveyed in this book. That is not the point. The point of this book for me is that we NEED open and free conversation about the things we do. We need safe places to talk about important issues with Christians and with non-Christians. These “spaces”, as Jim Henderson refers to them, need to be “defended” from arguments, debates, cliches, and easy “churchy” answers. We need to step out of our “Christianese” little worlds and into the world where people are hurting and dying and longing for something that is real. People need a safe place to investigate the claims of Jesus. If we don’t provide those places, who will?
Read the book, offer feed back. I’ll have more to come later…