What I’m Reading

This is an interesting book written by a pastor and an atheist who visit mega churches, emerging churches, and even a home church in search for understanding of the purpose of the church in America.

The basic premise of the book is that Jim (the preacher) hires Casper (the atheist) to join him on this cross-country evaluation and they develop an “authentic” relationship in the process.

Their highly critical summary of the churches they visit is based on one service (sometimes they even leave early to get to the next church). They minimize sermons, wishing that every message they heard would tell them more, go deeper, expand the vision better. The music is nearly always criticized, as Casper plays in a band and has a definite bias.

As a pastor who filled a pulpit for more than 10 years, I can say that the evaluations of the sermons, music and services seems slanted and unfair. No church can say everything it is or isn’t in a 60 minute service. Imagine being invited to dinner by a family down the street. You’ve never met them before. You have 45 minutes to spend with them. Sure, you get impressions but you don’t really know them. You may decide that their house smells funny, you would never cook roast pork like with garlic, or that you don’t want to be their friends for the next 30 years. But you don’t realy know them until you spend time with them, share more dinners, watch their kids for them.

Jim and Casper do discuss the reception they receive in each location and I think this may have more validity. Seldom were they warmly greeted by individual attenders in the churches they visited. Greeters and ushers did their jobs but the congregants were not always the most outgoing. This, of course, becomes the real crux of their message.

Did Jesus call us to fog machines and light shows or did he call us to love our brothers and sisters and even our enemy? And as an extension of that thought: shouldn’t we also love each and every visitors to our churches?

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