Jerks for Jesus

When I was a pastor, I wish I’d had the courage to walk across the street.

Oh sure, I walked across it every day back and forth to the church parsonage. But a bit further down the road was an atheist who had never set foot in our church, and probably never would. I wish I had gone over there and asked him out for lunch. It’s one of the great regrets of my years as a pastor. I thought about it every week, but I never had the courage.

Jim and Caspar Go To ChurchRecently I read Jim and Casper Go to Church. Jim is a Christian who makes a regular habit of befriending atheists. Casper is an atheist. Together, they attend churches and then write about what they heard and experienced.

If you want to know what unbelievers think about you and your church, you should go ask them. But if you want to read about it instead (since it’s so much safer and easier), you can be like me and just read Jim and Casper’s book, and others like it (e.g., They Like Jesus but Not the Church by Dan Kimball).

Jerks for JesusJim has a ministry called Off the Map devoted to helping “Christians learn to communicate better with non-Christians, or as some of my more outspoken ‘lost’ friends prefer to put it, Off the Map helps Christians learn how to not be jerks” (p. xxii). It’s true. We can be real jerks. I’m sure it makes Jesus proud.

Anyway, here are a few quotes from Jim with comments by me:

Humanity is divided into two groups: (1) people who follow Jesus, and (2) everybody else. It doesn’t matter to me whether you call yourself a Christian, a Buddhist, a humanist, an agnostic, or an atheist. If you aren’t following Jesus, you’re in group two (p. xxiv).

I could be wrong, but I don’t think he means that there can be Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists who follow Jesus. Sure, some may claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, but they would have to reject some of them.

Just like many of us Christians do as well.

And that’s his point. Just because you call yourself a Christian doesn’t mean you are following Jesus. I wholeheartedly agree with that. He goes on to say that “some professed Christians are not actually following Jesus but are instead following religion” (p. xxv). So true. I’m one such person in many ways.

He goes on to say that authors of a generation ago (and even many today):

…Provided Christians a way to defend the faith-the expectation being that if we provide a biblical response to the arguments of atheists of doubters and essentially prove them wrong, they will be forced to admit the error of their ways and join us. (Short of that, we will at least experience the pleasure of intellectually humiliating them.) (p. xxxii).

I’ve been in “witnessing” encounters like this. The only results that I could discern were increased blood pressure, as evidenced by red faces and bulging neck veins. Jim says, “Ordinary Christians like me know that when you start defending the faith, you also start losing your friends” (p. xxxiii).

The solution, Jim says, is to actually make friends with non-Christians, and live out the teachings of Jesus among them:

Jesus didn’t just teach principles; he taught practices. He gave people something to do. He didn’t just teach them about forgiveness; he told them to forgive their debtors. He didn’t just talk about love as a concept; he told people to love their enemies. He didn’t just tell people to think about changing their behaviors; he told them to repent. Sure it’s challenging, but it doesn’t take a weekend seminary to understand what he means (p. xxxiii).

This is a great book. Get your own copy here: Jim and Casper Go to Church.


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Comments

  1. says

    I used to lament the fact that I left Bob Jones University so many years ago. I still believe what they believe, but now reading this post I find myself thankful that God has given me the opportunity to day after day be among the lost and befriend them and talk to them about anything from sports to politics to Jesus. I have lunch with them as well. Some of them are aitheistic and others are muslim or Mexican. In one sense perhaps this was all part of God’s will to get me to mingle. I used to kind of think I missed his will or failed him in not following through with Bible college. I can see why many pastors feel somewhat isolated from reaching people…but dont slay yourself and if there are pastors reading this…remember that your job is to preach the word of God and feed the flock. Many in your churches….people like me are befriending and witnessing day in a day out. So don’t be discouraged. We need to be fed on Sundays by our pastors and you are blessing us that way. Still…you can befriend athiest, but don’t slay yourself to much. We are all placed in certain places for certain reasons. I have to work around rednecks, yankees, black people as well as many Mexicans and you will be surprised how God opens doors and works. It is tough and I sometimes feel very lonely and often some Christians at church who are isolated in an homeschool environment often shame me for not being as holy or structured as they are and am not as well received in the Southern Baptist Church I go to, but perhaps they are slaying themselve and feeling guilty that they are not reaching the lost or befriending the lost and eating lunch with them and talking and communing with them often with opportunities to talk about Jesus here and there. Remember that Jesus grew in favor with both God and man. Both God and man. He “grew” in that, not by reading a manual, but actually grew and learned as he suffered within the scope of it all on the earth.

    I remember when I was in the Marines, I learned all the how too’s in infantry training school but it wasnt until I got into the fleet and crunch time came in oppositions and a war did we all really begin to grow. God’s doing something, but always remember that biblical fundamentalism is indeed the truth. Its not that Jesus was a militant fundy, but He is the truth that fundyism teaches however ungracefully they do at times and Jesus is working to make it function in our lives. Actually he is working to make us function from what we have learned and how we depend on His Spirit learning the ulitimate truth in the gracewalk.

    I can remember baracks Marines would come join our already existing platoon after a couple years away. They went straight from training to easy duty oversees somewhere. They polished their metal and still and wore the pretty dress blues all the time, but they did not grow with us…still when they later came after their tour to join us they began to learn. That didn’t make them any less Marines than we were. They were needed for a differant purpose at a differant time. I often look the same way toward those Bob Jonesy types as Barracks Marines who will learn some tough stuff later….but God is working in their lives still. All of you Dallas Seminarians and Masters Seminarians. You may all be wooden and bookish right now, but God will break you down for whatever environment he needs you in. I am a little rough around the edges, but maybe that is why I fit among the group he has me with now.

    Love in Christ and Grace upon Grace,

    Brian

  2. says

    Have you ever read, “The Like jesus, but not the church” by Dan Kimball? I think you’d like it. If you have time, come on over to my blog, I posted a book review on it.

  3. says

    Tia,

    Yes, i’ve read it and really enjoyed his book. I also read your blog, and subscribe to it through bloglines.com. I have commented there once or twice, I think…

  4. says

    Jim,

    I feel honored that you came over here and commented. I have already checked out your website (since you write about it in your book) and will be using that resource more in the days and weeks ahead.

    I may have another post about your book as I continue reading it. Thanks for writing it!

  5. Jim Henderson says

    Jeremy

    Send us your address to infoAToffthemapDOTcom and we will send you a DVD with Casper and I. (for free :-)

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