Preach Magazine Issue 1 - Creativity and innovation in preaching - Page 18

18 INTERVIEW JS Do you think the sermon is still PHILIP YANCEY’S father died of polio when Philip was one year old. His church had convinced him to come off life support in faith that he would be healed. This is only one of the reasons Yancey speaks about being in recovery from a form of Christianity that almost killed his belief in a good God. His Southern American childhood was spent as part of a ‘toxic’ church: racist, judgemental and joyless. Since a cautious rediscovery of beauty and goodness led him to get to know God for the first time, his life has been about communicating grace to anyone who will listen. And apparently there are quite a few of us, if his book sales are anything to go by. He lives with his wife Janet, a social worker and hospice chaplain, in Colorado, and writes for a living. In an age of nauseating self-promotion, Yancey is refreshingly publicity shy. I was delighted to have the rare opportunity to put some questions to him on behalf of Preach magazine. a valid way to communicate the gospel? Why or why not? The sermon is certainly valid, but it has limited range. For committed believers, the sermon remains a primary way of communicating the good news, by conveying theology and biblical truth and making practical applications to life. Yet sermons are normally delivered in churches or places of worship, which means that the audience self-selects to hear them. Even for the uncommitted who happen to visit a church, the sermon presents certain barriers, namely the strange and perhaps threatening religious environment. When do I stand up or kneel? How do these people know what page to turn to? What is this Eucharist thing all about? JS Those are significant hurdles. Are there ways to get over them? I can think of two ways. The first is simple friendship which can lessen that intimidation factor and present church as a welcoming experience. Think of visiting a museum or historical site with a friend who shows you around – when we invite people to church, we can serve that same function. The second would be transparency from the pulpit, revealing the preacher as a fellow human with struggles and temptations, rather than an authority figure who speaks from on high. JS You mentioned people who just Philip in Figures Author of over 20 books 15 million of them in print around the world Translated into 35 languages 13 gold medallion awards from Christian publishers and booksellers LWPT8173 - Preach Magazine - Issue 1 v3.indd 18 happen to visit a church, but who are essentially unconvinced. This may not happen often but it does happen. Can a preacher disarm cynics, or is it only the pilgrims, artists and activists who can smuggle truth to the unconverted? Most preachers I know don’t have much experience in disarming cynics – from the pulpit, at least. In a hospital room, in prison, in personal counselling: in those contexts they 17/10/2014 12:53:48