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April 4th, 2014

Laughing Together. Believing Together.

Jeffrey's Shorts (cover)

“Fun loving vicar who struggled to laugh.” So read the headline in our local paper at the beginning of this year,   referring to my previous book ‘Where was God last Friday?’*   This was written in 1995 in response to a tragic road accident in Swindon when 5 young people were killed and 2 more seriously injured.   But it was necessary for this book to discuss questions of faith in a very serious and sensitive way, my writing juices don’t seem to have completely evaporated over the years and I have now written a very different book. ‘Jeffrey’s Shorts’ published by Instant Apostle, is the product of a lifetime’s humorous reflections on living the Christian life, related in 20 short stories.

Who are these stories written for?   It is always important for any author to envisage his or her possible audience and I wanted to get away, if ever so slightly, from a standard Christian book that is aimed squarely at believers and pen something for the curious, or even those who would describe themselves as 50% Christian. Jesus was the master of short stories and the Gospels are littered with them, brief, punchy and to the point.    His message was for all, but high on his agenda were the illiterate and the poor.   In today’s culture, reading anything of any length is becoming a rarity and the Bible is very long indeed – the way we look to reach those who struggle with such traditional mediums must be reimagined. Hence the short story.

But how often is laughter a means for someone to discover Christ?   Obviously the Gospel is no laughing matter: Jesus was deadly serious when he said, “We must be born again.” Still, in my ministerial experience, people will be more likely to listen to the Christian message if they are relaxed than if they are uptight – and laughter makes everyone less stressed. ‘Joy and laughter are lovely bed fellows’ (NB. Psalm 126 v.2-3).    God’s Holy Spirit longs to enter every human heart and humour is just one way that Christ can gain an entrance. I was very pleased when I found that the blurb included such phrases as, ‘Delve with Geoffrey into the bizarre and wonderful’ and ‘be delighted with his humorous faith-filled view of the world’ – seeing life in a new, magical and entertaining light can help a reader to reconsider the Christian faith as well.

Subtlety in expression – defined by the dictionary as extreme acuteness verging on the cunning – can help us all reimagine ourselves and our faith, or lack of it.   Of course, the Christian writer must not resort to underhand methods (2Tim.2.v.5) but at the same time there is surely a place for something more discrete and gentle than obtrusive, ‘in your face’ evangelism.   The latter is perfectly biblical – ‘repent for the kingdom of God is at hand,’ said Jesus, and Paul certainly did not mince his words in his preaching, and nor should we! – but it is not the exclusive way.

God’s church, for all its glories, has often been a barrier to faith.   Its language and buildings, attitudes and organisation, are a foreign world to many, if not most, people today, and there is a need to bypass these obstacles. As a Christian, I want to understand how to meet and communicate with those who do not yet share my faith, and I believe the short-story to be a place where we can meet. Not long ago I asked around our house group to see if anybody there knew anyone well who was not a Christian.   Surprisingly – to my ears at least –  there was only one person who answered that, yes, they had a friend who was not yet a Christian!

Jeffrey’s Shorts is just one small attempt to encourage the Christian to comprehend the non-Christian, and for the semi-believer to become curious, and for the curious to become inquiring

As a former banker once observed to me – Middle Class Morality is not enough!

*Published by Hodder.

Jeffrey’s Shorts is available online in paperback and electronic formats.

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