Adrian Plass and Jeff Lucas have been delighting separate audiences for a long time, but this year saw the publication of their first joint book, Seriously Funny. ALISON HULL discovers why they decided to get together
“We met at a dinner which was so excruciatingly boring that we were driven into talking to each other,” explains Adrian Plass. “We thought it would be interesting and revealing to write letters to each other in which we made a real effort to tell the truth.”
Jeff agrees, but adds: “We realised that lots of people rush to take up positions, not taking the time to explore the issues first, and we wanted to have a time of interaction. I knew Adrian would be a trustworthy person to have those explorations with.”
Did anything surprise Adrian during that collaboration?
“I knew that Jeff was a Jesus-loving relativist like me, but I was moved and very struck by his vulnerability.
“Those who, like me, loudly profess their honesty know full well that there are layers below layers when it comes to this sort of thing, and it was good to get a glimpse under the surface.”
Jeff, in turn, remembers feeling he had struck gold when he first encountered Adrian's writings – back in the late 70s and early 80s. “I heaved a huge sigh of relief. He was a total revolutionary at the time.
“No-one was asking awkward questions, either in the charismatic wing of the Church or the Church generally. Adrian's writing came out of brokenness, and that was unheard of.
“All the testimony books spoke of moving from a position of weakness to one of strength, but Adrian spoke about being strong and now being weak. He gave me permission to fail. I knew I wasn't an alien, I wasn't alone.”
Does Jeff think this is still a rare thing, to find a leader who admits to struggling?
“Yes. We confuse example with image. We think we have to appear to have everything together, whereas in fact all we need to show is that we are going in a ‘redemption direction’.
“People still come up to me, after hearing me preach, and say: ‘Nice to have a bit of reality in the Church for once’, which makes me wonder what they are listening to the rest of the time.”
One of the biggest areas of struggle covered in the book is that of doubt. How does Adrian cope with it?
“I have a friend who experiences profound doubt in between his many pastoral and evangelistic activities. He is like a man who has lost his glasses and doesn't realise that they're up on his head. When they're needed he instinctively pulls them down.
“My friend is like that, and I am a bit as well. Jesus is in his blood (a bit of theological confusion there, but so what?) and he wouldn't be able to get rid of him if he tried.
“A lot of these things are about temperament and background as much as anything else. I find some people's certainty much more repellent than my friend's doubts.”
Both men have moved on from worrying too much about what other people think, and Adrian says this has been “a great relaxation and release to me to realise that I am much less dominated by other people's expectations than I have ever been.
“This is partly because I have finally begun to understand that many of the religious postures and patterns that we employ in the Church are not ultimately relevant to the actual work of the Holy Spirit.
“‘God is in the room’ has become my new watchword. Anything can happen, and sometimes it does, often in surprisingly practical and ingenious ways.”
Seriously Funny is published by Authentic at £8.99
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