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'I want to be like the Philip I've written about!'

 

Evangelist and former Baptist Union President Chris Duffett has penned a novel about the New Testament figure Philip. He explains why



 

philip-3dWhen did you first get the idea for writing about Philip?

For a long time Philip has been a bit of a hero of mine. His story pops up often when I preach, especially his generous encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch, the first ever non-Jewish person to be converted.
 
I think the idea of writing a novel on his life happened about 12 years ago when I read Man in White by Johnny Cash (the man in Black): his novel on the life of Paul opened my eyes to another way of creative writing that could provoke and inspire the reader to engage with the Bible.

 
What were some of the challenges of your journey with the book?

There were many challenges, not least finishing the book and knowing how to wrap up the story, especially when my writing mojo went on a long holiday!

Keeping integral to the historical accuracy was a bit tricky and for a few months my office walls were plastered with time lines, ages of the characters, key biblical stories and who was ruling at the time and what significant world events occurred at the time.

Researching the geography was also fairly taxing. Most journeys were made on foot so I had to work out travel times between towns and villages.

I also struggled with researching what and how people ate! I know it may sound trivial, but what did a 1st Century family eat in Jerusalem? Where did they get their food? How often did they eat?
I had some amazing historical books that helped with these questions and I began to build up what a 'life in the day of' different characters in my story looked like.

 
Do you think Philip was like you in any way? Did you identify with him at all while you were writing?

I want to be like the Philip I've written about! He ran the race till the end. His faith and obedience to Jesus is inspiring. To help the creative writing process many of the stories within the story I've written are based upon encounters I've had with people on the streets or as serving city centre chaplain in Peterborough. Obviously the names have changed as well as the setting.

However, new Christians I know today pop up in the story set nearly 2000 years ago.

Philip book signing
 
What have you learned about God through spending time writing about Philip?

The Holy Spirit is a genius at inspiring creative thoughts! There were plenty of times I didn't have a clue what to write but then a thought would wander into my mind that was pure inspiration.

Writing about Philip's face to face encounters with Jesus also taught me so much, and I must admit there were times when I had to stop typing as I was crying, overwhelmed by the lavish love that Jesus has for me. Writing those conversations between Philip and Jesus felt like Jesus speaking to my heart.

 
What do you think is the key message of Philip’s life?

Obedience. Despite the cost. Philip went where the Lord sent him and in my retelling this costly obedience is amplified by a delicate love story where Philip leaves the love of his life to go on mission for the Lord.

 
What is your prayer for the people reading the book?

Inspiration to 1) follow Jesus and 2) change the world for his fame. That's it.

 
How did it feel when you actually wrote the last word?

I was very struck by the last 20 minutes of Martin Scorsese's film Silence. It's a gripping film, but long and uncomfortable. The last 20 minutes wraps up most of the life of the central character in the film. In a similar way the last two chapters of my book wraps up Philips life journey. I feel like I have finished it well (with a shocking ending, but no spoilers here); the last word 'lands well' when for so many months it was up in the air and I wasn't sure how to end it. So, in a nutshell writing the last word was a bit of a relief.

 
Do you have any other subjects you’d love to write about one day, and if so what?

I have way too many! Lots of theological reflection on evangelism type books but also novels and children books.
 
My problem is deciding which one to work on next, but I do think it's time for another book on contemporary creative approaches to evangelism to help the church engage with people who don't have a clue about Jesus. I think a combination in feel between Green's Evangelism through the local church and Watson's I believe in evangelism is really needed to help the church grow and flourish, rather than manage decline. Watch this space.

 

Picture | Gareth Squance


Philip, a novel is available through http://www.gileadbookspublishing.com/philip or order from your local Christian book shop.


 
 
What others have said:


‘Creative, imaginative, challenging & highly engaging. This book is a great contribution that is well worth a read.’

Gavin Calver, Director of Mission Evangelical Alliance
 


‘Through this delightful story inspired by the New Testament figure Philip, Chris Duffett succeeds in bringing the past to life, while enabling readers to resonate deeply with both the power of love and the all too familiar challenges of forgiveness.’

Kate Coleman, Founder and co-director of Next Leadership 


 
Baptist Times, 03/12/2017
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