10 Questions With...Matthew Paul Turner
Last week I had the privilege to speak over the phone with Matthew Paul Turner. He has been a favorite writer of mine for a while & had a great time talking with him. He is a great guy, very much the same guy you read about within his books. Here is the interview:
What is your background & what led you to writing?
Age four was a great year for me. Not only did my family join a very legalistic church, I was also diagnosed with scoliosis. I had to wear a brace for 12 years, until I had back surgery at 18. So I grew up in a stifling environment both spiritually & physically. I always wanted to be a writer. I was constantly carrying around a notebook. Originally, I thought I wanted to be a songwriter & Christian artist. Actually, I wanted to be the Michael Jackson of Christian music. Christian music was my safety net from legalism.
What is your favorite & least favorite product within Christian culture? Why?
This year at CBA, a friend came up to me & whispered in my ear, "they have Jesus panties";, and then walked away. So I spent the next several minutes wandering through the booths trying to find them. Sure enough, there they were - panties with verses written all over them. They also had sole inserts you put in your shoes which had verses written on them, so you could "stand on the Word of God all day long."; There is also this website (holyghosttees.com) which has t-shirts with phrases spoken in tongues written on them. For only $37 plus $8.95 shipping & handling, you can wear some good 'ole Pentecostal expressions.
What authors have influenced your writing &/or your spiritual life?
As far as greatest influence, Philip Yancey, CS Lewis, Brennan Manning & Max Lucado's In the Grip of Grace. As far as challenging my thought, Rob Bell, Henry Blackaby, Eugene Peterson, Brian McLaren & Don Miller. In the sense of writing, David Sedaris & Augusten Burroughs have greatly influenced me. Those two are just good writers who can tell a story which just draws you into it.
Who did you have in mind specifically when you write?
It really depends on the project. My upcoming book, Beatitude, I wrote a little for myself. I try to deliver a story, because people connect with stories. In my newly released book, What You Parents Didn't Teach You About Sex, I had an audience of 20-30 somethings in mind.
What's the greatest thing you've learned while writing?
I am driven to constantly become a better writer. I want to develop my story-telling & as weird as it sounds to be better grammatically. I loved Eats, Shoots & Leaves. She is psychotic about punctuation. I just strive to be better. Funnier, more alive, more wise.
A few years back, I came across The Coffeehouse Gospel. Ever since then, I have been a fan of your writing. What is your favorite experience from sharing your story with someone?
All of them. Just having the opportunity to connect with people, sharing my story, which generally allows them to open up. I also love painting a realistic picture of Jesus for people.
You have written a book called Everything You Need you Know Before College & are writing a series of books, What You Didn't Learn from Your Parents About. Are these books written from trial & error experience or what there someone or something instrumental in helping you through these issues?
They come definitely from trial & error experience. I like to write my story. I want to be just blunt honest. The freedom to be honest is awesome. For the Th1nk series, I did a ton of research. Being able to turn that into something engaging & fun was a blast.
I also was raised in a fundamentalist background (although I never had a Barbie burned in front of me to show the horror of hell). It seems that legalism pushes people towards a head-knowledge of God, rather than a heart-knowledge. How do you connect with God, with that in mind?
By getting quiet. I try to silence the message culture gives us by diving into Jesus. I want to engage proactively in the story of Jesus. Sometimes the story of Jesus is more imaginative than the church tells it. I try to experience Jesus anytime - having coffee, alone, at church, with my wife.
In Provocative Faith, you talk about what faith is supposed to be. If you could put it in one thought, or the most important thing, what might that be?
Jesus loves me. I am constantly learning that beautiful truth.
In your upcoming release, Beatitude, you talk about your own challenges of living up to the standard set in the Beatitudes. In writing this book, what do you think is the greatest challenge facing the Church today?
The Church is dangerously close to becoming like the monarchy in England. We try to control people's lives, so they live by our standards. We're missing the point of Jesus. Bringing prayer into schools, controlling politics & other things is not what Jesus is about.
The Church needs to reach out & touch people;s lives not through legislation or rhetoric, but through Jesus. There is a skewed picture of Jesus from mainstream Christianity. I wouldn't die for a marriage amendment, but I would die for Jesus.
I strongly encourage you to check out Matthew's writing, both in his books & on his website. All of Matthew's books are 20% off at NextStep Resources.