Christmas crowds flock to J John Preacher `star' pulls in punters
Sunday 11 December 1994
His name is J John, he is sometimes seen as Britain's answer to Billy Graham, and will take over a nightclub in East London tonight for a huge carol service - the latest stop in a exhausting tour that will see him give 15 Christmas sermons in 11 days.
J John (his real Greek name, Iouannes Iouannon, is "too much of a mouthful") will be preaching to more than 1,500 people at The Island in Ilford, Essex, where recent attractions have included the all-girl soul group Eternal and the thrash metal band Napalm Death.
Not a clergyman but a full-time preacher living on donations from Evangelical supporters, John, as friends call him, hits the road when the Christmas decorations go up. One year he spoke at 32 carol services in a month, and more than a quarter of a million copies have been published of a small book, What's the Point of Christmas?
Seats are very hard to come by at his carol services, which regularly attract crowds of 1,000 or more. Church buildings are often too small, so local believers book school halls, leisure centres and even unashamedly secular rock venues.
A small, friendly 36-year-old with the enthusiasm of a used car salesman and the patter of a stand-up comedian, John was converted to his born-again faith 20 years ago while at college - to the alarm and disapproval of his Greek Orthodox parents.
"People are more open to what I've got to say at Christmas than at any other time," he says. "We don't live in a country full of agnostics or aetheists - a lot of people consider themselves religious. When they go into hospital, for example, they'll put C of E on their form.
"It's kosher to be religious at Christmas time. It gives me an opportunity to be listened to."
As well as comforting familiarity ("Hark The Herald Angels" is the most popular hymn at his services) he likes to do things differently. Next week in Nottingham he will turn off all the lights during a service and preach in the darkness. "I want to talk about the dark side of Christmas. Abuse in the home. Loneliness. It's hard for people."
John makes no secret of his aim to convert them, even asking believers to leave the service if there aren't enough seats for the others.
"I'm not anti-Santa, or shopping, or all the other things that go with it. I like turkey, tinsel and Tia Maria, but it's wrapping paper. Our problem has been that we've got caught up in the wrapping and missed the present, the real message of Christmas."
- 1 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to join show
- 4 Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
- 5 How to gain confidence and maximise your sexual potential
Boston Marathon runner's search for mystery man she kissed ends with letter from his wife
Frankie Boyle on Scottish independence: 'In the Interests of Unity, F**k Off'
Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy
Mysterious 'X-Files' sounds heard miles above the Earth
Met Gala 2015: Beyoncé manages to out-skimp Rihanna, Miley and Kim Kardashian combined with near-naked ensemble
In defence of liberal democracy
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
Andy McSmith's Sketch: Feisty audience is the real star of an enlightening show
£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...
£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...
£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...