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Topic: Developing A Philosophy
Message: Posted by: FCpreacher (Jun 13, 2005 11:06AM)
Though many who read this may disagree with me (that's alright, we can still be brothers), my goal is to get others to develop a philosophy. There are several factors that led me to try to develop a philosophy: a weak conscience, dislike for every gospel magic performing style I have ever seen, and lack of solid material. I would like to briefly deal with each of these.

1. A weak conscience

This is not something I should be scolded for. It has nothing to do with spiritual maturity or immaturity. There have been times in my life where I felt dishonest doing magic. My conscience bothered me in several areas of performing. I even tried to give it all up on two occasions. The two areas that bothered me were deception and idolatry. I felt like I was lying to the audience and deceiving them and at times I felt like I loved sleight of hand too much. I want the Lord Jesus Christ to have the preeminence in my life. I really struggled with magic taking too much of my time and thoughts.

Concerning deception, one word helped me tremendously: GENRE. When I pick up a fiction book there is no caveat saying, "Please do not believe anything in this book because the stories contained are all fictitious." I know the stories are fictitious because of the GENRE. The same goes with a television program or a National Enquirer (though I don't read them). Our culture understands GENRE. With that in mind, people know that when a magician approaches their table in a restaurant, their coin's name really isn't Jerry and Jerry really doesn't live in the magician's nose. When I perform Mike Close's "Frog Prince" people know that the Jack of Diamonds really isn't a handsome prince, they know he is a PLAYING CARD. Understanding genre and its place in our culture really helped my thinking in all of this.

As for the aspect of magic taking too much of my devotion, that is something I had to hammer out with the Lord in prayer and Bible meditation.


2. I have not read many gospel magic books or seen many videos because I don't like them. I'm sure there are some good ones out there, but they certainly were not the ones I have seen. They (along with several performers I have seen) seem to force an application that is not there. For example, "This coin is your sin and my hand is Jesus. Watch Jesus take away your sin." - Gag! The coin is not sin and the hand is not the Creator of the universe.

My philosophy of application is this, "If it fits like a glove, use it. Otherwise don't." Here is the reason: I travel all summer long preaching the gospel to children and teenagers. I use magic every single day (except Saturdays sometimes). I have found that I can perform a great coin routine for a group of children standing around before the meeting and I have their complete attention. I can then call them all together and teach them a Bible verse, plug the gospel, or teach them a scripture song. While out blitzing, I can approach a teenager or a child whom I have never met, perform a solid sponge ball routine, then quote scripture to them and invite them to the rally. To me IT DOESN'T HAVE TO HAVE AN APPLICATION. I know several evangelists who say, "I promised God I would never do a trick without a gospel application." I disagree with that philosophy whole-heartedly. That does two things: it limits the performers magic capabilities and it forces applications that aren't there (which makes God's word and scriptural principles seem foolish).

From the platform I will often lead with a trick and then just preach. The message has nothing to do with the trick, but the trick gives me a captive audience. I preach at a camp in WI. In fact, I am going there next week. Last time I was there, I opened my first night with a manipulation routine. I came down off the platform and the camp directore said, "Now you have them for the rest of camp." - And I did.

So rather than a strained application, I trick can be an attention getter, a respect builder, an ice breaker, or just a trick.

3. Lack of solid material

Another reason I don't like gospel magic performance styles is because they almost always involve an envelope, jumbo cards, or ropes. No knock to Doc Haley, but practically everything is an envelope and a jumbo card. Most things are $20+ per effect. My particular performance style is less gimmicky. I don't like just buying all kinds of props. I know so many children's church workers that think they have to buy a new prop for every lesson they do. I think some serious creative thinking needs to be done in this area.

Whatever God puts in your hand, use it to advance His Kingdom. My encouragement to you gentlemen is to preach the word, develop a philosophy of magic, and don't cheapen the gospel by a bad application.

FC
Message: Posted by: BradBrown (Jun 13, 2005 12:09PM)
Excellent post!

I have a very similar philosopy of ministry and magic, and agree with pretty much everything.

[quote]dislike for every gospel magic performing style I have ever seen[/quote]

I've certainally seen my share of bad Gospel magic. However, it's also been my pleasure to know a number of really outstanding "Gospel Magicians," for lack of a better term. They are out there. (Unfortunately, they're in the minority, but they are there.)

-Brad
Message: Posted by: Clifford the Red (Jun 13, 2005 12:17PM)
1) Superb explanation. As evidenced in the Parable of the Talents, God expects Excellence from our Stewardship.

2) I love your "Don't Go There" philosophy. We must ask ourselves - "Is our effect excellently-scripted, superbly-performed and wondrously-entertaining?" How do you know? Have you received unbiased, professional critique? Often we are blinded to the real effectiveness of our pieces and those around us don't wish to hurt us.

3) I totally agree with this as well. In my opinion, the sooner you stop buying and using props from a magic shop, the sooner your magic will become more artful, beautiful and entertaining. Coming from the Bizarre perspective, I only use authentic props and weave them into original stories. And often the props are real antiques as people know and can imagine antiques as having histories. That is highly conducive to creating a story that is congruent with the prop. A brand spanking new prop right out of the store doesn't have a history. The more original your writing and the more authentic your props, you place yourself in the category of artist instead of commodity magician with the obligatory laquered tricky boxes and typical jokes.
Message: Posted by: GlenD (Jun 13, 2005 12:53PM)
I think the original post is a little too critical and generalized.
There are some very good gospel performers who do excellent magic and present very clear and effective messages within their routines.

But just as in non gospel magic, you have a lot of folks trying to become a magician (hopefully a good magician) and there is a learning curve.

We all start somewhere even if it is with laquered boxes and unoriginal patter or jokes. The important thing, in my opinion, is that continual growth and improvement happens and then a more personal style and ways of presenting your routines develop.

I agree totally that not all of our effects have to have a gospel message.
But I would be careful to make a statement that "nobody should just do gospel magic only, you have to mix it up"!!! (I am not saying that anyone here made this statement, this I sjust an example).
Because I would understand if there are some folks that, say, do only a limited amount of magic and they decided to only incorporate those effects in their own evangelisitc efforts. So in witnessing they highlight some of what they are saying with an effect and that's all the magic they do! In their case, my above statement would be incorrect and not take what they are doing into account.
I am not thinking of anyone in particular, I just mention this to point out that generalizations or dogmatic type of statements almost always are incorrect or leave someone out.

It is my understanding that the "spirit" of the original post was basically to challenge gospel magicians to think and not do something that would cheapen the message. To that I wholeheartedly agree, I just don't want to discourage or cut down anyone who is out there trying, especially if their heart is in the right place.

FCPreacher, it sounds as if you are having a great time performing your magic and reaching a lot folks especially the kids and youth with the gospel. Whatever your doing, your apparently doing something right! God bless you in your efforts and thanks for the well written post.

GlenD
Message: Posted by: revlovejoy (Jun 13, 2005 01:32PM)
A very thoughtful post, but I too have trouble with the very dogmatic nature of your conclusions.

No, a hand is not the creator of the universe, and a coin is not sin. But did not our Lord himself compare the kingdom of God to many common everyday things? Did any one express the fullness of God? No, but each parable shows a glimpse of the kingdom.

As for every effect having an application, I suppose this depends on our settings. I am doing an introductory bit of magic each night of our VBS this week. I would hope that teaching a message is expected. Entertain first, then teach, is a troubling concept for me, which I associate with a church growth movement concept of "whatever it takes to get attention, THEN preach the Word." I call it bait and switch in the world, and it's not much more attractive a practice in the church.

I'm not accusing you of any of that - just pointing out that there are other ways to look at some of the issues you raised, and while you've put a lot of thought and prayer into how these matters affect your ministry, please don't assume that some of us who do things differently are necessarily going against principles that I beleive we share with you.
Message: Posted by: FCpreacher (Jun 13, 2005 08:19PM)
Thanks for all the feedback. I understand what revlovejoy is saying about the church growth movement (which I too am very much against - and preach against). One thing I struggled much with in the past is that very thing. I desire to preach the purest gospel only. My philosophy is not yet completely set in stone, it will grow as I think through difficult concepts and hopefully am led by God's Spirit. With that in mind, I am currently of the persuasion that a 3 or 4 minute routine would not hurt a 30 minute sermon. (Also note that I DON'T perform magic in a church service nor do I advertise myself as a gospel magician to get a crowd. I simply invite people to a gospel meeting. I am not baiting any hooks with it, though I often use a trick to "break the ice" when witnessing to someone)

Perhaps the above statement cleared some things up.

As for the parables of our Lord, they were extremely effective teaching tools AND THEY WERE FITTING. That was the point of my post above. Quoting my above post, "If it fits like a glove, use it. Otherwise don't."

Thanks to all who agree and disagree with me. A major lesson the Lord has been teaching me very recently is the wonderful art of disagreement without dissention.

FC
Message: Posted by: Euangelion (Jun 24, 2005 05:18AM)
I, finally, am having time to poke around through the boards and found this thread which I think is an appropriate one for reflection.

By the way, never listen to Revlovejoy. Just kidding I am, partially, responsible for him and we live about 30 minutes apart.

I have long used an opening line in my magic where I thought it was necessary and where it was helpful. Mostly in churches and religious venues because there are often at least some who may be uncomfortable with the idea of a Christian magician given the Bible and the ancient world's assumptions about such things.

"This evening I invite you to sit back and enjoy an time of entertainment and diversion. I claim no special power except the discipline of a mind and the practice of a skill. What I offer this evening is simple illusion, the devil offers only empty promises, and only God can work a true miracle of faith."

There is a lot said in those few words both maically and theologically. What do you think?

[quote]
On 2005-06-13 12:06, FCpreacher wrote:

2. I have not read many gospel magic books or seen many videos because I don't like them. I'm sure there are some good ones out there, but they certainly were not the ones I have seen. They (along with several performers I have seen) seem to force an application that is not there. For example, "This coin is your sin and my hand is Jesus. Watch Jesus take away your sin." - Gag! The coin is not sin and the hand is not the Creator of the universe.

My philosophy of application is this, "If it fits like a glove, use it. Otherwise don't." Here is the reason: I travel all summer long preaching the gospel to children and teenagers. I use magic every single day (except Saturdays sometimes). I have found that I can perform a great coin routine for a group of children standing around before the meeting and I have their complete attention. I can then call them all together and teach them a Bible verse, plug the gospel, or teach them a scripture song. While out blitzing, I can approach a teenager or a child whom I have never met, perform a solid sponge ball routine, then quote scripture to them and invite them to the rally. To me IT DOESN'T HAVE TO HAVE AN APPLICATION. I know several evangelists who say, "I promised God I would never do a trick without a gospel application." I disagree with that philosophy whole-heartedly. That does two things: it limits the performers magic capabilities and it forces applications that aren't there (which makes God's word and scriptural principles seem foolish).

From the platform I will often lead with a trick and then just preach. The message has nothing to do with the trick, but the trick gives me a captive audience. I preach at a camp in WI. In fact, I am going there next week. Last time I was there, I opened my first night with a manipulation routine. I came down off the platform and the camp directore said, "Now you have them for the rest of camp." - And I did.

So rather than a strained application, I trick can be an attention getter, a respect builder, an ice breaker, or just a trick.


FC
[/quote]

It is possible to overcome the critique you speak of above concerning "this coin is your sin....".

It does involve good scripting and good structure, however, and might flow along a line something like this.

1) Establish the connection between money and God's gifts. Speak of money as representational of time and talent leading to treasure.

2) Establish God's gifts as personal have coin signed by a volunteer. The other side of the coin of gifts is responsibility and sin stands between us and the good use of gifts. Shuttle pass. Write "Sin" on the back side of "the" coin. You are now in an advantageous situation with a signed coin on the one side and your hand written sin on another Replace marker in pocket and remove a sheet of paper laying the coin on it sin side up. It was possible to "show" both sides of the coin again if you want.

3) Lay the coin sin side up on the paper speaking of how our sin is always present.

4) Fold coin into the piece of "flash" paper it is lying on. Speak of how we try to hide our sin, cover it up.

5) Speak of the power of a filled lived in the Holy Spirit lived as Christ using one's gifts in service others.

6) Hold paper to candle. In a flash it is gone. Refiners fire?

7) Offer the brass box to volunteer to open box to box to box.

8) Signed coin is found inside secure in the kingdom of God with sin gone from the back.

Now this was just jotted down in 10 minutes, but all aspects are workable. It is your premise of a coin is not sin but it is changed and marked with sin on it and sin is removed but there is much, much more.

Volunteer puts their name on the coin, its personal. Its their name and their sin and their security.


One Sunday morning I was preaching on the rich man who built new barns for the bountiful harvest. I talked about the blessings of God great gifts and used a French drop to take a coin and hold it high over my head. I stood there preaching for another ten minutes with my hand high above my head the sleeve of my alb down around my shoulder. When I arrived at the point about those who try to save their life will lose it and opened my hand and the coin was gone there was a gasp in the congregation. They were completely convinced the coin was there and vanished right in front of their eyes. One guy said he had seen the coin there the whole time. Only a coin vanish but in that moment they lost everything because they had invested and believed I had invested ten minutes in holding a coin high over my head. Afterall who would be stupid enough to hold an empty hand over their head for ten minutes. Malini, that's who. "You wait forever." Don't sell short a coin as sin or anythingelse it is the presentation which makes it work or not. Some are simple, some are simplistic.

BTW, I had checked the wireless microphone pack in my pocket to make sure it was on. ;) Motivation, always motivation.
Message: Posted by: Chris_ (Jun 24, 2005 10:32AM)
I appreciate and agree with FC's comments regarding idolitry.

There have been times when I feel that working on sleights and constructing routines begins to consume my thoughts. It is a those times when I will put away my coins and cards and dive deeper into God's word. A sabbatical of sorts.

Also, I think opening with a sleight to capture attention before moving into the gospel is fine. I recall an example of Jesus beginning with non-spiritual topics before moving to the spiritual in Mark chapter four, the women at the well. Simply connecting with the one(s) you are going to witness to before you swing to the things of God.

Chris
Message: Posted by: Daniel Faith (Jun 29, 2005 07:12PM)
I have problems too this your conclusions.

You indicate in #2 Quote:
I have not read many gospel magic books or seen many videos because I don't like them.
If you haven't read them then how do you know you don't like them???

You could not have seen many gospel presentations to have your opinions.
In my opinion.
Message: Posted by: weepinwil (Aug 2, 2005 08:40PM)
For me the challenge is to make the magic theologically sound and not just a story with a magic trick attached. Poor Gospel Magic can lead to wrong thinking.