Monday, November 05, 2007

Story Time

One of the things that I do as an Evangelist is to encourage people to tell their stories. I want others to know that God is alive and well and a part of our lives. If our story begins and ends with a day long ago when we prayed a prayer or made a confession of Jesus as Savior, then our "savior" is as dead as any wooden or metal idol that we condemn others for worshipping.


While I believe wholeheartedly in telling the story of our conversion, I also believe that it is a meaningless story if we haven't grown in our knowledge of the teachings of Jesus and if the evidence of our actions doesn't demonstrate that we are growing in that knowledge. Too many of us want others to believe in the redeeming grace of God but we give them little reason to believe that it will make any difference in their lives because they can't see that it's made any difference in ours.


Our approach has been that they need Jesus or they're going to go to hell. This doesn't do much to really convince them of their need for a Savior. First of all, we assume that they believe in a place called hell and secondly, we assume that they think it is a terrible place. It's odd that we use hell as a "selling point" for salvation as much as the benefits of eternal life in heaven (which they may not believe in either!).


Anyways, the reason I started down this trail was to tell you part of my story. I don't want to go all the way back to the beginning (too long ago and too boring). Instead, I'll borrow from the Star Wars Saga and begin my story in the middle.


It was in the fall of 1998. I was beginning to feel like I needed to be doing something for God. I wasn't sure what that was, I just knew that I wasn't having any impact on the Kingdom and wasn't doing anything for the God that had given me everything. I should mention that I wasn't completely idle, I was a Deacon in our church, served on the nominating committee, helped teach Sunday School and other things that were "church related service." But that was really just busy work. None of it was helping to grow the Kingdom. What I wanted--want I needed was an area of personal ministry. As I looked to the types of personal ministries that other were in, I discovered that many people were doing the things that they loved to do and giving glory to God at the same time.



Musicians were writing, performing and praising Him through their music. There was a professional bass fisherman that would give fishing seminars and also tell these fishermen about his personal relationship with Jesus. A motocross rider was jumping over bands playing on stages at outdoor youth rallies and then telling kids that Jesus was the most important thing in his life. It was the heyday of the Power Team, a team of strongmen performing feats of strength but telling us that their real power comes from Jesus. It seemed that God rarely called people to suffer for Him. He was more likely to use them where they were, doing the things that they loved to do.



The question was, "What about me? What was it that I could do?"



Up to that point in my life, magic had only been a hobby. It was never something that I was serious about and I had never performed any magic for anyone other than my family or a few privileged (or cursed) friends. Somehow I got the idea that maybe I could use magic to teach biblical truths. It would be my unique ministry. I knew that I would have to get serious about it if I was going to move from hobbyist to performer so I did a couple of things.



I went to a meeting of the International Brotherhood of Magicians (IBM) in Springfield. I think that on that day I was wearing a Promise Keepers shirt. Anyway, during a break a woman approached me and said that I might be interested in another magic club that met regularly--The Fellowship of Christian Magicians! So much for my unique ministry. It turns out that there is this international organization with the same unique idea for serving the King! I've been involved in our local chapter ever since.



Also, I figured that if I was going to be performing magic for audiences, the best way to practice was...well to perform magic for audiences. I knew that the magic shop at Branson's Silver Dollar City did short 15-20 minute acts on a little stage just outside of the shop. I figured that this would be a good way to get used to working in front of people. So I applied for and got a part-time job at the magic shop. I worked one day a week (one of my two days off from controlling airplanes) and really enjoyed the interaction with guests of all ages. It was more like playing than working and I had a lot of freedom to use whatever magic I wanted to draw a crowd. I made some great friends and got a few gigs out of the deal.

It soon became apparent that there was more to this "calling" than doing magic. As a matter of fact, it turns out that magic was my way of dodging my true calling. Using magic was my deal with God; my way of answering His calling on my terms--not His. It was as if I was telling God, "I'll do magic as long as I don't have to preach or anything like that!"

With some great encouragement from fellow evangelist, Ron Mills and from my pastor, Terry Kendrick, I accepted God's call to ministry through the preaching of the Word. In October of 2000, I was licensed into the Gospel Ministry. I feel incredibly blessed that God has allowed me to continue playing with magic as a part of my evangelical ministry. I have had some wonderful opportunities to preach revivals, children's camps and supply for churches (including my own) as needed. I have performed in many different venues including public schools and am growing as a performer and as a minister of the Gospel. I have often been challenged by the circumstances and have done some things that I never would have guessed I'd do (like children's camps!).

I know that I'll soon be taking the next step of ordination as an evangelist. I am looking forward to the opportunity to speak at next year's Missouri Baptist State Evangelism Conference. It is such an incredible honor to be able to share with those that are my heroes in ministry. God continues to grant me opportunities to perform and to preach although I rarely feel deserving of the "work" that seems to come my way. When August ended this year, my calendar was empty except for one revival in September. I ended up with eleven more events for September and October. God is truly awesome. (I should mention that I do no marketing. Most of these bookings come from repeat bookings, word of mouth or the Fellowship of Missouri Baptist Evangelist's directory.)

I am looking forward to what is ahead in 2008.

John

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Jeremiah 29:11

3 comments:

Amanda said...

I learnt something new again "Fellowship of Christian Magicians". Thanks for sharing your story.

zero_zero_one said...

A few years ago my church was trying to mission to young people, and we decided to bring a Christian magician in for our main event. From seeing it done firsthand I know that what you do must be tricky at times (depending on the crowd that you are ministering to) but evangelism with magic is also an excellent way of preaching and getting the message across.

Keep up the Good Work :)

Dev said...

They have some really greatBranson shows! Hopefully one day soon you will have your own!