Friday, February 20, 2009

Magic, Ministry and Mis-givings

This coming weekend is the Barry County Association Evangelism Conference. It is the longest running conference of its kind in Missouri. This will be my first time attending this conference. However, it's not the first time that I was invited.

About four years ago I received an invitation to the conference. Two weeks before the conference, I received an apologetic phone call that explained that the coordinator had booked too many evangelists and so they didn't have a place for me. Part of me understood that as a relatively new evangelist, I would be the one (or one of the ones) that would be uninvited. Another part of me suspected that there was more to it than overbooking evangelists.

It turns out that my suspicions were correct. Last year, one of the evangelists confided that he had spoken with the coordinator about inviting me and there was concern about the "magic" part of my ministry. Even with several well thought of evangelists speaking on my behalf, it was decided that since the Bible forbids magic (sorcery), I would not be invited.

That pastor is not serving as the conference coordinator this year. One of the evangelists that has been at the other conferences with me is the coordinator and has invited me. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be at this conference this year but still have some concerns about how my ministry will be received. Many that use "magic" as a tool in ministry do not use the word "magic." They always use "illusion." Perhaps I should too. Personally, I think that it is silly to get all wrapped up in a word. All of my printed material (including business cards) say The Message in Magic. When I speak, I say magic. However, on the program it doesn't even say illusion, it says illustrations.

I always explain that what I do has nothing to do with sorcery or dabbling in the occult or talking to spirits. I even have some "illusions" to help demonstrate what I mean. I've always known that this can be a problem. When I was first un-invited to this conference, I was a little bit upset. Later I realized that I have enough work without the churches of this particular Baptist Association. Already I have a busier schedule for this year than I've ever had. I am looking to broaden my church base as that retirement date draws near (2 years, 10 months, 15 days) and this Association is close to home. But still I wonder about the weekend.

I am scheduled to provide illustrations during all three evening sessions and I am scheduled to be in two churches on Sunday. The Sunday assignments don't bother me at all since I will just plan on preaching the message for the service. If the pastors want some magic for the kids or are planning on an evening show, I'll be prepared to accomodate them. All-in-all, there is an uneasy feeling about this conference. It's as if I'm going to a place that I'm not welcome.

If it were just a simple matter of trusting God for the weekend, I'd be okay. The problem is that I wonder if I am going for me (to get more exposure) or for Him (because this is my calling). Obviously, these conferences do give the evangelists exposure. I have had calls from churches in all of the Associations that have invited me to their conferences. But somehow this one feels different. I'd appreciate your prayers this weekend. I doubt that I'll have internet access in the rural area that we are staying so it maybe Wednesday before I can post or read the blogs that I follow.

'Til then...



Amanda said...

I would feel really offended if that happened to me. But, you're there to deliver a message and in the end, you'll still get to do that. Anyway, everybody knows that "magic" is really slight of hand and illusions. Illustrations is completely different though.....

Mark said...

I'm praying for you Brother. God is on the move!

bandit said...

Even the word "illusion" can have negative connotations. Using magic or anything else to get the attention and then bring them the good news is a proper approach.

Have fun this weekend and report here next week!!!

norom..dyslexic idiot

Bilbo said...

Hope all goes well with your attendance at the conference. I agree that it's silly to get wrapped up around the word "magic" rather than "illusion," but it's just an example of how our beliefs shape our reactions. There is, of course, a difference between the magic of pulling a rabbit out of a hat, and the belief in "sorcery." It's too bad that the distinction is lost on some people who are too literal for their own good.

vw: thick - as in, some people can be really thick headed, eh?

Mike said...

Into the valley of death walked John...... Hey, how bad could it be surrounded by a room full of granite heads? Maybe you are being sent there to convert 'them' to the age of reason.

Don't forget to take your thesaurus with you in case you need a quick word change.

Wv - month - WHAT! How boring is that!

I'm trying this again. I'm not sure it 'took' the first time. If this is a dup, delete it.

The Magic Utopian said...

This is pathetic, John. These guys rejected you because of a dirty word. I was rejected by a group like this, too. Not in a professional context, but in a spiritual context as I was interested in joining a church similar to yours. When they found out I was a "magician" they said no way to my membership. After defending myself and exposing magic secrets to them, they still stood by their decision because "magic is deception and deception is the work of the devil." Even my work as a children's performer was suspect to the devil's work, and even more dangerous in their eyes. That's when I left Christianity. Good luck with it all.

John said...

I hate to hear that you left Christianity over the action of a few self-righteous idiots. Jesus find Himself in the unenviable position of being judged by the humans that wear the title Christian without showing the love that we are to have. I hope that you can forgive them and reconsider the teachings of Jesus as a way to live. Choosing to follow Him is the real mark of a Christian...not membership into the social club that many churches have become!