Advance Promoting Excellence in Gospel Magic and Creative Ministry – August 2014

Advance

Advance Promoting Excellence in Gospel Magic and Creative Ministry

By Duane Laflin

Excerpt from January 2013 Grand Magic Magazine: 

To purchase the entire issue, click here.

Relating to gospel magic, one of the special blessings in my life is seeing the younger generation using tricks and illusions to impact people with the message of Jesus Christ. Some tremendous things are happening.

Brock Gill has a powerful ministry that has reached many thousands of teens and young adults. His performance style is exceptional. I do not think anyone else could do things the way Brock does them. God’s hand is on him in a unique manner. He is incredibly effective.

Kevin Ridgeway and Kristen Johnson have a magnificent way of reaching people. Kristen recently completed her 1,000th escape from a water torture shell. They use their talents in many venues, including evangelistic crusades. It is not uncommon for hundreds of people to come forward to express decisions for Christ at such events.

Harris III is another Christian illusionist that is marvelously effective. His shows are in high demand. He captivates audiences with his tricks and his speaking ability. As a magician he is touching countless lives with the gospel.

Brett and Labrina Myers are a young couple with a great show and extensive ministry. Since Labrina was one of my assistants at the Magic Beyond Belief show in Tennessee, and I have known Brett for years, they feel like my own kids. Apart from my personal prejudice, they are extremely competent performers with a wonderful outreach.

Justin Flom is making quite a name for himself among secular magicians these days. His skills and creativity are much appreciated. His heart is for the Lord and he is sought after as a Christian performer.

David Horsager has become a sensation as a public speaker. His book and speech on the “Trust Edge” is in demand by corporations across America. David began as a Christian Illusionist and still does some magic in his presentations. He also does outreach programs as a Christian Illusionist when his schedule allows.

Of course I am biased about David and Teesha Laflin. Apart from the perspective of being a proud dad and father-in-law, their reviews and schedule speak for themselves. They are two of the busiest performers I know (secular or gospel). Their program is in very high demand. They constantly get referrals and repeat business because their show is top quality and their heart for the Lord is clearly seen in everything they do.

The danger in listing names as I have done is overlooking others that also could be mentioned. My aim is not to be comprehensive as much as it is to say, “Here is a sampling of what I am talking about!” God is using a new generation of magicians to reach people with his truth. They can keep the work going for years to come. This is a reason to praise the Lord.

On a different note, I think it is time for gospel magicians to ask themselves why this younger generation has little to do with Fellowship Of Christian Magician (FCM) conferences and similar events. I do not want to put words in their mouths, but I have spoken to almost all of them about the matter and think I have a good understanding of their opinions.

The first thing they mention is professionalism. These younger performers, at least they are many years younger than I am, want to do things with excellence. Beyond that, they understand that to impact society they must be extremely sharp. Their feelings are, as a general rule, gospel magicians do not exercise much quality control in their own performances or in what is seen on stage at gospel magic conventions.

All of these young people mention their love and appreciation for the FCM family. They have no animosity toward other gospel magicians, to the contrary, express much appreciation. I suppose the kind of appreciation one would have for a well-meaning family member that doesn’t always get things right, but is loved in spite of it.

They have gone on to find other sources of information and instruction because they want a level of competence they did not find in the world of gospel magic that helped them get started. FCM conferences were a great place for them to begin, but once they got serious and had a desire to be credible on a broad level, they had to look in new directions.

They also mention the importance of growth, change, and staying in touch with current culture. I can say from my own experience, that much of what is happening among gospel magicians today is about the same as what I saw when I started into gospel magic forty years ago.

Gospel magicians are still having lectures that basically are “here are some props…and here are the lessons I have thought up to go with them.” There is not anything wrong with that, but in time it stagnates progress. Rather than becoming better showmen, and more effective communicators, people have only been learning to do the same old things with new equipment.

I want to make it clear that there is nothing wrong with “trick/lesson” lectures. We need them. Especially those who are new to gospel magic need them.

{We are doing the same old thing with new and different props. It is like singing multiple verses of the same song. Fundamentally we just keep repeating ourselves.}

The concern is that there are other things needed that are neglected.

  • When will we have lectures about playing music, using video screens, writing scripts, working around the complications of church platforms, having good websites, and being better at marketing?
  • When will we pay more attention to showmanship and communication skills?
  • When will we accept the fact that modern culture has set high standards for presenters and we need to understand those standards?
  • When will we step away from roll-on tables with rabbit pictures on the front and focus on a look that coincides with what growing churches and progressive ministries are about?

No one, not me nor the younger generation of performers, is saying that the “older world” of gospel magic does not still have good things to offer. At some recent FCM conventions there have been a few lectures on marketing, websites, and such. Now and then a session on showmanship will appear on the schedule of a gospel magic conference. Certainly some clever and useful ideas are shared through the regular lectures.

However, many are saying, including me, that those who are serious about gospel magic must also be serious about credibility and staying in touch with the needs and ways of contemporary society. So far, it does not seem that gospel magicians have done that well.

A principle most Christians know, yet struggle with on a personal level is that the message never changes while methods often do. Almost all of us find ourselves thinking, it worked that way in the past so it should work that way now.

{There is definitely value in teaching tricks with gospel lessons that accompany them. It is a good and necessary thing. The bad thing is when such is the only thing we are teaching.}

We resist new music. Our thought is, what is wrong with the old music? We resist unfamiliar uses of technology. We think, why do we need all this video stuff when poster board and flannel-graph were so effective when we used them before? We don’t want to change the look of our shows. We think, a tuxedo with a ruffled shirt and props with rabbit designs impressed me when I started in magic, why would they not impress others now?

I confess that I like to cling to days gone by. I prefer hard copy books and magazines over downloads. The “cloud” does not particularly excite me. Nevertheless, I want to be as effective as possible. Therefore, if I need to learn something new to be effective, I am willing.

An example of this is the side tables used by magicians. There was a time when side tables were covered with cloth that often hung down six inches or more, and had fringe hanging down farther yet. The public figured out that things were being hidden in those tables. They learned that items were being dropped into holes in the table tops (black art wells). To keep their magic impressive, wise performers discarded such tables with long covers and instead began to use tops that had no cover at all.

{The gospel message never changes. Methods often do. When is the last time you did something new and different in your program? When is the last time you made an adjustment to your style? When have you made changes to increase effectiveness?}

Another example is “sawing a woman in half”. When the trick was first done, it involved big boxes that easily could hide a second woman. As the public got used to this, and came to suspect the size of the boxes, the “thinmodel” sawing and “crystal clear” sawing were invented to keep the magic strong.

The “look” of tricks changes with time, and so other things must change. I do not know what all the changes should be, but I do know it is time for gospel magicians to ask themselves, “What can I do to most effectively impact the present generation?” Maybe it is time for us to start paying attention to the younger performers to see what they can show us. If we keep doing things the same old way, we are going to be left behind. Being left behind in that way does not bother me nearly as much as finding I am not as effective as I used to be.

{If a modern magician tried to fool an audience with the original version of “sawing a woman in half” he probably would be greeted with laughter. When the public becomes informed, magicians must be informed as well…then needed adjustments must be made.}

Thank God for what a new generation is doing. Let us admonish ourselves to not fear change. If the world around us is changing, but we refuse to do so, we will go the way of the dinosaur. We will be relics and history rather than those who are “getting it done”.

 

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