What an amateur magician taught me about evangelism
During my late elementary and early middle school years I really got into magic.
Now, don’t laugh. That might seem really lame (and to a certain degree it was), but you’ve got to give me credit. Once I started with the hobby, I committed for a while.
I spent a lot of time in magic shops, talking up the regulars and getting advice from the creepy dudes who worked there.
Time went on and I fell further and further down the rabbit hole. I learned a lot about the tricks of the trade and certain common methods utilized by everyday illusionists.
So much so that I would regularly perform magic shows for my sister and parents, complete with clothes-pinned blankets attached to curtain rods in the living room in order to create a stage.
I know what you’re wondering, and yes, they were amazed.
Close-up magic was my forte back then, often making coins and scarves disappear. I even got pretty good at a few card tricks.
I always had trouble, however, with the final illusion to conclude my magic shows.
Once, I made myself “vanish” from the stage by crawling into a soft shell suitcase and positioning myself upright within it so my family would think I had actually dissipated into thin air.
There were a few problems with my illusion, of course. Once I was gone, nobody knew that the show was actually over, so they just awkwardly asked to the seemingly empty room, “Is that it?”
Also my sister eventually discovered the secret of my disappearing act.
It was hot in the pleather suitcase and I needed to push my elbows in and out in order to get breathable air into my little confined space.
I distinctly remember her yelling to my parents, “That suitcase is breathing! Shelby’s in the suitcase!”
Ugh—she ruined the mystery of my magic shows.
Even though I couldn’t master the grand illusions I had seen so many times on TV or live performances, I still conceptually knew how a lot of magic was done.
When I got older I realized that the “how it’s done” moment after an illusion is almost always disappointing.
What I mean is that when someone would actually reveal how an illusion is performed and executed, I’d usually say to myself, “Really? That’s how you do it? That’s so…practical.”
The trick would usually involve mirrors, a body double, or some stupid piece of wire to make something look like it was floating.
I guess I expected the way it was done to be as exciting as the illusion itself. It never was.
Practice makes perfect
The practicality of how magic is accomplished astounds me. The performance of magic tricks is really just normal behavior that becomes remarkable once it’s been rehearsed.
I remember the time I went out sharing my faith with my buddy Eric. Since I was very young in my relationship with God, Eric graciously said he would do all the talking when we approached people.
I was in awe of the apparent ease with which Eric communicated the gospel. His transitions from normal conversation into spiritual topics were seamless. His illustrations were spot on.
He turned potentially awkward social wrecks into a normality that brought ease to almost every environment we were in.
After our time of sharing was over, I remember asking Eric how he did what he did so well.
He answered, “Two things: the Holy Spirit and practice.”
Of course, God uses the Holy Spirit to work in and through us when we choose to be faithful and talk with others about Christ.
It’s by the Holy Spirit alone that people choose to come into a relationship with God. We must never forget that.
But when Eric also said “practice”, I must admit that I was taken aback. “Really?” I thought. “That’s the secret to knowing how to transition well? That’s the tool used to gain knowledge of when to utilize appropriate illustrations that relate to the specific subjects at hand? Practice? It’s so…practical.”
More often than not, we think there is some magical secret out there that’s going to help us have the perfect conversation with every person we talk with.
We believe there’s a formula that can allow us to perfectly communicate every necessary thing concerning how someone can come to know God.
The “how-to” must be as glamorous as the big reveal in the magical finale.
The honest truth, however, is that nothing works quite like good old-fashioned practice.
The way a mediocre magician becomes a good magician is by practicing the steps to perform with excellence—and we must do the same.
The drastic difference here, of course, is that what we present isn’t fake, a lie, or an illusion. It’s the truth.
A magician practices to deceive. We practice to illuminate the truth of God’s love.
In reality, the more we share, the better we get at sharing. Not a novel idea, but a true one.
It’s so important to be prepared as we are involved in the communication of our faith.
A lot of times we think we can just go out there and wing it. The last time I did that I remember botching an illustration so badly that the guy I was talking to ended up looking at me like I was wearing a pineapple on my head.
The routine of practicing isn’t sexy, but it’s essential to clearing up our communication when we share the gospel. And clear communication paves the way to a clear understanding of the truth.
1. According to Proverbs 11:14, it’s important to be prepared. How does this translate to evangelism for you?
2. Find someone to meet with and practice going over a “mock evangelistic conversation” in order to train yourself at presenting the gospel. It might seem awkward to practice, but it will help you when it comes time for the real thing.