Insights through Illusion for Daily Living

Evangelism

2013

This was such a great year for us as a ministry. God took us all over the country and let us share the Gospel with over 30,000 people. I had the opportunity to take the Bryan Drake Show to Guatemala which was a great experience.

My favorite thing about 2013 was seeing hundreds of students come to know Jesus. My 2nd favorite thing though for 2013 was looking forward to the birth of our daughter Harper. At the time of writing this, she isn’t here yet, but we can’t wait.

Thanks for making 2013 an awesome year. Pray with us for an even crazier 2014 (except without looking forward to another child…2 under 2 I don’t think so lol)

Check out this great Flipagram Karla made for us.

 http://flipagram.com/f/8i0BU0vscW

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Does it even matter? Part 1

How old is the Earth?

Some people say that it is very young, only about 6000 years.
While others would say that it is very old.
The main question to consider in all of this however (and slightly overlooked by both sides sometimes) is this most important question…
In the grand scheme of eternity and kingdom work, does it matter how old the Earth is?
Think about it for a second. Before we dive in to looking at the two sides (as if it were just that easy and 2 sided) we need to remember one very important thing. Much like the talks about end times, once saved always saved, women’s role in ministry or discussions on the genre and structure of Biblical texts, this is an in-house debate for Christians. What I mean by that is, this is something that we need to discuss and dialogue about amongst each other, but when it comes to being in front of atheists and other non-believers, this should not be our hobby-horse or main focus.

Breaking Fellowship?-Not necessary.

The problem really comes in when the two sides start attacking each other in front of others. This doesn’t happen too often thankfully, but again much like any of the other topics listed above, there are multiple viewpoints each with their own merits.
I have personally seen one side tell the other side that if they don’t agree with them, then they have a very low view of scripture. This is particularly evident when it comes to the age of the earth argument.
Young earth creationists (I’ll call them YECs) think that OECs have a low view of scripture because they are not reading the 7 days of creation as literal seven days. However the OEC’s would argue that they are in no way diminishing the scripture because of the Hebrew language and the genre of the Pentateuch.
But before we even look at the merits of either side we have to note that there are multiple YECs and OECs views. For instance a YEC might hold the view based on modern cosmology and physics that the universe is in fact around 13.6 billion years old, with a relatively young earth. Likewise many OEC might take the view of a very old earth with 7 literal days of creation with ages in between the days.
So just in the last paragraph alone you see that the issue is not so cut and dry as we tend to think it is.
What’s important to remember is that neither view diminishes what Christ did on the cross for us. Neither view keeps Him in the grave. That is why this is an in-house debate, because if we are honest with ourselves, at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter how old the earth is if Christ is risen. That’s the central claim to our faith not the age of the earth or the timing of the rapture.

 

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Apologetics Tuesday: Apologetics meets Evangelism

Friends or Enemies?

So today is a quick post to get you thinking. Some people I’ve talked to have an aversion to apologetics because they fear that it creates a “win the argument not the person” mentality. This is a slightly unfair criticisms since this is not what the approach to apologetics should be at all.

As you know one of my hobby horses is evangelism. Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we encounter as commissioned to us by Jesus himself in Matthew 28. What I have discovered is that using apologetics IN evangelism is a very useful tool for some people.

There are really only two kinds of disbelief. Those who do so out of scientific knowledge and those who have an emotional block. You may be tempted to say that only the scientific doubter would be the person who could be reached with apologetics, but you’d be thinking too small. When it comes down to it, it is the Holy Spirit who does the work in someone’s life to make them new, but using something such as the moral argument to help people understand the true hopelessness without God can be an effective bridge to sharing the Gospel.

We will dive more in to this at another time, but I wanted to let you know that apologetics and evangelism can definitely go hand in hand.

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False Dilemma is no Dilemma at All.

If you have been in a philosophy class for more than a month, then you have heard this argument presented.

One of the oldest arguments about morality comes from Plato’s dialogues. A student named Euthyphro asks Socrates if the gods will something because it is good, or is something good because the gods will it to be good?

Let’s break down these two “horns” of the dilemma.

1. Do the gods will something because it’s good?

This means that there is some concept of universal good that is outside of God that he just ascribes to. This means that God is in essence unnecessary for morality.

2. Is something good just because the gods will it?

This basically means that God can just will whatever He wants to be good or evil. For instance if today God willed murder and rape to be moral and kindness to be evil, then it would be. That God can choose on a whim what’s good and what’s bad, and that He can change it at any time arbitrarily. This is clearly not the God that we see.

This presented through the ages by atheists against God and biblical morality because it’s presented as a real dilemma. The problem is that it isn’t a real dilemma at all. An actual dilemma means that you are presented with two and only two options that you must choose between.

di- “two” + lemma “premise, anything received or taken,”

However it’s not an actual dilemma at all. A false dilemma is a situation where there are only two options presented, but they are in fact not the only two options available. This is known as splitting the horns.

So what is the answer then?

The true answer is that “the good” that Plato wrote about is in fact grounded in God’s nature. Or to say it as @ReasonableFaith ‘s Dr. William Lane Craig says it, That something is good because God IS good. Things like love, compassion, justice, kindness are part of God’s unchanging nature. They are not arbitrary, but they are also not from something external either.

God is Himself the good and is the source of our moral duties.

How have you heard this presented before?

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Torn and Restored Card

This is a classic Torn and Restored Card trick done in a very visual way backstage on the CIY Believe Tour.

The tour has been awesome so far!
Check it out and see more soon.

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Apologetics Tuesday: Embarrassing Testimony

Empty Tomb

Criteria

So we have had a short break from our “Can We Trust the New Testament” series because of Christmas and New Years. The last time we looked at the evidence we talked about the idea of certain types of criteria that are examined anytime an ancient source is examined to trust its historicity.

We have already covered early, and enemy attestation, and today we are going to look at embarrassing testimony.

Embarrassment

Now this isn’t the type of embarrassing we think of when you do that thing where you’re walking down the sidewalk and do the slight trip only to notice everyone saw it. This type of embarrassment comes from including certain elements in the Gospel narratives that would be considered embarrassing for the writers.

There are two very clear examples of this in the passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark.

Joseph

First is the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. For the Jews at this time (Which the writer of Mark was) the Sanhedrin (council who tried and sent Jesus to Pilate) basically orchestrated a judicial murder of their Messiah. The sentiment toward the Sanhedrin would have been very negative. So one has to wonder why if Mark was just merely making up the story of Jesus’ resurrection why on earth would he make up a story where a member of the very same council who killed Jesus suddenly does right by Jesus. Giving Jesus his own brand new tomb was an awfully nice gesture, but why would Mark make that up?

That’s why embarrassing testimony is so important, is that it lends credibility to the narrative. Surely if Mark were making this up he would have had someone not on the Sanhedrin give Jesus their tomb.

Women

Even more telling, are Jesus’ first witnesses to His resurrection. The Gospel of Mark shows that a group of women discovered the tomb empty, and were the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Now in our culture today, nothing would be wrong with this notion at all, and will cause you to overlook this if you aren’t careful. Looking at 1st century story through the lens of the 21st century is anachronistic.

However in the 1st century according to ancient historians including Josephus, the testimony of women meant nothing. Critics try to claim that this isn’t true pointing to events such as the destruction of Masada in which women were used as witnesses, but the problem with this is that they were only used as a witness in this case because they WERE the only witnesses that survived.

Surely if Mark was making up this story, he would have made male disciples the first discoverer’s of the empty tomb. But he didn’t.

In fact what this shows is that the first witnesses to the empty tomb actually were Jesus’ women disciples.

That covers two clear examples of embarrassing testimony in the Gospel account. There are numerous other examples including the disciples doubting Jesus and running away from Him, as well as not realizing what He was telling them.

Next up Eye-witness.

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Update From the Road

Karla and I have been gone since mid September touring different dates around the country. From CO to GA to VA to CA to TX. The coolest thing about getting to do what Karla and I do is that we get to see people come to know Christ from all over the place. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t opposition form the enemy.

Friday night we were in Lynchburg, VA at Thomas Road Baptist Church. There were about 700 students from the community in the room, packing it out. All of the sudden as soon as I got to the meat of the Gospel presentation, the entire sound/video system shut off.

Now if you’ve read some of my posts about hecklers and dealing with issues from the stage, you know how this could easily derail an entire show, but God is bigger than the opposition. I decided I was going to just continue and pray that I was able to project my voice loud enough that everyone could hear.  The miraculous part was that in a room of 700 students, you could have heard a pin drop. It was silent, giving me the perfect atmosphere to continue and share the Gospel without the mic.

God moved, and changed lives that night.

It’s something that Karla and I will never forget. Sometimes we rely so much on making sure that the sound and video are working properly so that everything hits at the right time, that when something like that happens, it reminds us that no matter what I think is going on, God is bigger than this world. That when I feel like even from the stage things are going crazy, Jesus has overcome this world, and I can put my trust and cares on Him, and He will carry us through.

Nothing fires us up more than seeing lives changed for Christ. Pray with us, and for us that God will continue to open doors and give us new strategies to reach people with His message that this world so desperately needs.

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A view from the Rocky Mountains.

One Nail…

Would tear right through you, but multiple nails provides just enough support to hold a persons’s body weight.

The Bed of nails is nothing mystical, but a matter of physics. Now what they don’t tell you in your science class is that if you don’t have just enough nails, then it is incredibly painful. They also fail to mention that every single movement you make shifts your weight, driving different nails into your skin in different places.

Why don’t they tell you these things? Because in a demonstration of physics they aren’t important, because you simply lay still and everyone wonders at the marvels of physics…Not really. They wonder and ask if it hurts, but they may move on thinking back to 8th grade science when they saw the demonstration for themselves.

Why the mundane attitude? Because what I am doing in my newest escape is something that has never been done by anyone anywhere, ever.

A real magician does something new…

What I have developed is something that has never been seen on any stage anywhere. It is something that could truly be deadly. I have taken the bed of nails from it’s physics class roots and brought it to a place that will be unforgettable.

Stay tuned this fall to see what happens with the Bed of Nails.

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It’s not fair…

But we knew that going in to it.

One thing that irks me more than anything, are blatant double standards…especially when I’m on the other side.

When it comes to Christianity and embracing the culture there is a clear double standard between reason and emotion. Christians are not allowed to argue anything except for concrete fact. In fact the standard for using the Bible is miles higher than any other ancient text. Secularists ask the impossible of the Bible, while taking Caesar or Josephus or even Homer as “gospel”.

Also don’t dare try to use a personal experience or even mention an emotion or you will be lambasted. But when the same accuser launches into a speech about how mean God is for pain in the world, what is he appealing to? That’s right emotion.

The secular world likes to take Christianity and poke fun at it and throw blanket statements around about how Christians overuse the word faith. The problem is though, that these same people don’t understand what it is to have faith, but even more glaring is how guilty they are of committing the same intellectual crimes they accuse us of.

For instance if you were to watch a debate between William Lane Craig and any atheist, what you find is not the “rational reasoned and open minded arguments” that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or the late Christopher Hitchens claim to use. What you find instead are insults and attacks at red herrings that sound great to college students for a good laughter inducing sound bite, but hold no substance on their own.

It’s easy to get angry and sink to a nasty level, but Christ has called us to live above that. He told us that following Him is no cake walk.

“Take up your cross and follow me” not “Sit in your recliner and watch it unfold”

Embrace the culture in love. Dislike the double standard, but rise above it.

What double standards do you see?

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Theater Fire

Blackstone

At the time, Harry Blackstone was considered the world’s greatest magician.  To this day, his legacy lives on not only through his extended family in the business, but through his legendary effects like the one seen above. Blackstone was also one of the few magicians able to bridge the gap from the vaudeville stage to the tv camera.

However to an audience full of people in Decatur, Illinois in 1942, he not only became the greatest illusionist of the time, but saved their lives as well.

Blackstone got word that the theater had caught fire midway through the act. As you and I know the one counter to freedom of speech that people always mention is, “Yelling fire in a crowded theater.” Knowing the pandemonium and danger that this would have caused had he stopped the show to tell the audience, Blackstone came up with a plan on the spot.

He told the audience that the conclusion to his show was something brand new that. Something no one had ever seen before. He said that it was so large that it must be viewed from outside the theater. The people in the audience naturally excited to see something like this, filed out of the room in a neat and orderly fashion row by row, at Blackstone’s instruction. No one tripped or trampled like they would had they known it was a fire.

Platform

Blackstone used his platform and his position to save hundreds of lives that day.

If you think about that, what influence do you have that people heed your advice? Perhaps at work or school? Do you just relay information when it comes to the Gospel, or do you invest your talents and your platform wisely into a unique way that causes people to stop and really listen to what you have to say?

The Gospel speaks for itself. The Spirit is the one who changes, but if we just throw the message out there like a ton of bricks, people are going to want to run. They aren’t going to care if they aren’t engaged. This is a sad but true fact of our entitlement and instant gratification culture.

Use your gifts and abilities to reach people today. That may be music, speaking, athletics, the list goes on and one. It may be something that doesn’t appear to be a gift at all. Use whatever God has blessed you with to reach others for him. The focus is on Christ, the goal is to bring him glory through our gifts and abilities. Start today. Don’t be afraid to use what God has given you for him.

 

What gifts do you have?

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Broken

How many times have you had that feeling? Maybe you feel less than useful, or worthless? You look around at the rest of the world and they seem to be happy, but you are sitting in brokenness.

The beautiful thing about being broken though is letting God put the pieces back in the way he planned on. God’s plan for you is so incredible that if you just listen to him, it will be like you were never broken to start with. We despair and think there is no way that our situation can get any darker, until we let go and let God do amazing things.

The most evident way to see God is when we allow ourselves to get out of the way and see the amazing things he can do, but sometimes it takes us being broken to do that, but hold on. It’s always darkest before the dawn, and Joy comes in the morning.

 

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Great Scam Revealed

You can’t win

This is a classic example of one of the oldest scams around.  The idea is seen in many forms from cups and balls to nutshells and peas to three cards.  The idea never changes though.  The person controlling the items makes it seem as if you have a chance to win, but you don’t.

The idea is the same with any deception. You feel like you are doing right. You feel on top of the world, until the rug is pulled out from under you.  Your walk with Christ can be the same way.  If we take our eyes off of Jesus, we begin to fall. We begin to put our faith and trust in other things that will guarantee us failure. Satan would like nothing more than for you to feel like you are on top of the world only to be completely away from God.

Justified?

This is sad, but this is how Christians wake up one day and can all of the sudden “justify” leaving or cheating on their spouse. The same way that any sin can be justified. We believe that it’s right, we believe that if it feels right than it must be right. That is a very dangerous mindset that only leads to bad.

Proverbs 14:12

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

Wise words.

Don’t be fooled, keep your eyes on truth. The truth of Jesus Christ as mentioned in Hebrews 12.

How have you been fooled?

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Choices

Real

You climb out the window safe and sound, maybe a few bruises or scratches, but other than that you are just fine.

It’s no joke that the choices you make today will affect you for the rest of your life. It’s not just about making choices between where you will go to college, or if you will study hard or who you will hang out with.

…Because on the other side of street from where you just climbed out of your car, there sits the end of an entire families world. The idea of drunk driving looks so glorified in movies and tv, but truth be told when you make a choice like that, you are basically saying that your “night of fun” is more important than anyone else’s life.

I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just being real.

It’s not just about drunk driving.  We talk about the fact that “It’s my life and my choices and it doesn’t affect anyone else.” That’s the problem with our world.  We have this me-centric view about everything that we don’t even take time to stop and think how our choices can affect others. Drugs, alcohol, sex, all of these choices can seem totally harmless, but the consequences can change your life or the lives of complete strangers.

Longer Term…

Put that on its side for just a second. Not only do those choices affect your life, but when it all comes down to it, there is really only one choice that carries the most weight of anything. It’s the choice between Christ and the world.  Jesus came to this earth and died for us so that we can be forgiven for the choices that we have made. We tend to think that no one loves us in this world, but God loves you so much that he sent his son Jesus to die and rise from the dead because he loves you. No other reason.  You are joy when it comes to Christ according to Hebrews 12.

This is the greatest choice you can make in your life. Not only will it change your life, but it changes eternity.

Understand something very important. The choices you make affect you and perhaps others for the rest of your life. Take a second today to make good choices.  Tell others about the freedom that’s in Christ, and the choice they have to follow him.

What choices have you made?

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Psychics and Fried Chicken

Psychics and Mediums

If someone asked you afterwards, you could swear that you have no clue how a person could know that much about you.  They knew about your grandmother, didn’t they?  They knew about the word that she had inscribed on her necklace…wait how did they know about the necklace anyway?

This may be the thought process of someone who leaves a show with a medium.  Someone who claims to be able to communicate with the dead.  If you don’t know what to look for, then you might get bowled over into believing a lie. The worst part is, you won’t know that it’s a lie.  The people you tell about it may not know that it’s a lie or a scam either.  This feeling of revelation can change your world or shake the foundations of everything you believe……….

Behind the Curtain

That is, unless you know the truth behind what you’ve just seen or heard.

You would then be able to defend yourself and even tear down the lies.  You would be equipped to deal with the junk that is slung at you as “gospel truth” without being afraid to wade into the waters of dialogue.  Whether it’s on Facebook or at work or at a friend’s house, you can confidently stand up against the lies that this world throws at you.

A few weeks ago I detailed several of the techniques used by mediums and psychics to con people into believing the lies that they present.  You can check out those posts here: Cold Reading and Hot Reading.

If you are watching unaware of what’s going on, you will be bowled over by the “power” that these people have, but if you know what to look for, you can shoot the right holes through their facade and it will fall.

What I’m talking about though is not just for psychics and mediums.  What I’m talking about is standing up to any argument or debate that you may feel scared of entering.

If you have been on Facebook lately (I’m guessing if you are reading this than you are on Facebook) the topic of Chick-Fil-A has sparked all kinds of debate and false facts.  If you don’t equip yourself and know what to look for, then you are going to get swept up into believing something that is a lie, much like a psychic.

Sifting Through the Bad

There is a lot of bad information out there.  There are a lot of Bible verses being used out of context.  It’s not okay to sit idly by and watch it happen.  There is a way to defend the faith in meekness and love.  In fact 1 Peter 3:15 requires us to do so.  We are to always be ready give an answer for the hope that is in us in love.  It’s okay if you don’t know every answer, but we are to make an effort to learn.  Then you will be able to 2 Corinthians 10:5 those arguments.

For instance how would you answer, “Leviticus says you shouldn’t mix two types of threads, how do you justify your polyester blends?

That’s a tough question at face value, but I assure you the answer is not nearly as difficult as it looks.  Stay tuned here to find out the answer.

 

What is your answer for the Leviticus question above?

When was the last time you were bowled over by a lie?

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Chick-fil-a Leads to Serious Apologetics

I don’t quite know how it happened, but a Facebook post about supporting the fast food chain Chick-Fil-A on August 1st spiraled into a massive debate about moral relativism and the existence of Jesus.  These two topics are not directly related, but a few Kevin Bacon steps do in fact lead one to another.

If you haven’t been following it, Chick-Fil-A’s President and COO, Dan Cathy, made a statement supporting traditional marriage.  Normally no one would bat an eye for a company stating their stance on a “culture war” issue, but this time a company came out in with a Biblical world view, and the world isn’t happy.  It’s to be expected when you make a stand as a Christian.  You should expect backlash and resistance. The thing is, you have two response options.

  1. You can bury your head in the sand and hope no one brings the topic up in your presence so you can avoid confrontation all together.

  2. The other option is to proactively equip yourself with the tools necessary to engage people with the message of Jesus.

Results

Make no mistake, the first option is without a doubt the easiest thing we can do as followers of Christ.  It’s easy to ask Jesus to save you and forgive you…and sit on the sidelines.  Let’s face it we don’t want to have to stand up to criticism.  We might not know the answers.  Unfortunately, that’s not an excuse.  We can’t stand before God one day and say, “God I was scared of the risk so I just buried my talent in the sand.”  If you want to find out the result of this response, check out Matthew 25.

Well Done

I don’t want God to be disappointed in me.  I want to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

One of my favorite parables is when Jesus feeds the 5000.  The only person who thought, “I might get hungry today” was a small boy.  He brought 5 loaves of barley bread (a shabby bread by the world’s standards) and two fish.  What he did though changed my life.

He didn’t offer Jesus 3 loaves and 1 fish.  He didn’t say, “Here Jesus you can have what I have left over.”

He gave Jesus everything.

The world may not look at it as much, but look at what God did because the boy gave his everything.

Everything he had he gave to Jesus to use and bless thousands.  God has called all of us to be like that little boy.  We are called to give God our everything and hold nothing back.  If we start to live our life in a way that says daily, “God I’m giving you my everything” this world will take notice.

Shine

Matthew 5:14 says let your light shine bright enough where people take notice.  God wants us to put the time in necessary to effectively reach the world for Christ out of love.  We can’t attack or harass people who don’t believe like us.  We have to approach them in love.

Some of the answers on the Facebook post kinda sadden me because they tend to have a, “You’ll find out you were wrong when you’re burning in Hell” attitude.

Really?

We are called to love others.  We are called to give God our everything.  That involves putting the time in studying and learning how to approach the arguments and apply 2 Corinthians 10:5 to them.

For more info on answering the tough questions check out these posts  Tough Questions  and Here

When is the last time you gave God your everything?

What did it cost you?

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Getting People to the Event

In the School

Get in your student’s schools with your speaker/band before the event for a 45 minute assembly at each school. This step is imperative. On the day of the event, or the day before, get your speaker/band in the schools. When you are negotiating with your speaker or band, talk with them about the possibility of getting into your communities schools. Most speakers and bands will be willing to do this, because they have hearts for evangelism.

Have the assemblies be FREE for the students, and invite all of the students. Get in the middle schools, the high schools, as many as you can. If you have a lot of schools in your area, you may have to consider going to multi-day events, because you can’t expect your speaker and band to do more than two school assemblies in a day and still be prepared to put on an amazing event at night. Another option would be to send your artist (speaker) to one school while simultaneously having your band go to another school.

Trust

 

Nothing builds interest in students’ minds more than actually seeing the people that you have been promoting.  The number one benefit of a school assembly is that you start to build trust early with the students in the community. Think about it from their perspective.  They are getting a FREE break from class to go see some crazy stuff. With the band, they get to see a free concert. With an artist such as an illusionist, BMX team, skateboarder, etc., they get to see something they have maybe never seen before. Think about this: some of these kids have never seen the world outside of their small community. You bring in something they’ve never seen before, and they want to see more of it, so they come to your event that night. At the event, they hear the Gospel.

 

School Event

Most bands and speakers have a public school friendly positive message they can share with the students during the assembly: ie. Make good choices, stay in school, don’t do drugs etc.

From the stage your speaker or band needs to make your event sound like it’s the only thing in town.  Instill the idea that there isn’t a lot that goes on in town, but tonight is something different.  Tonight you are going to see something that you have never seen before.  Basically, make the students feel like they will be missing out if they don’t come to the event.  Naturally there should already be a buzz created through social media, word of mouth, posters, banners, ads. etc.   When you start mentioning the name of the event during the school assembly, it jogs the memory of the students who have seen it on Facebook, Twitter, bulletin boards, sidewalks etc.  This makes the event larger in scale and scope, and instills its importance in the minds of the audience.

It’s all in the Name

One thing that I definitely recommend from personal experience is that you name your event something that is “Public School Friendly.” What does that even mean?  We were promoting an event in Arkansas last year that had the word “God” in the title.  Some places this wouldn’t be a problem at all, but one administrator refused to allow the event’s name to be mentioned at all.  She said that we were not allowed to use the event’s name because it said God (if you look at any legal precedent by the way, she was way out of line, but you don’t step on the toes of the ones who allow you in).So from that I gathered– if students don’t know the name of the event….then how are they going to show up.  Make it something catchy, not corny. Seriously. Not corny.

Have you ever done an event involving the local schools?

What was your experience like?

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Planning a Successful Outreach Event Part 4: Speaker

Outreach

I love doing outreach events. God has given me a passion for evangelism. It gets me excited when students tell me they accepted Christ after one of my events. Last year, I did an outreach event in Texas that still resonates with me. Several dozen people accepted Christ that night, but what stood out most was a teenage girl who came up to me after the show. She said, “Bryan, tonight was the first time I’ve ever prayed before in my life. I gave my life to Jesus.”

I do want to emphasize that if you are going all out on an Outreach Event, then you should invest in a professional speaker who has a heart for evangelism. One of the easiest mistakes you can do is give in to the temptation to be the speaker.  This is not a sleight against your ability, but as a youth minister, your focus needs to be on planning the event, getting students there, and organizing the details. You shouldn’t have to worry about speaking as well. As ministers, we sometimes like to put too much on our own plates, and try to do everything, when it would be best for us to give up a little control and share the load.

Prep

When it comes to the Outreach event, you should bathe your decisions in prayer. From the smallest decisions to the biggies like “God, who has the right message and delivery for my event?” This is the most important part of your event–how the Gospel will be presented to the students.

I would suggest:

1. Ask to see a speaker’s statement of faith
2. Ask to see a video of the speaker sharing the Gospel. Here is a presentation cut from a show I did.

The idea of a unique speaker/artist is something that really breaks down walls in the lives of the students in your community.

3. Make sure you hire an artist who shares the Gospel in their show. You would be surprised at how many Christian artists don’t have a Gospel element to their show. These guys would be great for entertaining, but you want someone who does it all. In my opinion, God has called me to evangelism first and to entertainment second. If I didn’t share the Gospel in my show, then I would be wasting what God has given me.

Speaker

If you are doing an outreach event where your audience is primarily people who are not involved in church, then think about bringing in a unique speaker.  That’s one of the things about our ministry that catches people’s attention.  Karla and I have performed in places and have had people accept Christ who would never enter the door of the church, but they will happily go and see a “magic show.”

I have learned that students have to trust you before they are willing to listen to you.  You can get up and talk until you are blue in the face, but if they don’t trust you, then you are wasting everyone’s time.  The walls and barriers in these students lives are strong, but not unbreakable.  God takes the gifts and abilities of unique artists and uses them to tear these walls down and open the ears and hearts of the audience.

I can speak from personal experience on this. Students will see me perform illusions and mentalism.  I win them over, because they enjoy the show and relate to me, which causes them to want to trust me.  This allows them to be very receptive to the Gospel because they want to hear what I have to say.

That one’s of the most rewarding thing about doing the type of ministry that I do, is to see people who have never heard the Gospel before accept Christ.  It’s hard to fathom sometimes that there are people in America who know nothing about Jesus or the Bible, other than what they see on Comedy Central.

Transition:

My personal preference is that if you are going to bring in a unique speaker, then it is best to skip the band all together, unless you do follow the tips laid out in yesterday’s band blog.  Most artists’ shows are stand alone acts. Their shows have the drive and the draw to keep the attention and accomplish the goals of building trust and sharing the Gospel.

However in the event that you have a speaker and a band, here are a few tips.

From my perspective, the transition between band and speaker can break an event and lose audience attention.

My show is high energy.  One of the biggest struggles sometimes is shifting the energy back up after a band that ends their set on a slow praise and worship song.  Don’t get me wrong there is a place for worship music, but the energy shift shouldn’t be a jarring change that can be felt.  The entire event needs to be a flow, from the moment doors open to the moment the lights go out and the doors are locked.

A second tip is to have a speaker whose technical aspects are self contained. For example, in my show-the only job for your sound guy is to make sure my mic is loud enough and there is no feedback. He gets an easy job as far as sound cues, because we control all of our music cues from backstage. We like to make everyone’s load as light as possible in relation to our show.

This was a long post, but it is something I am passionate about–seeing people come to know Christ. Matthew 28:19-20


Planning a Successful Outreach Event Part 2

Events

This week, we are exploring ways to improve outreach events. As a minister to students, you already devote a great deal of time to networking with your students, but you want to create an outreach event that engages new students as well as your regulars.

What are some ways we can get students involved who might not usually come to “church”? There are many different facets of an event that have to come together to make an outreach event successful.  Yes, often to host a successful outreach event, money is often involved, and so often youth ministry seems to get the short end of the church budget. However, don’t worry if you do have a smaller budget. There is always the possibility, if you really are serious about reaching your community in a huge way, of sharing the costs with other youth groups. Several churches can work together to see that the Gospel is shared in a clear way to people in your community who may never have heard what Christ has done for them.

What are some points of the outreach event that you might invest in? You don’t have to do all of these simultaneously for your event to be successful, but here are some ideas to improve your event.

Food
If you feed them, they will come. Sometimes this proves true for a regular Wednesday night service. Teenagers like free food. Pizza.

Give-Aways

Gift cards-restaurants, itunes, etc. are always a good starter. If you really want to bring in a crowd, then consider having several smaller  giveaways in addition to a monster giveaway item (ie. ipad, tv, playstation, ipod, or xbox, etc.)

Some people may take the idea of give-aways as a bad thing.  They may say that we shouldn’t have to “pay people” to come to church, but in all reality we have to meet people where they are. Does it really matter what the person’s incentive for coming is if he/she hears the Gospel? If someone comes to know Christ even though they came just to win a prize, then you have done your job.

Entertainment (Band/Speaker)

The event should be high energy and upbeat in a loving environment. Tomorrow we will go into this with further detail.  As an entertainer/speaker, I have done a lot of events and have seen a lot of events that do this well, but I have also seen events that fall short in this most important area.  We want our focus on the event to be on sharing the Gospel.

What are some ideas that have worked for you?

Have you ever done give-aways?

What did you give away, and how did your audience respond?


How to Plan an Outreach Event

Purpose?

What is your first goal as a minister to students? If you’re like me, then it is to have as many people hear the Gospel as possible.

If you are in student ministry, then you likely host outreach events in the hopes that more people come to know the Truth of the Gospel. Sometimes, we get uncomfortable with any conversation that involves the word “numbers.” Yet, the idea of said “event” is to have the maximum number of people show up who can hear the message of Christ. That’s why we shouldn’t mind focusing on numbers.

You have high expectations for the event, and you spend many hours imagining how the perfect event would play out. You imagine that you will have double your normal Wednesday night crowd. You bring in extra seating. Maybe you even plan to have the event in your sanctuary or offsite if your youth room is on the smaller side. You anticipate that because you are so excited about the event, then your students and volunteers will be too.

What if you have the picture of the perfect event in your head and then nobody shows up? One of the most discouraging things in ministry is planning for an event only to have no one show up, especially if that event is focused on sharing the Gospel. It can make you want to never do another big event again.

What you can do about it

Instead of being discouraged, let’s look at ways we can improve outreach events before they even take place. Now nothing is ever foolproof, but there are strategies that you can employ to help promote your event.

This week, I will give you five strategies you can use to improve your event and ensure maximum attendance. You want students to come. All students. Especially those who have never heard about Jesus’ love.

The first question a student who is unfamiliar with church/the Gospel is going to ask is “What’s in it for me?” Why should this student take his/her time to attend your event? In their minds, these students have done just fine without church. If you want to do a successful outreach event, then you have to make it worth their time.

The first thing you must consider is how you are going to advertise the event. Are you going to simply invite your students and tell them to invite their friends? While this may be effective for a typical Wednesday night service, if you are planning a special outreach event, you have got to do more than this.

Throughout the week, I will expand on the following strategies you can use to improve your event.

1. Hiring the right speaker/band

2. Creating an event that is both fun and Gospel focused

3. Effectively networking within the schools

4. Social Networking

5. Investing your time

What events have you had that worked?

What didn’t?


Wasting an Opportunity Can Haunt you Forever

Missed Opportunities

When God called me into ministry, I struggled with the direction in which He lead me.  I didn’t know if I would be a student minister,a pastor, or any other assortment of full-time positions.  What I did know however is that He called me to the ministry to reach people with the message of Christ.

You might be thinking, “Hey wait, I read the Great Commission too…isn’t that what everyone is supposed to do?”

Yes.

The difference was, that I knew that God was calling me into a full time ministry of sharing the Gospel.  It was a few years later that I realized He would have me in front of thousands every year.  I didn’t realize then that I would have the opportunity to share His message across the world.  I did know one thing though…I could not miss an opportunity to share His message.

I learned this the hard way.

My senior year in high school, I was sitting with some friends in the library.  Both of the guys I was sitting with were proclaimed atheists.  They both knew that I was a Christian, and they both knew that I had never approached them with the Gospel.  As the conversation went on, I was trying to impress them and said some things that I shouldn’t have said.  Brandon, one of the guys, looked me square in the eye and said, “I thought you were a Christian.”  He didn’t mean it to be a conversation ender, but I was gone.  I was sitting there, but my insides were in a tempest.

What just happened?  I claimed to be a Christian, I claimed to be an example of Christ…instead I pushed people away.  God used this to get my attention and completely change my outlook. I decided I was tired of being hypocritical.

A few years later on a Wednesday night, I was teaching Jr. High youth. I told them this same story and preached about being hot, not lukewarm.  That night God put on my heart that I needed to call Brandon and share the Gospel with him……….

My Response

That was my reaction, “…Really God? Out of the blue? That’s crazy God, can’t it wait?”

The pressure was strong, and the Spirit was relentless, but my answer was, “I’ll do it later God”

Sunday came around, and I had forgotten the conviction…until that night.  I felt God pushing again.  I made up my mind that I would email him….eventually because I wouldn’t have to read his response.  The conviction went away, until the next Wednesday.

Missed Opportunity

At the time I was working at a bank.  I got a call that afternoon from a friend.  She asked me if I heard what had happened.  I said no, and she told me something that changed my life.

She said Brandon killed himself last night…

Silence…

I have never been punched in the gut, but I know what it feels like now.

I knew what God was telling me to do.  I knew He was giving me an opportunity to test my obedience. I have no clue what the outcome would have been had I called Brandon like God told me, but I do no that I will be haunted for the rest of my life by my disobedience.

From that point on, I made up my mind that I was not going to waste another opportunity to share the Gospel.  That is when I took God’s call to evangelism seriously, and have never looked back.

What opportunities have you missed?

What opportunities did you act on?

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When the Scam Artist Enters the Church

Deception from the Pulpit

Last week I revealed a few techniques used by “psychics” to con people into believing a lie.  The worst part is, and one of the things I stress during my show, is that their customers for the most part knew what they were doing was a lie.  They knew that they were paying money to be lied to, but it made them comfortable.  That’s just like our culture.  We trade in what we know to be true for something we know to be a lie for comfort.

It’s a sad thing, but it’s even worse when it enters the church.

Let me preface this by saying, I fully believe that God can heal someone.  In God’s power He his able to heal and interact in this world, but when He does so, it is for His glory not the vessel or instrument He is using.  God’s works are done to lead the most people to freely choosing to follow Him.  Some people however, hijack God’s name and slap it on their brand of con artistry.  When this is done, hundreds of thousands of people are fooled into believing a lie.  It’s dangerous, but it is oh so common.  I can think of a place in town right now in which the events that I am describing are happening.

As an evangelist, it really chaps me to see someone claim to have some special “healing” power granted just to them.  They use this “power”, not to bring glory to God (sure they may say that), but to bring glory and fame to themselves.  This kind of false teaching is worse than an ordinary false doctrine because of what it purports to do.  “If you send me a seed of $1,000 you will be blessed by God, and if you are not blessed it’s your fault and your faith is weak.”  Okay you never hear anyone come right out and say those two things together….they wouldn’t get any money.

As an illusionist it makes me quite angry because I can see through the techniques used to con these people.

Peter Popoff

The video at the top is a prime example of someone who is abusing the name of Christianity and bending it to his own will to con people out of their money.  This is just a quick video, but listen to the techniques it reveals that I mentioned last week in my exposing the psychic blogs.  There is hot-reading and cold-reading.  There is the tell-tale sign of failure it’s never his fault, but the fault of the person in the congregation.  They don’t have enough faith.

You can see how dangerous this kind of thing can be.  Look at the followers in the auditorium.  He is standing in front of them and lying in Jesus name.  He could say anything he wanted to and because of his “signs and wonders” people would believe him.

We are not called to sit idly by when false-teachers and false-prophets run rampant.  We are called to stand up against the lies and the counterfeits this world offers.

Have you heard stories of “Faith-Healers”

What were the circumstances?

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Why I do What I do

How it Started

I didn’t grow up thinking I’d be a Christian Illusionist. At fifteen years old, my life changed from the inside out.  I chose to follow Jesus Christ.  Shortly after that I felt called into ministry.  That was where things got hard.  I didn’t know what direction God was leading me into. I took a position at my home church as Jr. High minister.  I learned quite a lot about ministry through this and decided I wanted to get my degree in Christian Studies.  I went to University of Mobile and fell in love with the study of Apologetics.  There were several opportunities and doors that were presented to me. The problem was, none of them seemed right.

At the same time, I was following an interest and hobby of mine. Magic, illusions, or whatever people preferred to call it.  The thing was that as an illusionist I knew that it was all a trick. That everything had a method behind how a trick was done. Some people get hung up on this notion and immediately put up blinders to what we do.  This is something that I am quick to put to bed because my goal is not to be a stumbling block.  I am a Christian Illusionist, but my goal is to share the Gospel first and foremost.  There will always be friction when following Christ.

Use me

I realized that God could use this interest and hobby to break down walls in people’s lives. God was asking me to follow Him.  When I wasn’t sure where He was leading me, He basically said, “Trust me.”

I discovered that there were people out there who would never darken the door of a church, but would come see an illusionist.  After gaining their trust by performing a fun and entertaining show, they were willing to listen to the message of Christ. This opened my eyes to the fact that God could use this crazy hobby that I had to reach people with the greatest truth and news known to mankind.

One of my favorite verses became,

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Christ in Me

If we are willing to let Christ live through us, He will lead us into opportunities to share His name.  Not everyone is called into full time ministry.  Not everyone is called into bi-vocational ministry.  However every single person who follows Jesus Christ IS called to share His name with everyone we come in contact with.

Whatever gift or ability you have use it for the glory of God.  Some of the things I’ve seen God do has been amazing.  I’ve seen people come to know Christ who have told me that they have never prayed before.  Things that we take for granted. That they would not have come to hear an ordinary speaker, but because I was an illusionist they came.

Whatever talents or gifts that you have, if you are willing to give them over to be used by God, He can do some awesome things through us.

The question now is why do you do what you do?

Do you glorify God through your gifts and abilities?

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How to Deal with the “Heckler” Part 4

How to Pick

If you have been following my heckler series, then you should pretty much be up to speed. For those of you who have not, then check out the rest of the series here

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The number one tip thus far is for you to stay in control of your stage.  Whether you are an illusionist or a student minister, or anyone who has to get up in front of a tough crowd, you have to remember that when you are on stage it’s your stage.  You own it.  Because if you don’t own it, you will get walked all over.  It’s a confidence issue that has to be overcome.  I’m not saying that you have to be the most outgoing person offstage, but when you are onstage, you should be at home.

The Approach.

One of the things I learned through trial and error a long time ago, is that when you ask someone to help you onstage, the first thing that runs through their mind is, “they are going to embarrass me.” Naturally no one likes to be embarrassed, to we have to put that fear to rest before it raises its ugly little head.

The best way to do that is to assure the audience you are not going to embarrass them.  How do you do that?  The best way to pick someone out of a crowd is not by standing onstage and pointing at someone.  It’s the easiest, but the least effective.  Get down to where they are, but continue to own the room. Walk into the crowd and evaluate using the steps from Part 3.  Once you have made your selection, walk over to the person and ask them to help you out onstage.

It sounds over simplistic, but it’s not. Your approach has everything to do with them following your instructions onstage.

The Ask.

What happens is that you ask them to help you out, in a way that is not a question but more of a command.  That sounds crazy, and on paper it will be hard to explain, but it is without a doubt the best approach period.

This is what I say.  There is an effect where I need to have a spectator write something down. I approach them, lock eyes with them and say, “Do you have pretty good handwriting?” They answer and it doesn’t matter what they say at this point because you are mainly illustrating your control of the situation.

This is the secret right here. I then say, “Great, can you help me out onstage with something?” I don’t wait a beat for an answer, but instead address the audience and say, “Give her a big hand as she makes her way on stage!”

If I were to merely ask if she wanted to help out, and wait for her response, she could flatly turn me down. Now though but not giving her an option she is the center of the rooms attention and she can’t let them down by sitting there.  She knows she is now expected to get onstage, and she will.  100% of the time.  I have never had this fail, ever.

The social ramifications of them staying in their seat while I turn my back and make my way to the stage are too much for them to stay seated.  She comes on stage, and is now primed and prepared to follow my instructions to the “T.” They literally have no choice but to help you out and follow instructions at this point.

You can still lose it from here, but that is where staying in control really comes into play.

Next week we will talk about what happens when they are on stage.

How do you approach students to help you on stage?

Is this effective?

What can you do differently?

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Did Jesus Merely Pass out on the Cross? Part 1

Escape from DeathCriss Angel Building Implosion

Imagine someone being locked away and left for dead.  Only to see that same person alive and well 3 days later.  You know that you saw this person die, yet here he is again.  How do you react to this?  What explanation can there be? Famous Illusionist Criss Angel locked himself in an imploding building a few years back.  It looked as if he was just going to make it out until, something happened and he apparently was crushed inside the building.  A few dramatic seconds later he shows up on the screen unscathed and unharmed.  No one doubted that this was going to be the result of the famous illusionists stunt, but he still managed to shock some.

Smoke and Mirrors

The difference is, we watch Criss go into the building knowing that he will come out in the same state, alive. However we know all along that it’s an illusion. However when Jesus disciples watched His brutal beating and crucifixion, many of them lost hope in their Messiah. That is until they had an encounter with the risen Jesus that changed their lives forever. Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, seems to think something else happened.  Something that takes much more faith to believe.

However skeptics claim that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead after all.  In fact they try to come up with any “natural” explanation possible for Jesus rising from the dead.  They claim that people can’t “naturally” rise from the dead, therefore Jesus could not rise from the dead.  The problem with that line of thinking is that we are not claiming Jesus “naturally” rose from the dead, but supernaturally.  That God reached down into creation and raised Jesus from the dead.  Silencing the critics of Jesus for all time that He was anything but what He claimed to be. God incarnate.

As we’ve seen HERE and HERE even the most skeptical and liberal New Testament scholars (including Gerd Ludemann and John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar) agree on certain facts.  Mainly here we have and will continue to deal with the first agreed on problem of the empty tomb.

Swoon Theory

The next theory we are going to debunk is called the Swoon Theory.

Basically the gist of the theory is that Jesus didn’t actually die, but fainted on the cross, and was placed in the tomb.  Somehow because of the climate and type of tomb He was in, His healing was much faster than normal.  He escaped from the tomb, and healed up until He made His reappearance to the 12 and His followers….

On paper as a naturalist, that’s just about the best you can do.  The problem is the theory is so full of holes that it seems Frank Turek couldn’t be more right in that it takes much more faith to be an atheist.

Tomorrow we are going to look into the crucifixion process and the moments leading up to the death of Jesus through the lens of history.  We are going to examine what would normally happen to anyone being crucified, and apply the same to Jesus.  We will see how plausible it is that Jesus merely passed out or how preposterous the claim really is.

Do you think it’s even remotely possible that Jesus merely passed out?

Have you ever heard anyone try to say this?

Have you ever heard anyone try to quote The Da Vinci Code as fact?

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