This week, I’m exploring youth outreach events and ways they could be improved. All along, you must be bathing your event in prayer. In addition to prayer, we have to completely invest ourselves in the event if we want others to take the event as seriously as we do.
One of the things that can really make or break your event is bringing in the wrong speaker/band or combination of the two. There are several factors that are important to note.
Some event planners have the idea that you must have a band and a speaker, and that you cannot break that mold. Depending on your event and your speaker, having a band and speaker can be too much at times. If a band does a 45 minute set, and then you bring in a speaker to perform and speak for 50 minutes, plus 15 minutes of announcements and prizes, you might be stretching the interest of the students. There are strategies to make a band and speaker combo work, but it is a fine line that needs to be paid attention to.
When bringing in a band for an outreach event, you have to think differently than an ordinary Wednesday night worship session. You have students coming in who have never been to church before. Think about this for a second, most of them have been exposed to a concert, but many of them have no exposure to a praise and worship set. Put yourself in that mindset. If you knew nothing about church, but you go to an event where people are singing slow songs together with their eyes closed and hands raised, it might freak somebody out. That kind of activity has no parallel in the secular world to prepare them for.
1. MEET EXPECTATIONS
While there is definitely a time and a place for worship sessions, when inviting the community we need to meet them where they are so they are more apt to listen to the Gospel. It shouldn’t be bait and switch; we need to be transparent. We can’t promise students a rock concert and then give them something drastically not.
2. HIGH ENERGY BAND
Invest in a band that has energy. Yes, your Wednesday night worship band might be the next David Crowder band, but for the outreach event to top all outreach events, you need to bring in a band that serves full time in the ministry/entertainment business. High Energy is the key. The idea is that if you are bringing a band in, they need to be dynamic. If they are doing original songs, or even covers, it needs to be a set that appeals to everyone. The important thing is to keep the energy high.
3. TECHNICAL ASPECTS
A band who is in the ministry full time will be able to sound check, set up, and tear down in an effective, time conscious manner. Hire the band that has a heart to meet people where they are, yet still share music that glorifies God. There are a lot of good bands out there that have a heart for ministry. If you need ideas, shoot me a message, and I can suggest several to you.
If you are going to host a band and a speaker, then the transition between band and speaker is absolutely key. It’s at this point that you can really lose people. If there is no reason or perceived reason for the audience to stick around, (I mean they just saw a band right?) they will leave. I suggest that while the band scratches their stage, you need a speaker who can simultaneously prepare for his set. I would suggest that while this transition takes place, then the host emcee do a couple of giveaways, but save the last mega item for the end of the night. This transition period between band and speaker should take a maximum of five minutes. We can transition in under two minutes. The idea is that both the speaker and the band have sound checked before the event and everything is ready to go.
Tomorrow, I focus on the speaker, as this is the portion of the event that I have the most experience with. I am excited about sharing my insight with you. Until then–
What experiences have you had in the past?
What could have been better? Worse?
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.
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?
If missed yesterday’s post about the Resurrection, then check it out here Is the Resurrection a Delusion Part 1
Feeling Delusional yet?
I didn’t think so
Jesus was not an escape artist as some would have us believe. He didn’t create a clever Houdiniesque method of fooling everyone into believing a very long con. Jesus had an authority that He validated in the resurrection. Skeptics have tried to shoot holes through that for ages. We are going to weigh the evidence and let truth shine on its own.
I want to start with the resurrection and empty tomb because even the most skeptical biblical scholars agree on very specific things. These facts give us some foundation of common ground with the skeptic. The facts agreed on by most scholars are that Jesus…
Was a miracle worker
Was Crucified under Pilate
- Left an Empty Tomb
And that His disciples believed Him to be risen from the dead. Even to there own deaths.
Hoax Hallucination or History?
There are several theories out there that claim to answer the question of what happened after Jesus was crucified. All of these theories boil down around one simple fact. The body of Jesus is not in the tomb.
Think about that for a minute. The ramifications of that are pretty huge. Jesus claimed He would rise from the dead, and His tomb is now empty. There is a vacuum that needs to be filled, but too many times people have ruled out the supernatural and created outlandish ideas to explain away the empty tomb of Jesus.
The glaring thing though that many people just pass over is that even the most skeptical believe that the tomb of Jesus is empty.
Where does that leave us to start from?
Here is why it’s so ridiculously important that the tomb is empty. The rise of Christianity is unexplainable any other way. Here is what I mean by that. If on the day of Pentecost Peter had gotten up to start preaching, and Jesus’ body was still in the tomb, then Christianity could have been shut down in 15 minutes. From the place Peter was preaching to the burial site of Jesus was a 15 minute walk. Out of all of the people standing there, notice that none of them said, “Come on let’s take a walk and shut him up.” They couldn’t.
The same thing for the Sanhedrin. They could have easily produced the body of Jesus to shut down these Christians on the spot, but they couldn’t. This leaves us with the fact that Jesus’ tomb is empty. The next question, and albeit a much bigger one is…
What did Happen?
Over the next few blogs, I’m going to rule out some of these theories, from the crazy to the almost plausible ones.
Starting with the…
The Wrong Tomb.
Some say that while stricken with grief, the women who discovered Jesus’ tomb to be empty, merely went to the wrong tomb.
On the surface you could say…that’s plausible, but let’s dig for a minute.
Just a few days earlier, these same women had helped embalm the body of Jesus. They knew where His tomb was. Even if they didn’t, and were somehow mistaken, the tomb’s owner, Joseph of Arimathea, would have known his own tomb.
Let’s just say that even he might have gotten confused….(really grasping now) This was his own private tomb that was brand new, not just a massive grave area of hundreds of tombs.
Joseph himself lends credibility to this story as being historical anyway. If the 1st century Jews who wrote the New Testament, were going to make up a legend about Jesus, they would never have included a member of the same council that crucified Jesus as a good guy.
All of these objections fail to have the power to explain how the women could have gone to the wrong tomb.
What did happen to Jesus body?
He rose from the dead.
He is alive.
What theories have you heard about the resurrection?
How did you respond to these?
Although he was a man that cheated death nearly every day, Harry Houdini was afraid of it. He was afraid in particular of one illusion. Burying himself alive. At the time, this would have been the penultimate escape. He would place himself into a casket into the ground, only to escape before suffocating. He billed this as his next great escape, even so far as commissioning a poster of his illusion, which is still seen in pop culture today.
Looking at the poster though, you’d never know that Houdini, didn’t performed the escape. A dear friend and famous performer, Harry Kellar, told Houdini that it was too dangerous and he should not attempt it. Houdini listened to the wise council of Kellar, but the image still remains. The image is a reminder to those that know the story, that even Houdini couldn’t escape the grave, but most people don’t know the story. To the average lay person, if they saw the poster they would naturally assume that Houdini performed the illusion, without digging further.
The Real Escape from the Grave
Why start at the Resurrection?
Here’s the parallel. As Christians, we are followers of Jesus. Everything that is central to our faith in Jesus, hinges on His death and resurrection. Paul talks in 1 Corinthians 15 about how if there is no resurrection of the dead, then we are merely wasting our time. If His body is in the grave, then everything is a sham about Him, we have no hope.
But His body isn’t in the grave
Jesus’ resurrection is a game changer. We don’t believe the story to be an escape or illusion like something Houdini would do, but Jesus death and resurrection was His proof to everyone that He was God. However there are many claims about Jesus resurrection that try to explain away the supernatural. Under close inspection though, these claims don’t hold water.
The Game Changer
Jesus came on the scene with an unprecedented authority. He claimed that He was God, and that His proof would be the resurrection from the dead. Naturally this is a pretty big claim, but it’s something so significant that if true, changes everything.
If Jesus really rose from the dead, then He is alive today, and offers eternal life. If not, then Christians are misguided and foolish. To the world we are foolish for following Jesus, but they need to hear His message, His truth. We have to be able to answer people when they ask they tough questions about Jesus. The first main question is, “what happened to the body of Jesus?”
Body of Evidence
If Jesus’ body is still in the grave, then you and I are wasting our time and should just move on.
I don’t believe His body is still in the grave. I believe that He is alive, but that is based more on digging and looking at history and evidence than what the world deems as “blind faith.” Faith is not blind. Jesus doesn’t call us to have blind faith. Blind faith doesn’t convince people to change.
There are a lot of claims that people have made about the resurrection and about “what really happened.” Over the next few days we will look at some of these claims and deconstruct them piece by piece until you are left with the building blocks of each theory, and can decide for yourself who is really delusional.
Tomorrow we will look at the question about His body, and why it’s the biggest hurdle for skeptics to clear, and why they haven’t been able to clear it yet.
Have you ever heard any claims about Jesus death?
What do your non-believing friends say about Jesus?
Let’s face it we have all experienced this whether it’s performing or speaking in front of students. You have something important to say, but you look at your time that you have left and see….you have two minutes left. It’s a feeling that is highly irritating. The thing is though the person we can generally point the finger at is ourselves.
Time is Everything
If someone is bringing me in (or anyone for that matter) they have a time set for the show/event. If I were to go off on a tangent and cram a 45 minute show into an hour and a half on a Wednesday night….the hosts would not be happy. Often, events are scheduled down to the minute, because students have other family members waiting on them, younger siblings and/or parents (their transportation.) The event host would be unhappy if I held their service over, because they are on a schedule.
Often, the same can be said for youth ministry. Sometimes it doesn’t seem that Wednesday night time slot is long enough to get in everything you need to say. As much as you would love to keep going sometimes, invariably a parent is going to get their student out to leave which causes a distraction. The best way to combat this, is to stay on schedule by trimming everything unnecessary out of the night.
In my show, everything I do is deliberate. Every action on stage has an equal and opposite reaction. Whatever I say or do on stage will directly affect the audience crowd. Every action or word should bring about one of 3 reactions in illusion.
- Rapt Attention
I would say this list is similar to that of a student minister’s job. For Student Ministers, you could sub out #2 for Interest/furthering of knowledge. If you are doing or saying anything that doesn’t cause one of these things then it is deemed “fat” and should be trimmed from your service. If you have to trim your “news and updates” section down, then so be it. We don’t want to get lost in the “fat.” God has given you a message, and you have to make sure that message is the focus of your youth service. I have never heard anyone say that their life was changed from the “News” section. It’s important and has merit, but it also has a time frame.
There may be the occasional time when you are being introduced as a guest speaker, and you are waiting to go on. The emcee spends way too much time on their game or video or announcements. If you follow the above steps, you should still be in the clear.
Trim the fat.
Think about that in your regular schedule.
Are there things that you do or say that might cause distractions? It may be unintentional. In fact, you may have great intentions for something, but is it something that can be trimmed to make your night leaner and more effective?
Are you Delusional?
- There is no truth?
- That may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me.
Ever heard anyone say these things?
What is truth? Those were the words uttered to Pilate to Jesus. Jesus who said He was the Truth.
Webster’s defines truth as
“The property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality.”
Fact or reality. In illusions I deal with blurring reality. I deal with the idea that deception of your senses can be used to bring about a moment of excitement or wonder. The thing is, if the truth of an illusion was known, as in the method, it would no longer serve its purpose. The one thing that is concrete however is that there is only one method being used. One solid concrete method that is not relative. Truth.
For someone to say the words, “There is no absolute truth” Is a self defeating statement. All you have to do when someone asks you that question is apply it to its own claim. If there is no absolute truth and you are making an absolute statement, therefore the stat
ement “there is no absolute truth”…..is not true. Meaning absolute truth does exist.
So to respond to a skeptic or a relativist who takes this viewpoint you simply apply the claim to itself.
- Them “There is no absolute truth”
- You “Is that true?”
- Them “Yes” Then absolute truths exist self defeating the question.
- Them “No” Then what’s the point in saying it?
This is easiest illustrated in illusions. For instance if there were no absolute truth, then my job would be a lot easier. Many of my routines on stage are based around a central truth. Either a prediction that is on stage the whole time, revealing a thought of name, or number, the idea is that there is only one answer not many. There can’t be multiple right answers to an illusion. If I ask someone to think of a name and I reveal the wrong name…….you can imagine.
Let me explain what that looks like.
- You pick a card from the deck I hand you.
- You take the 3 of hearts.
- The card goes back in the middle of the deck.
- I shuffle the deck.
- I then with a bit of flourish and gusto produce a card in mid air only to turn it around and reveal that it is in fact…..the 9 of diamonds.
- You are not impressed.
- I try to explain to you that there are no absolutes, and you should be just as impressed.
- You are less impressed than before.
True for you?
On the surface this example sounds a little silly, but at its core is a root truth that is absolutely universal and life-changing. The fact that in this universe, there are absolute truths, and we can know them. The same thing applies to “True for you, but not for me.” Apply that to itself and say, “Is that true for everybody?” If it is, then boom self-defeating.
This shows you a pretty clear example of the kind of opposition that you might face. It’s not generally rooted in fact or logic, but rather emotion or feeling. This can create another problem that I will deal with in a later blog, which is why we have to tread lightly and follow 1 Peter 3:15. Gentleness, not one-upmanship.
One last thing…For right now if you do get stumped, it is more than okay to just say, “I don’t know right now, but I can find out for you.” That’s it. Don’t get discouraged, but be diligent in finding the answer and returning to them.
When is the last time you were stumped by a question about your faith?
How did you respond?
How many times have you been put on the spot by an unbelieving friend, family member, or coworker who has a question about the Bible? How many times in those situations do you feel completely overwhelmed and not ready to have that conversation? How many times have you felt clueless how to answer someone about your faith?
The above questions should strike a chord in all of us, unless you are “Super-Bible-Man” who has all of the answers given to you at salvation…..which doesn’t happen. God doesn’t save us only to have us lazily stroll through the next years of our lives hoping that we don’t have to answer any questions.
Reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.
This is a legal term. In the time of Koine Greek (Language of the NT) the defense given in a court case would have been an Apologea which is where we get this word. Think of it as a court defense. Logical, rational, and persuasive.
What it is.
1. It is logical
2. It is reasonable
3. It is something that makes sense on its own
4. It’s instructed in Scripture
What it is not
2. Driven by anger
3. Based solely on emotion
4. A reason to act superior or beat someone over the head.
Over the next few blogs (save for Wednesdays, that’s Heckler days) I’m going to go through different facets of Apologetics, and how you can use it to reach people for Christ. In college one of my professors vehemently said that apologetics is not evangelism. On the surface that statement could be taken as okay. The problem with this unhealthy delineation though is that it breeds a fear of using apologetics in evangelism. Fear of trying to convince someone of the truth. It’s silly now because we do this in every other facet of conversation. The spirit works through apologetics just as well as the “Romans Road.”
Sure if you have a self-righteous attitude that basically only cares about winning an argument, then no, apologetics is not evangelism. Conversely though, if done in the right spirit with the right attitude, apologetics can be one of the best tools to reach the most skeptical of hearts.
Josh McDowell tells a story about a group of youth pastors talking to him after a conference. One of their students runs up to the conversation and says, “You asked how we know the Bible is true? It’s true because I believe it!” Josh said the worst part wasn’t the answer, but the congratulatory comments of the youth pastors.
The Bible’s truth is not contingent on whether you believe it or not. It’s these kind of answers that get us into trouble. Basically you are validating truth based on what you arbitrarily believe. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that’s in us. That answer needs to be something with substance. The answer needs to be something that will make people think. The answer needs to be reasonable and logical.
The question now is why do you believe what you believe? Why do you have faith in Christ? Here’s the rub any of the following answers can be applied to Islam, Hinduism, or even Atheism. Here are some of the worst offenders.
> Because I believe it.
> Because that’s what my pastor says
> That’s how I was raised
>That’s what my parents believe
>That’s what Christians are supposed to believe
> It just feels right
You may look at this list and think you are way above any of these answers, (which is a fantastic thing by the way) but somewhere someone you know, maybe a student in your ministry has this line of thought.
The reason that I even bring this part up is that these same people are the ones who when they graduate from high school and sit in their first college class are bowled over by what the professor says. They don’t know how to answer the tough questions, and sure enough will leave their faith behind because they didn’t have any substance.
People need substance. We can’t give fluff anymore. We have to teach people how to answer the tough questions if we want them to grow and be effective. We have to be able to answer the tough questions ourselves if we want to share the Gospel with others. It’s not an excuse to stop evangelizing because you can’t answer the tough questions. It’s time for us to stop shutting up, and to start putting up.
Next up, What is Truth?
What are some questions that you struggle with?
The most famous illusionist in England, David Devant, took his name from a French painting about David and Goliath. He became England’s premiere magician from up until 1920 in which he retired. Some of the best illusions still performed today were created by David Devant. He performed the levitation of the woman made famous in America by Howard Thurston, (which Thurston’s mentor, Harry Keller, stole the secret from Devant’s mentor.)
Devant was a house-hold name that brought great images of a fantastic evening of wonder. He took illusions to the next level by creating the most incredible vanish of all time known as “The Mascot Moth.” Aside from large illusions, Devant was an accomplished sleight of hand performer. Using small objects he would wow hundreds in an English theater.
He had a staple in his act that involved bringing a small boy up on to the stage. Devant gave the boy a handkerchief and told him to imitate his motions. Devant would begin to do incredible things with his, while the boy stood there watching with his handkerchief. It would be torn, burned, shredded, and then miraculously restored. The audience laughed and loved it.
The last night he performed this act changed his life forever. Devant brought the boy on stage and like always asked him to imitate his motions. The audience looked on a bit uneasy as the boy stood there flailing his hands with the handkerchief. Devant looked at the boy bewildered, until he saw his own hands. They were shaking uncontrollably. He ended the performance, and retired that same year.
Imitate me. Do what I do.
Those are instructions that are very straight forward. Devant found out though, that they can bring unforeseen results.
Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.
Those are some powerful words. If you are telling someone, “hey follow me if you want to know how to follow Christ,” you better have yourself together. Paul obviously did. I know that in my life personally, I have let people see my hands shaking, and they have followed suit.
I think about the impact that we have on the people around us who know that we are Christians. Whether we like it or not, Paul’s statement hangs around our necks. When people see that we are followers of Christ, they naturally learn from our actions. Whether that’s good or bad. Devant had no clue that his hands were shaking uncontrollably. He had no clue that his example was terribly flawed. He didn’t examine himself to see this flaw.
That’s where the issue comes in. We have to examine ourselves daily, to make sure that we line up with what a true follower of Christ looks like. You may think that this is old hat advice, but guess what, the moment we start to feel comfortable is the very moment our hands start shaking.
Keeping Your Hands Still
Daniel 1:8 gives a picture of daily devotion to purity that we should follow in our own lives. He chose not to defile himself with what the king had to offer. We should choose not to defile ourselves with what the world has to offer.
So the people around you that know that you are a follower of Jesus, do they see Jesus? or do they see you with your hands shaking?
-What things do you do that could be considered “shaky hands”?
-What can you do personally to stop them from shaking?
-How can you repair a relationship with someone who has started shaking too?
—-Again for more on Devant, check out Jim Steinmeyer’s book
One of my favorite things to study is the history of stage illusions. The golden age was from roughly the 1870s until TV was invented. The most famous illusionist of the time is virtually unknown today, not Houdini, but Howard Thurston.
His masterpiece was the levitation of a woman right in the middle of the stage. We are talking 1920s to 1930s. The amount of trouble he had to go to to produce this effect would stop anyone from performing it this way today. Because of the lighting of the Vaudeville theaters (or lack of) and the general distance from the audience to the stage, Thurston rigged hundreds of wires both above and below the woman to hold her in place.
They were invisible to the audience, but his convincer was bringing a random child from the audience (not a stooge, or confederate) on to the stage. Thurston picked the boy up, and pointed at the woman and whispered with a smile something only the child could hear. The child’s eyes went wide and his mouth gaped. Truly a miracle had taken place……well obviously not.
In the 1980s all grown up, a boy lucky enough to see Thurston’s show and be brought on stage said what actually happened was that when Thurston whispered in his ear he said, “if you touch one of those ****** wires….” and then threatened him. The boy having never heard someone talk like that naturally looked amazed. The audience applauded and everyone loved it.
What does this have to do with anything? Am I advocating that we start living obscenely to make our point? Student ministers, should we be shock-jocks? No, not at all, but the idea is that instead of telling the child that it was all an illusion, Thurston was real with the child (albeit a bit too real), but the child never forgot for the rest of his life what Thurston said to him.
When we treat the world with a facade, or student ministers when we sugar coat the Gospel, it becomes forgettable, it becomes weak. The cultural meme is to not offend anyone. This causes a blind eye to everything that we should stand against. It’s precisely this reason that students who have been taught meat of scripture and real lessons instead of fluff, remember and retain, and can use what they have been taught.
What ways are we real with the people we come in contact with? We have the greatest truth known to mankind that God, the creator of the universe, loves us personally so much, that He gave us a second chance. He sent Jesus to die in our place for what we owe, and rise again. He did this for one single reason, and that is because He loves us. Period. There can be no greater news, and yet we keep this to ourselves and try to make everyone smile.
The Gospel might shock people. The Gospel might offend people, but guess what that’s what it takes reach people. To be real. We can give the world what it wants, and not give them Jesus. That is the greatest crime we can commit as believers.
How can you be real today?
What are some ways that we are fake?
How do we eliminate that?
For more info on Howard Thurston, or any stage illusion history, check out:
by Jim Steinmeyer