This no longer seems to be a controversial issue among gospel magicians, but there was a time when it was a major concern. In times past one regional conference of the Fellowship Of Christian Magicians even made a rule about it. They said, “No one will be allowed to lecture at our conference unless his tricks involve biblical lessons.” This excluded Christian magicians, who specialize in good clean entertainment, from being presenters at their events. Fortunately, this policy only stayed in place for a few years, but for a time it was a dividing point relating to the organizers of that conference. Basically they were saying, “If you do not preach with your magic, you do not teach at our event.”
I understand that the intentions of those who were saying “message magic only” were good. I also realize their thinking was shortsighted. It is important to understand that, beyond what a magician might be saying, tricks themselves can have an important and powerful purpose.
An example of this is the idea of a preacher telling a joke during a sermon. Is it okay for him say something that is not a direct quote of Scripture? Is there occasion for a preacher to say something humorous? Can it be helpful for him to tell a story about daily life? Can present day examples help people listen better and better understand a lesson?
I think most would answer “Yes” to such questions. We understand that good communication involves gaining and maintaining the attention of an audience, along with giving them familiar references to ensure the message really does apply to them.
The situation with the tricks of a gospel magician is similar. A trick can be like the joke a preacher will tell at the start of a sermon. It does not illustrate a Bible verse, but it gets the attention of the audience and begins the establishment of rapport. Other non-message tricks can help a gospel magician further connect with the audience. They also can enhance his credibility. As this happens, a situation is created that promotes good listening.
A simple term for this is “winning the right to be heard.” If people are to take a speaker seriously they must trust the speaker and consider his words worth hearing. Some tricks, although presented with no message whatsoever, nevertheless give the message that this speaker knows what he (or she) is talking about. This speaker has done his homework. This speaker will not waste your time. This is someone you can trust.
Another angle on this matter is the importance of a speaker being likable. If an audience likes a speaker, they are usually inclined to like what he might say. A speaker who entertains them will have them yet paying attention when he teaches and preaches to them.
Obviously the greatest concern of the gospel magician will be for tricks/illusions which powerfully convey a Bible message. However, a secondary concern, and something which must not be overlooked, is having the ability to “wow” people and make them smile, laugh, clap and cheer. A happy audience is almost always a receptive audience.
Learning how to present exciting and entertaining non-message tricks is a tool for making message tricks even more effective…by way of putting the audience in a positive and responsive mood.