Not long ago I came across a Facebook post, made by a gospel magician, that went something like this…
“I recently lost my job. This led me think it may be time for me to go full time with my performing. I’ve been doing magic in my hometown area for quite a while. It might be time for me to go to the next level. Pray for me as I make this decision.”
I have heard the same thought voiced in question/answer sessions at conferences of gospel magicians.
“How do I know when it is time to go full-time? Do you have advice to offer someone who is thinking about going full-time?”
I have advice. Although short and simple, I think it good. The advice is: Do not attempt to go full-time until the decision is forced upon you by too much to do and too little time in which to do it.
When you find yourself at a point where you cannot keep up with both your gospel magic opportunities and your present employment, then it is time to choose between one or the other. This is a safe and wise way to handle the decision.
Losing a job, or being unhappy in your current employment, is not good enough reason to make a major life change. As well, the fact that you have tried to do other things and nothing else has worked is not good enough reason. If one is going to leave a familiar lifestyle and toss everything into the magic basket, there should be two primary factors guiding the decision. The first is a clear sense that God is leading to do such a thing. The second is the application of wisdom to one’s current life situation. Some might say there is a third factor which is a combination of the first two factors: a trusting of God to lead by way of the insights wisdom provides.
Nearly thirty years ago, when my wife and I decided to take the plunge into full-time magic and ministry, we did not follow this advice. We did not follow it because we did not know it. On the magic and creative ministry side of things, we did not have mentors or advisors.
We had come to a place in life where we believed we were being led to leave the pastorate and focus entirely on creative ministry. At the time I was senior pastor of a large and fast-growing church. The situation allowed me almost no time use my magic. I had knowledge of gospel magic and a heart for it, but it was doubtful I would ever be able to do much with it if I continued in that pastoral role.
My position in the church was secure. I suppose many would think it an ideal place to be. Nevertheless, it came into my heart, and I deeply believe it was from God, that magic and ministry was to become our life’s work.
Deciding it was time to follow our hearts and do what we believed God was showing us to do, we moved on from the church. We did this with no bookings on our calendar. I stayed busy with the church until the day we left. I did not apply myself to lining up work for what was coming next. This was done out of sincere belief that the church should receive undivided attention until we were gone. My confidence was “God will provide. The bookings will come.”
The day we moved on from the church our income stopped. Medical insurance, paid vacation and all other benefits stopped. In spite of my confidence, bookings did not come in right away. When they finally did come in, there were not many. (Even when one’s ministry is needed, it takes a while for people to become aware of the fact you exist and are available.) For us, this was a very hard time.
The following two years were extraordinarily difficult and stressful. We found ourselves under tremendous financial pressure. We had no supporters and no savings to fall back on. By God’s grace we survived, but I would not want to endure those years again.
If I could go back and do it over again, I trust I would again follow God’s call. However, I would not be so foolish as to leave everything behind with nothing new in place.
I now believe, when God led us to move on from the pastorate, His direction did not include our lack of preparation. There are many verses in Scripture which teach the need to think ahead. The Lord Jesus spoke of counting the cost before building a tower (Luke 14:25-33). We are to take an approach to life where we plan our way as we trust God to direct our steps (Proverbs 16:9).
It was not God’s idea for me to put my family in financial jeopardy. In my inexperience and naivety I did not understand how the decision to move into the new situation could be handled in a balanced manner.
Looking back, I believe the Lord would have blessed, and the church would have understood, if, while being faithful to church responsibilities, I had also prepared more carefully for the future. Along with giving the church full-time attention, I could have found time to concentrate on our needs too. In reality, I was giving the church too many hours and not giving proper time to my family.
By way of personal experience, and a study of Scripture, I have learned that God’s leading is accompanied by more than a desire, or a feeling of “being called,” to do something different. There will also be evident opportunity.
If you believe God is leading you to do something new, ask yourself, “Where is this new work I am to be doing?” Look at the gospel magic programs on your calendar. Are you busy? Will you be busy? If your situation changed, would you be more busy? Look at the invitations you are receiving to perform. Look at the response you get from booking efforts. If God is leading to go full time, it is wise to expect a see these things starting to crowd your present work schedule.
I am not suggesting one needs to wait until the calendar is full far in advance. I am not suggesting there will not be faith willing to step into the unknown. I am saying, relating to a decision for full-time in gospel magic or creative ministry, there should be enough things happening already that a tension exists between your regular job and your ministry programs. If God has something new for you to do, you will have new things to do. They will be making your life busier than it was before. If you choose to pursue these new things, a critical element of the motivation will be the realization you cannot continue to work in both arenas. One thing or the other must be chosen. When the decision comes upon you in that manner, it may then be time to go full time.
Faithful Christians should be willing to take on whatever challenges the Lord puts before them. However, there is a difference between challenges which come from God and challenges we unnecessarily bring upon ourselves. The decision to go full-time must be a matter of faith and wisdom in the face of opportunity. Not one without the other.