A meeting of United Kingdom magicians offered important lessons about Christian discipleship.
At a recent meeting of the Mid Essex Magical Society, of which I am a member, we heard a lecture from Michael Vincent.
It was a fascinating, inspiring and extremely enjoyable lecture. It was also quite profound, leaving me with several impressions that are important not only for magicians but also for Christians.
It is clear that Vincent strives for excellence in his magic. He is not satisfied with “adequate” – eight out of 10 will not do.
He pays great attention to detail. Every move, every word, every look and every thought is considered and planned.
He is a great technician; what we saw was the product of years of practice and benefited from him listening to (and being mentored by) others who had years of experience.
Vincent also enjoys what he does. Even before he delights an audience, he is delighted with what he is performing and how he is performing it. He wants his audience to have a magical experience.
The presentation of the illusions is as important (if not more important) than the technical skills.
You need both, but mere technical brilliance is not enough if your audience doesn’t find you engaging and want to go on a magical journey with you.
There’s much more that I could share, but these reflections offer significant lessons for followers of Jesus, not just magicians. Here are five:
1. Strive for excellence.
“Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God,” writes Paul in Colossians 3:17, urging Christians to offer God our best. That applies to church activities, but it also applies to us as individuals – being the best free samples of Jesus that we can.
The good news is that we also have God’s Spirit to help us in that process, it’s not something we have to try on our own (see Galatians 5:16-26).
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if you give of your best and consciously tell God that you are doing so as an act of worship, then it is an act of worship.
2. Pay attention to detail.
In my experience, it’s not often big things that cause arguments in churches; it’s little things that become inflated into big things.
The color of the carpets is not a significant matter, but if someone’s views are not heard, then they can feel ignored and unloved. Those feelings grow with more little things.
How many people in our churches do “little things” that go unnoticed and unappreciated? Pay attention to detail and thank people for the little things.
And, flipping it over, if we do the little things well, often the bigger things fall into place.
For example, if someone wants to help with the sound desk, make sure that they receive training in how to do it.
In our everyday life, pay attention to the little things that others do for us and appreciate them. If everyone appreciated others, how much better would life be?
Pay attention to the little things for others, like using their name. It may seem trivial, but it makes a difference.
Living as a follower of Jesus won’t make any difference to your life if you only think about it when you attend church.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Does that sound like he meant that all you have to do is go to church services?
Life is meant to be lived, and life in all its fullness is meant to be lived in all its fullness, which means we have to put what we believe into practice.
In other words, loving one another, forgiving one another, serving one another, praying (talking with God), blessing one another.
The more you put it into practice, the more opportunities God’s Spirit has to shape us and the more it will become second nature.
4. Enjoy it.
I read an article that said researchers have found that middle age is the unhappiest era in peoples’ lives. As someone who is in his 40s, that could be worrying.
But life is for living. Find satisfaction in things you do (especially if you do them to the best of your ability), even little things.
Celebrate good things. Relish what is possible. Share what you enjoy with others. In the act of sharing, you reinforce to yourself the positive experience you had.
I know that life can be tough. But rather than only focusing on the negative, seek to find positives to enjoy.
That could be as simple as having an understanding friend with whom you can share your struggles (see Galatians 6:2).
5. Think of others.
Consider how you can bless, encourage, support, amuse, strengthen and enhance the lives of those around you by what you do with them and for them. “Love God, love those around you” (Matthew 22:36-40) is a pretty good personal mission statement.
Nick Lear is a regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association in the United Kingdom. A version of this column first appeared on his blog, Nukelear Fishing, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @NickLear.
Nick Lear is a regional minister of the Eastern Baptist Association in the United Kingdom.