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Christians Can Have More Than Fun!

Happy teenager laughingHave you noticed how much we American Christians like to focus on fun? People invite me to their events to show that “Christians can have fun.” Slogans like “Christians should have more fun than anyone” commonly get thrown around. Understand, I like to have fun as much as anyone. As a Christian entertainer I work hard to help people have fun. However, I’m not sure our obsession with fun is biblical, or even healthy.

I did a search of the Bible for the word “fun.” It is never used in the King James version. I did find one use of the word in the New International version, when people “made fun” of Peter. Clearly “fun” is not a major focus of the Bible.

Examining the lives of major biblical characters, I don’t see fun being a priority. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, went to prison where he began to doubt everything, and ended up being beheaded. Paul was shipwrecked, imprisoned, beaten, and “despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:8). According to tradition all but one of the disciples died a martyr’s death. Peter was crucified upside down (assuming the traditional account is accurate), and I somehow doubt he was thinking “Wheeeee! This is fun!” Sure you can find examples of people having fun. Jesus himself spent time at parties with “sinners.” However, fun is never the focus or goal. Jesus never promised his followers would have fun. He promised trouble, persecution, and suffering.

When thinking about this, the plight of persecuted Christians around the world today comes to mind. I don’t think these believers would describe their situation as fun. Just because I happen to be in circumstances where being a Christian can be fun, it doesn’t mean that fun is a defining part of the Christian experience for everyone. It also doesn’t guarantee my circumstances will always allow for a fun life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-fun. I love to have fun. I love to help others to have fun. But if our focus is on fun, we can miss out on deeper and more important things. Fun is based in our circumstances—events going on around us and the people we share them with. We need to aim for something higher. While I feel blessed to live in circumstances where being a Christian can be fun, I want more than that. I want a faith that goes deeper than my circumstances. Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee freedom from trouble, but comfort during trouble. God didn’t promise freedom from hard times, but that he would work through the hard times for good.

In 2 Corinthians 1:3-7, the Apostle Paul explained,

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

I want to have fun, and I hope you have fun, too. A lot of fun. But more than that, I hope you have joy. Fun is based on circumstances, and will leave when times get tough. True joy comes from the Lord, and can carry us through the tough times when fun is a distant memory.

Posted by Brad Brown, on September 26, 2014
Category: Random Thoughts | Leave a comment

Tips for Halloween Outreaches

Jack-o-lanternHalloween is becoming a bigger and bigger event in our culture, and many churches take advantage of it for community outreach. I have been a part of many such events, big and small. Here are a few thoughts if you are doing one.

Start from the Purpose

This should be true of any ministry, but be clear on the purpose of the event. This should be the starting point of your planning. “We’ve always done it” is not a purpose. Know what you want to accomplish, and plan everything in light of that goal. Also, consider how you will be able to measure the success of the event. How will you know if you achieved your goal? Be sure the vision is clearly shared with your workers.

There are a number of reasons to hold an event like this. Here are just a few examples:

  • Provide an alternative for believers who have concerns about participating in Halloween celebrations.
  • Creating a fun, community-building event for church members.
  • Build relationships with people in the community.
  • Evangelistic outreach

Each of these would lead to drastically different decisions during the planning phase. Don’t just do what your “supposed to do” for a Halloween event. Do only what helps you achieve your specific goals.

Choosing a Day

When will you have your event? Depending on your purpose and the community where you are located, it may or may not be a good idea to compete with trick-or-treating. For example, if you’re trying to bring in people from your community, and trick-or treating is popular in your area, it would probably be a bad idea to make people choose between taking their kids trick-or-treating and attending your event. However, in other areas, parent’s may welcome a safe alternative activity for their kids. If you are providing an alternative to trick-or-treating, don’t skimp on the candy! You don’t want kids to regret coming to your church’s event.

I’ve seen events work well both ways. It all depends on your specific situation.

Scheduling

Many events include a big program at the end. (Like, just to pick a random example, a magic show! :) ) This is often where the main message content is presented. The end of the event is not always the best time to schedule this program. If you have a longer event, say several hours, where people come and go, many who come at the beginning will leave before the final program begins. If you do choose to have a single main program, it may be best to schedule it in the middle of the event. People who come early can stick around, and those who come later won’t miss it.

Another option is to have multiple programs. For example, there could be an opening and a closing program. Or there could be multiple programs going on throughout the event. For example, I’ve done events where I do a 15 to 20 minute program every half hour throughout the event. That way, people can see the program no matter when they come to the event.

Posted by Brad Brown, on September 24, 2014
Category: Status Report | Leave a comment

Magic is not Just for Children

Baby examining grassMany think of magic as being a kid’s thing. It’s not. Kids don’t need it. Adults do.

Don’t get me wrong, kids enjoy magic programs. Magic can be a great tool for clearly presenting a memorable lesson. However, kids, especially younger ones, don’t need it because they haven’t lost their sense of wonder. They can still see the wonders, large and small, that surround us every day.

As we grow up, we tend to loose this sense of wonder. The wondrous is still there, certainly. We just seem to loose the ability to recognize it. We slowly turn into ordinary people doing ordinary things in an ordinary world.

You’ve probably seen a parent trying to show something to a small child, something the adult thinks is interesting or important. However, the child can’t be bothered with this “important thing,” because he’s too engrossed in examining a blade of grass, a pebble, or a bug. The parent thinks the child is missing out on something, but I’m convinced that the parent is missing out on even more. The parent can no longer see that every blade of grass really is a thing of wonder!

In Terrible Trifles, G. K. Chesterton wrote, “I assure you. The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.” Adults need to rediscover what children already have, a sense of wonder.

That is what I love about magic: its ability to inspire wonder. It can, at least for an instant, pull back the curtain of ordinariness and remind people of wonder.

Christians especially should have a sense of wonder. If God lives in us, we are not ordinary, and have no business leading ordinary, passionless, joyless lives. If we recognize this world as God’s handiwork, then, even in its current fallen state, we should be able to see the wonders of God all around us. Even in a simple blade of grass.

Posted by Brad Brown, on January 21, 2014
Category: Random Thoughts, Status Report | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Christmas is Coming!

The cultural juggernaut that is Christmas is coming! Can I be honest with you? There’s a lot about Christmas that I really don’t like. There, I said it.

Stressed out at Christmas!I don’t like the stress and traffic. I really don’t like the display of consumerism and greed. I don’t like that people feel compelled to spend money they don’t have to buy people stuff they don’t need. I don’t like that people are made to feel like a failure if they can’t deliver a Christmas experience that rivals any Norman Rockwell illustration. And I really, really don’t like that in a holiday that’s ostensibly all about Jesus, he typically takes last place.

That’s right, Bah Humbug!

So, why would someone who thinks like this offer a Christmas show?

Because I want to help reconnect people to the reality of what we are supposed to be celebrating: The creator-God taking on flesh so that he could bear our sins and make a way for our salvation. If there’s ever been anything worth celebrating, that’s it!

Having ranted about my displeasure about much of the way we celebrate this holiday, I should make it clear that I’m not anti-Christmas. I love the lights, decorations, carols, gifts, and even Santa. I love the time with family and friends. My Magic of Christmas show isn’t designed decry the excesses and problems. Instead, it simply celebrates Jesus!

Like all my shows it’s designed to be fun. It’s full of laughter, amazement, and lots of audience participation. It includes a number of original routines designed specifically for the Christmas season.

In Christmas Cards, I bring a child onstage and we work together to determine the best part of Christmas. It’s a fun routine with a magical surprise at the end. (I’m sure you can guess that we decide that the best part of Christmas is Jesus.)

"The Magic of Christmas" program.The core of the show is a routine called More to the Story, which centers on a Christmas story book. Everybody knows the Christmas Story—or at least they think they do. But there’s so much more than just a baby in a manger. This routine starts in the manger, but then traces back through history to reveal this baby in the manger is actually the God who created the world. (John 1:3) It then goes forward, looking at why Jesus came, to die for our sins. (Isaiah 53:5) Finally, it points out that the “Christmas Story” isn’t over. We each get to decide how it ends for us, by how we respond to what Jesus did! (Acts 3:19)

If your desire is to reconnect people to Jesus this season, then I want to partner with you! I’d love to bring The Magic of Christmas to your church this year. Contact us to discuss details, including available dates.

Oh, and Merry Christmas!

Posted by Brad Brown, on November 10, 2013
Category: Programming, Random Thoughts | Tagged , | 1 Comment

“Christianity” is Meaningless!

Sunbeams Backlighting CrossWhat does it mean when someone calls themselves a Christian? Many times, when we hear someone use the word “Christian” we assume they mean the same thing we do. However, that is not a safe assumption at all. Unfortunately, the word ha so many different meanings, that it has become basically meaningless.

As an extreme example, a few years ago, Anders Breivik killed 76 people in Norway. The news reports revealed he was a Christian. It is true that he considered himself a Christian. It is also true that he was an atheist. He viewed himself as a cultural Christian–as opposed to being a part of the Islamic culture. Even Richard Dawkins, who is a leading figure in the “new atheists” and very outspoken anti-Christian, has referred to himself as a “cultural Christian,” as he likes certain aspects of Anglicanism. There is also a movement  of “Christian atheists” who do not believe in God, but follow Jesus’ moral teachings.

Even within the church, the definition is not at all clear. Around five years ago, there was an Episcopal priest who stirred up controversy by claiming to be both Christian and Muslim. She was eventually defrocked for refusing to recant her Muslim faith. So, at least in her eyes, there is no conflict between the two faiths.

Also there are at least two major but distinct belief systems that call themselves Christian. In my opinion, they are different enough that they should be considered different religions entirely, but they share the same name. These two groups are generally identified broadly as Conservative and Liberal Christians. (It should be made clear, these designations have nothing to do with being liberal or conservative politically.) Basically, Liberal Christian Theology teaches that the Bible is just stories written by men, and is a product of their times and beliefs. Therefore, it can be reinterpreted to fit modern times and ideals. Many would deny the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith, and instead focus on the need for social action.  Conservative Christians, on the other hand, have a higher view of Scripture, generally believing it to be the inspired Word of God. At least generally, Conservative Christians would believe Jesus was God incarnate, and that salvation comes through faith.

So, what does it mean when someone calls themselves a Christian? It means they may or may not believe in God. If they do, it may or may not be the God of the Bible. If they do believe the Bible, they may or may not take it at face value. They may or may not believe in the divinity of Jesus. Even if they do believe that, Jesus may or may not be the only way to God. So, in other words, it really doesn’t mean much of anything.

I tend to just avoid the term “Christian” completely. I wish I could find another more clear, unambiguous term for my beliefs, but so far I haven’t found one. (Which is why I still haven’t figured out what to put in my Facebook profile under “religion.”) When I do need to use the label, I’ll sometimes refer to myself as a “Biblical Christian,” trying to point back to the biblical source, rather than man made creeds. For me, the dividing line between “Biblical Christianity” and other perspectives is one’s view of Jesus. According to the Bible, Jesus is God in human form. He lived a sinless life, and died in our place. Salvation is only possible by faith through grace. Anyone who disagrees over those core principles is not a Christian in the biblical sense, even if they are Christian in some other sense of the word.

So, when you come across a “Christian,” take time to dig a little deeper to see what they mean. Don’t assume they mean the same thing you do.

Posted by Brad Brown, on September 17, 2013
Category: Random Thoughts | Tagged | Leave a comment