By BJ Harris
How did you get started with magic?
It started when I was nine years old when I got a magic set for Christmas from my grandmother. It was not at all what I wanted for Christmas that year. When I first got it I was like, I cannot believe she bought me a magic set, this is stupid. I ended up taking it back home and just sat in the corner of my bedroom for a couple of days and I was boredschool hadnt started back yet. So I finally opened it up and started messing around with it. The next thing you know I went to show a trick to my parents and they said, How in the world did you do that? So I thought it was pretty cool that I could do something my parents couldnt do. And it just built from there. Since I was nine I havent really done anything else. That was back in 92 and I did my first show in 93.
How do you incorporate ministry into your magic?
Well there are a few different ways. We do entertainment based outreach events…just fun shows for the entire family; the church can promote it around the community. These are hour, hour and a half long magic shows basically for the entire family. About three quarters of the way through Ill share my testimony and present the gospel. The thing we do is teach people a lot about deception and how were deceived by trusting our senses. I think magic is one of the coolest tools to use for that. So after showing people how theyre deceived, I can kind of use that as a springboard to talk about truth.
One of the projects were working on right now is called Senseless. Its a live event, a book, and a DVD. The theme of the book, if you had to wrap it up in one sentence, itd probably be walk by faith not by sight. We tend to live life by what we see. We see something and we hear something and we think its real. Not using discernment, realizing sometimes what were experiencing isnt actually true, but good for us. So to try to use discernment to figure out, OK, is this actually true? Or am I being deceived by my senses? And so if you dont trust your senses, how are you supposed to live? Well were supposed to walk by faith. Well what does faith look like? How do we love and serve other people, and have faith in God even though it sometimes doesnt make sense?
How has God been working in you?
Well I read Irresistible Revolution [by Shane Claiborne] a little while ago. And around that time, as I was reading the book, my wife and I went on a mission trip to El Salvador. We came back and…when we first got married we built a nice house in a nice suburb of Nashville. I was kind of proud because I was young and just recently got married so I was taking care of my wife. But truly, deep down, my motives were selfish because I just wanted to show off my success at a young age. I thought, Im going to buy a house at twenty-one because thatll impress people. And I just realized it was totally the wrong motives.
The good news is we came back from this trip and my wife, Katie, and I we were just like, were just not supposed to be here. We live here for the wrong reasons. So we ended up selling the house in total confirmation from God. We sold it in two days without a realtor, without any work. We picked one of the poorer streets in our suburb where there is a lot of racial diversity. Its one of those places that hasnt been cleaned up a whole lot yet. We live there and were totally happy. And one of the things Katie and I realized is that we were giving out of our excess, and we wanted to do more giving. By moving, it allowed us to do that. So ultimately, Im learning tons from God right now about how to serve people, not just the poor, and how do we meet people where they are versus trying to talk them into coming to us with some kind of flashy gimmick or something like that.
Talk more about your ministry.
Well, most places we go overseas, I cant speak their language. But magic is one of the few art forms that crosses all the cultural boundaries, the age boundaries, language boundariesbecause its visual so anyone can see it. Anyone who can see can understand. In just five minutes Ive done a few tricks, and were laughing, giving each other a hard time, but we cant even understand the words that each other are saying. But by the time weve warmed up, you know, theyve been hanging out with the host whos standing next there next to me who does speak their language because theyve been translating. And just in five minutes, its amazing how much our relationship has fast forwarded by me doing magic tricks vs. if I were to come up and try to talk to them about God. So its really cool because theyre just like who is this guy, whered he come from? It just opens up so many doors for them to be able to talk about their faith.
In India, there were three shows a day in schools, communities…we usually did community events in the evenings and tons of people would come out. Theyd set out a wooden box, stage or build something. And we would create traffic jams because wed be doing it next to a street and a bus would be coming down the street. Well the bus would see an American doing a show and they would stop, people would crawl out their windows and sit on top of the bus and traffic would be backed up, but no one cared because they were all watching the show. Of course, the cultures completely different. But we would do that with literally 4-5,000 people in the evenings.
During the days, we were in Muslim campuses that never had any hint of Christianity at all. But an American entertainer sharing their faith, theyre open to that.
In Sri Lanka we stood on a stage and did a flat out fifteen minute presentation of the gospel, and in this town it was illegal to share the gospel or any type of Christian message. It was veryextreme Buddhist. The host was so nervous. There was that blend of Im so excited that we were going to share the Gospel in this town and Im so nervous because this could get us killed. But we have been in that situation before and were so not confrontational and non-threatening that it just works. And half-way through the show we see him freaking out…he starts pacing back and forth, and apparently the mayor showed up. Well after the show the mayor came up, talked with us for fifteen minutes, was shaking our hands, and thanking us for coming and telling us how much he enjoyed the message.
BJ Harris is an artist, illusionist, communicator, dreamer, husband, church planter, and leader. Ultimately, hes a catalyst for transformation in the hearts and lives of people. By utilizing the creative talents given to him, BJs passion is creating experiences and environments that help people connect with their Creator, and unleash their human potential to gulp life, and not just sip it. Read more about BJ, check out tour dates, videos, and more at his website.