Magic and magicians have often been misunderstood in Christian contexts, says Mark Shortland. He explains how he uses it for the gospel

Mark Shortland Magician

Source: Mark Shortland

Like many children, I was given a magic set when I was a young boy. I thrived on the excitement that it brought, learning sleight of hand and leaving people guessing how I’d managed to do the impossible.

I grew up in a Christian home and made my own commitment to Christ while at college in St Albans, studying for a degree in design. During this time, inspired by the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, I developed a love of outdoor pursuits and, after leaving college, spent ten years working at various Christian outdoor centres.

My boyhood love for magic had become a dormant memory but, one day, after watching an American magician on TV, something reignited. I immediately and enthusiastically began to practice new magic tricks; magic that would not only amaze my audiences, but help to spark conversations about faith.

Something new

In 2001, foot and mouth disease spread across the UK and stopped all outdoor pursuits. I had a choice: be an out-of-work canoe instructor, or an out-of-work magician. The latter sounded far more glamourous and so I moved back to my home town of Northampton and became a professional (with no work) magician.

My shows have led to people finding out about Christ

Over the past 23 years, as a member of the Inner Magic Circle, I have had the huge privilege of travelling the world thanks to my art. I have appeared on Britain’s Got Talent, twice on Penn and Teller’s Fool Us and live on stage at the London Palladium, the Royal Albert Hall and the Magic Castle in Hollywood, USA.

In 2005, to my surprise, I won the British magic championships and, as a result, was invited to be a headline performer on some of the world’s top cruise ships. Thanks to this opportunity I have seen 90 per cent of the world’s coastline!

I have also performed at several large Christian festivals, which is always great fun. But my huge passion is supporting local churches in their outreaches, fundraising events, Alpha suppers and missions.

I love creating bespoke, high energy shows, tailored to each church’s specific needs. Full of illusion, comedy and audience participation, my aim is that those watching will be entertained, amazed and question what they have just witnessed.

Creating connection

Through my art, I hope to not just amuse my audiences but also inspire contemplation and wonder. This in turn leads to a place where I am afforded the respect to speak about my faith.

Magic, like any form of art, is a tool and a means of expression

My shows are intended to create moments that prompt people to stop and contemplate the bigger picture, connecting with others collectively and individually. My shows have led to people finding out about Christ and brought others to a place where they can start to heal emotionally from past hurts.

And yet magic and magicians have often been misunderstood in Christian contexts.

I am conscious of the confusion and connotations that the term ‘magician’ or ‘magic’ has for some people of faith. But throughout my own journey as a Christian magician, I have realised that magic, like any form of art, is a tool and a means of expression.

Much like a master storyteller or an actor, I take my audience on a journey, urging them to suspend their beliefs about reality. People can put aside what is going on in their life and be totally absorbed by an illusion created using skill and sleight of hand - certainly not by special powers!

For me, the true magic lies not in the illusions themselves, but in the ability to connect with an audience and transport them to a realm where anything is possible, if only for a moment. Whether performing on world famous stages or at a local church, my aim remains the same: to spark joy, kindle faith and evoke a sense of wonder.