Dallas pastor employs disappearing act to explain how Christ can remove sin guilt

DALLAS—In one moment, Rene Lopez is a seminary professor reading dissertations. In another, he’s the pastor of a Spanish-language congregation in Dallas. In a third scene, Lopez pulls a wardrobe change and appears as an illusionist answering to the stage name Ariel. It’s often all in a day’s work for Lopez.

Lopez, pastor of Iglesia Biblica Nuestra Fe, also serves as an adjunct professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and assistant professor at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Online while also running a ministry he began in 2005—Scripture Unlocked Ministries. Through Scripture Unlocked Ministries, Lopez began his “illusions with a message” gospel presentation that he now presents across Texas and much of the nation.

“Besides my primary passion for God’s Word, I always had another passion that now I’ve been able to develop, and that is doing illusions and mixing it with an evangelistic message at the end,” said Lopez, who began his ministry work in the mid-1990s. He said it was five years ago that he and his wife purchased a briefcase full of beginner magic tricks while on vacation in Nevada.

“That night I must have stayed up till two or three in the morning looking at that like a little kid,” Lopez said. “I thought, ‘Why not incorporate this into the ministry?’”

He eventually grew the evangelism-illusion program from a few small tricks into a full lights, sound, smoke and stage performance. The entire show is laced with gospel nuggets, and at the end, Lopez gives a clear gospel presentation. Lopez said that since he is meticulously careful to never give someone the chance to accuse him of “selling the gospel,” he adapts the end of the program depending on whether tickets have been sold for the event or if a church or organization has offered free admission.

“If a church decides that selling tickets to provide such a show is the way to go, we always advise to separate the show from the message at the end, so as not to be accused of selling the gospel,” Lopez said. “I’m very sensitive to that. Throughout the show I make biblical references, lightly, using illustrations, but at the conclusion I give the punch line in how all those marvelous illusions witnessed are not real, but illusions. I then introduce everyone to the real miracle worker, Jesus Christ, who can take nothing and make it into something and who can make things we want gone from our lives disappear.”

Lopez said he then goes on to use small illusions to demonstrate the necessity of being a part of a local church and preparing to meet Christ face-to-face. At the conclusion of a show for which tickets have been sold, Lopez tells the crowd that the show is over and that they may leave, but that he has a short message he will share if anyone would like to stay to hear it.

“A handful of families get up and leave,” Lopez said. “Most people stay.”

When a church pays for the program and offers it as a part of its ministry and outreach, Lopez said he includes more of the gospel message throughout the show, still stopping to give a clear presentation at the end to invite people to accept Christ as Savior. He said he has seen people come to faith in Christ and recommit their lives to him through the evangelism-illusion shows. The churches then assume the task of following up with those people from their own communities, he said.

In addition to the shows being an evangelistic tool, Lopez said they simply provide family-friendly, wholesome entertainment that is “lacking in today’s culture.”

“Obviously it’s entertainment,” Lopez said of the show, which includes him slicing someone in two, escaping from a padlocked box, making a girl disappear and getting a table to float in mid-air. “But the end is where the punch is. I think doing something like this in churches will not only go over big with the youth and adult believers in the church as being great wholesome entertainment, but even better and more important, this is a venue to attract non-believers to a non-threatening setting.”

Lopez is bilingual and presents the evangelism-illusion show in either English or Spanish. His ministry website is scriptureunlocked.org.

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