Acclaimed Illusionist Returns to the International Youth Convention
By Carl Stagner
Four years old. That’s how young John Michael Hinton was when he recalls getting hooked on magic tricks. His father had pulled a sleight-of-hand trick—the classic pull-a-coin-from-your-ear-then-make-it-disappear illusion was mesmerizing for the boy, and it left an impression which proved providential. These days John Michael Hinton performs magic tricks in auditoriums packed with people, fooling even the most well-known in the industry—not to mention the very astute among us in the Church of God (John performed at both IYC2018 and Convention 2019). A behind-the-scenes look at the man behind the magic reveals an ordinary guy, who fakes the impossible, to point people to an extraordinary God for whom all things are possible. Pointing people to Jesus in creative fashion is precisely what John Michael Hinton has in mind when he serves as guest artist and MC for the International Youth Convention this summer in San Antonio.
From an early age, John noticed that magic tricks were a great way to make friends; a good icebreaker helps start conversation. Today one of the ways he “breaks the ice” in his shows is by asking a member of the audience “to be his friend.” After making someone crack a smile by agreeing to “be his friend,” John establishes a level of trust necessary for an unsuspecting audience member—suddenly processing the wide array of possible impossibilities that might or might not happen. More recently, John was able to add to his friends list two people he could have probably never imagined meeting when but a child.
A few years ago, John was selected to perform for world-famous magicians and entertainers Penn & Teller. Thankfully, his moment in the national spotlight went very well, but it wasn’t the success of his trick that stuck with John. John Michael Hinton was most concerned about representing Jesus to the Las Vegas duo popularly known as the “Kings of Sin City,” and he believes he did just that.
John has performed for a wide variety of audiences. As a result, he’s observed a wide variety of responses. Some are more colorful than others. “I do one trick where a person’s cell phone number is revealed at the end,” John explains, “and it’s always entertaining to see their mind melt: shock, horror, delight, dumbfounded expressions, yelling, unbridled laughter—I see it all! Once, during a different illusion, someone even screamed in shock and ran off stage while I was in the middle of the trick!”
Last time John Michael Hinton was in front of the Church of God, it was for Convention 2019 and General Assembly in Orlando. But this time, he’ll be back in front of a crowd of students eager to be entertained, yet destined to be encouraged closer to Christ.
“Recently I have been fascinated with temporary art,” John explains. “Sand art. Chalk art. Culinary art. Ice sculptures. Card houses. Some might ask why an artist would want to put so much time and effort into something when the elements and/or time will so quickly destroy all the hard work. And yet temporary art can often be the most special and spectacular. It can only be viewed for a very short time by the select few that are present at the exact time it is happening, and it can never be recreated exactly the same again. What does this have to do with the theme of “Upgrade”? If you look at creation, God has so much temporary art: sunsets, clouds, waves in the ocean, flowers, and so on. God’s continual desire in creating temporary art demonstrates that, whether it is something as long-lasting as a mountain or as temporary as ripples forming across a lake, God will never be finished in his creative work in our lives. We are promised in the Scriptures that even after we die, God has plans for a new heaven, new earth, and even a new body for us (Revelation 21:1). For youth, this has to be encouraging—God is daily doing new things in and through us! We get to be a part of how he is moving right now. Not just read about what he did in the past, but join with him in the future.”
Student ministries and youth groups everywhere won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to “upgrade” and watch and hear John Michael Hinton challenge and encourage through tricks and testimony. Register and learn more about IYC2022 San Antonio, Texas, at www.iyc2022.org.
Feature (top) photo: John Michael Hinton performs at Convention 2019 in Orlando, Florida.