Do Not Avoid Eye Contact!

airliner-cramped-0809I‘m a pretty seasoned traveler, and for domestic airline travel I am a big fan of Southwest Airlines…most of the time. Lately it is pretty rare to get on a SWA flight that does not have every seat booked. And like most airlines, they are moving the rows closer together and making the seats smaller. Air travel is a truly uncomfortable experience. For the uninitiated, SWA does not assign seats so it’s first-come first-served when you get on board. There is no “First Class,” however you can earn or pay your way to “A-List” status which allows you to be among the first 60 on the plane and have first choice of the seats. I am one of the “elite” as I fly enough to have earned A-List status and my preference of an aisle seat is always waiting for me. The exit rows (more leg room) and aisle and window seats go first. The last to board get the dreaded middle seat. You always know that the flight will be a full one long before the plane is full because the flight attendants will begin urging the people to fill the middle seats. One of their favorite lines is “do not avoid eye contact.”

Eye contact! It’s not something most of us consciously think about. The boarding process is a great lesson in non-verbal communication—like putting it under a microscope. We are sitting there looking at our books or hand-held devices, or eating our sandwiches. We are sending out all kinds of non-verbal signals that scream, “do NOT sit in this empty seat next to me!” We sprawl over into the middle seat; place our coats on it to make it look like it is already taken. Put in those earphones so we can’t hear the unavoidable question, “is this seat taken?” A few people (not me, of course) have been known to cough and blow their noses loudly to dissuade others from considering the seat. Then the announcement comes, “do not avoid eye contact.”

That’s the game-changer. Now we know someone WILL be sitting in that middle seat. We might have a bit of power however,  because we just might be able to control WHO will sit in that middle seat and occupy our space for the next 2 hours. The implication is that if we make eye contact, the person contacted will assume we want them to sit beside us!

You begin to scan the bodies in the aisle—you want somebody pleasant to sit next to you. It’s like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. You don’t want someone too big, too loud, or too perfumed. You want somebody “just right!” You scan bodies avoiding the face until you spy just the right size person then you risk a look up to the face and the chance for eye contact. I typically want a female in that center seat, not for any salacious reasons, but simply put, they tend to not hog the armrest like a man does. I make eye contact, if I like what I see I will add a smile and hope for the best. Sometimes it works. But often I get the big guy whose one leg equals the two of mine. What you have to remember is that this game goes both ways, the person in the aisle is looking for just the right people to be wedged between for the next 2 hours. “Oh that guy has skinny legs, I’ll sit there.”

I pleasantly stand to let him in as I cough and blow my nose loudly.  (You did remember that I am an actor right?)

It is an interesting lesson in human nature. Something we actors are supposed to know something about. We observe people as a way to make ourselves more believable on stage. It occurs to me that something similar to “Do not avoid eye contact” should be happening in our churches every week as well. In some churches I see people giving off similar signals to the people in the pews each week. Many of us have our favorite places to sit, favorite people to talk to and routines that are comfortable. We often don’t stop to think that some of the people who are coming to the church are just like the last to board a SWA flight. They are looking for a place to fit in. We don’t usually want to admit it but we are saying all kinds of things to them without saying a word.

We need to come to church, and indeed to life in general, with our eyes wide open!

2014 The Year in Review

Chuck & Lorie Neighbors

Chuck & Lorie Neighbors

Dear Friends,

It’s almost time to turn the page on another year. With each page I turn, I find myself marveling in the story we are making, both in our personal lives, and in this ministry that God has called us to! 2014 was a milestone for us, as June marked the 30th anniversary for Master’s Image (and 40 years for me as an actor in ministry)! Here are just a few of the highlights:

Performances— Over 100 performances by our artists this year. In the 30 years we have been in existence there have been an estimated 3,000 performances and an estimated total audience of over half a million people! Those performances, have been all over US and in 17 countries around the world!  That’s an amazing statistic for this “Christian Actor Guy” to even begin to comprehend.

Ministry growth— In addition to my performances we have two other artists that are a part of our team–Steve Wilent and Marcia Whitehead. In 30 years, we have been able to help 6 other artists establish a ministry. We have also consulted and mentored numerous artists from across the country on various projects. God has blessed us and allowed us to be a blessing to others who are called to ministry through the arts.

Child Sponsorship— Clearly one of the biggest blessings of this ministry is that we also get to advocate on behalf of the poor. This year we were able to get 350 children sponsored, who live in poverty in third-world countries. Over the years, we have acquired close to 6,000 child sponsors. Not only are we able to impact and touch lives through our ministry on a local level, but through sponsorship lives are being changed around the globe! Blessed indeed!

We fully realize that it is the prayer and financial support of people like you that make this work possible.  We so appreciate your partnership in the work that we do.  As you look forward to 2015, we would be so very honored if you would help us keep the story going by giving a gift to Master’s Image Productions.  We would be especially grateful if you could support us on a regular basis with a monthly pledge (if you are already doing that, thank you!). You can also designate your gifts for the benefit of a specific artist if you like.

You can mail tax deductible gifts to: Master’s Image Productions, P.O. Box 903, Salem, OR or just click the button to donate online:


May God bless you and yours this Christmas and in 2015!

Chuck & Lorie Neighbors

New Promo Video!

I just finished this new promo video that gives an overview of all my productions. Please view, like, comment and share!

When Transparency and Authenticity become TMI! –

InvestigatorI Wish You Hadn’t Told Me That!

“I really liked your transparency in the sharing of your story.”

I appreciated the compliment. I had just finished sharing my presentation of “Go Ask Your Mother… A Father’s Story.”  In the presentation I share some of my personal struggles as a father in raising my three boys, as well as some reflections on my own father.

The compliment affirmed my goal and belief that telling honest stories based on real life experience would connect and communicate with my audience. Yes, I had been transparent… up to a point… but I didn’t really tell the whole story. There were parts that I purposely didn’t share. Parts that I held back because I didn’t want the whole truth about me to be revealed. Parts that I felt would have been TMI–too much information!

When sharing about my Dad, I didn’t share the details of the angry thoughts I had when I felt he was being too hard on me.

When sharing about my sons, I didn’t share about the times my temper got the best of me and I said some things I regret and came close to striking them in anger.

There were thoughts and actions in some of those stories that I left out because to reveal them could have caused my audience to turn against me… to not like me. I am all for honesty and transparency until it goes to a place that is too dark and makes me look bad. Especially if the story doesn’t redeem those thoughts and actions.

Is it possible to be too honest? Too transparent? Where does one draw the line?

Have you ever been watching a good movie and then have to turn your head away in disgust because the images on the screen were too disturbing? It’s a good story but why did the have to show that?! Sometimes the details of our stories can have that same effect on our audience.

I remember a sermon where the pastor shared some of his personal story. It was great up until he shared some of his thoughts that went a little too far. As we left the church my wife said “I wish I hadn’t heard that part.” The part he shared was a little too dark and now her feelings about that pastor will be forever changed because he shared too much information. It would have been fine if he had alluded to his dark thoughts, but in sharing them in detail, he crossed a boundary. He created a distraction that caused some in the audience to miss the point of the story.

Who among us hasn’t had those dark thoughts? Who among us hasn’t done things we regret? It’s part of being human. We get angry, we get greedy, we get tempted, we lust, we sin.  When it comes to casting the first stone, I would be one of the first to walk away.

It is good to share some of these stories with others. Some of my favorite stories are stories where the teller reveals their humanity, their weakness, their faults. It is what makes it relatable. I identify and it feels good to know that I am not alone. It helps me to realize that I’m not the only one who struggles, who fails, and who gets back up again after being knocked down.

But sometimes in the public telling we can go too far.

Authenticity is a cherished virtue in our culture today. Look at reality TV, the Internet and social media. We have a constant stream of “reality” hitting us from every angle. Sometimes this can be a good thing. But it can also distract us from the main point. Like watching that gory scene in the movie it’s TMI! Too much information!

Some stories are best served with some details left out. They are better for confessing to a close friend, a doctor… or to God. You don’t want your audience to walk away with things they can’t un-see or un-hear!

Actors who are Christians

Faith on Stage: Keith Ferrin, Marquis Laughlin, Steve Wilent, Jason Nightingale

Faith on Stage: Keith Ferrin, Marquis Laughlin, Steve Wilent, Jason Nightingale

I am just back from a retreat where I got to hang out with some dear friends–professionals in the world of the theater–who happen to be Christ-followers and are intentional about using their craft and talent under the banner of Christian ministry. (Notice I did not say “Christian actors” in the title of this article—I have voiced my opinion on that topic in the past here). These people are my peers and while you may accuse me of a certain bias, I have to say they are some of the best, most talented and dedicated people in the entertainment industry–and you probably have not heard of any of them. (Notice also that I said “entertainment industry” and not “Christian entertainment industry”…whatever that means).

There is a small group of more famous actors that might make your list of actors who are Christians. You can see their names associated with the more recent crop of films coming out of Hollywood these days that cater to Christians. (Although one should not make the naive assumption that an actor appearing in one of those films is necessarily a Christian). While I mean no disrespect to those more famous actors, or the films they are creating, there is a group of actors who travel the world plying their craft not on famous stages or in movie houses, but rather doing their work primarily in churches. There are others in this group who go to places where you might not find many “church people.” Places like university coffee houses, prisons, the street and even bars and nightclubs. They go there because God has opened doors for them to share their gifts and the message of God’s hope to the world through the medium of entertainment, which is the language of our culture. They have my highest respect. This latino girls ready for chat.

The performers in this group are not only actors, but also storytellers, spoken word artists, musicians, poets, mime artists and dancers. These are the artists that raise the bar far higher than what most of us imagine when we think of the art typically shared in most churches. It was my privilege to share the stage with this group. I want to invite you to check them out and consider inviting them to your church. They are:

Drawing Water – Music and drama performed by Cara Walter and Tracie Gorham

Wesley Brainard – Actor, and Mime Artist

Marquis Laughlin – Actor/Storyteller

Jason Nightingale – Actor/Storyteller

Steve Wilent – Actor/Storyteller

Keith Ferrin – Actor/Storyteller

Phil Long – Poet

Marcia Whitehead – Musician/Storyteller

This is just a small representation of some of the artists out there who have dedicated their craft to the building of the Kingdom. I’m honored to be associated with this group. Check them out! Know that the art being produced in Hollywood under the banner of “Christianity” is not the only art, or necessarily the best being produced by people of faith. Some of the best could very well be seen in your church sanctuary by one of these talented artists—artists who are Christians.

© Copyright Chuck Neighbors – actor and storyteller - Theme by Pexeto