Had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tracie Arboneaux-Gorham from the FB Group “Therefore, I create!”
We talked about my career as an actor and the recent books I have authored. It was a fun conversation.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tracie Arboneaux-Gorham from the FB Group “Therefore, I create!”
We talked about my career as an actor and the recent books I have authored. It was a fun conversation.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
In my world as a itinerant artist, you often wonder if what you are doing really makes a difference. You get a lot of “good job,” “how do you remember all those lines?” and “thanks for sharing” comments. But rarely do you get to hear a real story of a life truly impacted or changed through the ministry/art that you present. But every once in a while you get a glimpse, a story comes back to let you know that something tangible happened. Such was the case at a performance of In His Steps in Arizona earlier this year. Writer, Tarina Lovegrove wrote about a performance she attended that was featured in Hometown Christian Magazine. I have included a portion of the article as a guest blog. Thanks Tarina!
Are we at church or at a grand theater? It was truly hard to tell. I was so blessed the day Chuck Neighbors visited my church and performed a one-man show entitled In His Steps for our small congregation.
For so many of you who were not at the service that day, you really should visit www.mastersimage.com and try to catch the amazing performance that was showcased that fine Sunday morn. If you’re like me, you’ll be blessed beyond measure with his example of the impact of having Jesus in your heart and what it can do for your life, your community and our world.
The first scene opens with Mr. Neighbors singing “I Can Hear My Savior Calling” as he begins his narrative in a role as Pastor Henry Maxwell. Neighbors establishes a solid foundation that sets the scene for the spectacular presentation that followed.
Shortly thereafter, he remarkably remains in character, not missing a beat, adds a wooly red scarf, scruffy jacket and old worn out hat to his wardrobe and literally transforms personas to now represent the second character on set, a homeless man named Jack Manning.
Now, Jack Manning appeared on stage and inherently in front of what was personified as the front of a church, which really hit home for me, as it ironically was exactly where I was seated at the time.
Jack Manning who was poor and quite ill, asked Pastor Maxwell in front of the entire congregation, exactly what did he mean when he said it was important to follow in the steps of Jesus.
The moment was quite fascinating because unbeknownst to me, my attendance at church that day literally transported me to another place and time. I was not only attending church, I actually became part of the cast of the play without even knowing it. It was brilliant!
And then it happened… Jack Manning began speaking to the congregation too. See, his character was a printer by trade who lost his job several months ago and had been brutally struggling ever since. His wife had died, his little girl was living in someone else’s home for survival and very few people cared enough to provide compassion, kindness or understanding toward the matter. Life for them it seemed carried on… business as usual.
The insightful Mr. Manning repeated that he was “just stating facts” when he asks his question about what Christians mean by following Jesus. Through his monologue, Jack Manning revealed there were nearly “500 men, many with families,” in this city in the same situation.
In his heart of hearts, he wasn’t begging for money or support, he was merely trying to understand how Christian people with homes, incomes, money, resources and security could fathom praising the Lord, singing mighty hymns of worship, living lives of luxury and then choosing to turn their heads and hearts when faced with the homelessness and needy population in their very own backyards.
The light bulb illuminated itself even brighter for me when Mr. Manning referenced there might not be as much trouble in our world today if the people who sang these songs also took action to proactively make efforts to eliminate the devastation.
There I sat… dumbfounded, with my heart in my stomach. Guilty as charged.
There are so many great lessons to learn from this astoundingly heartbreaking yet truthful showcase. I just don’t know where to begin.
In retrospect, I look at my life and I see the could-ah, should-ah, would-ahs… but that’s not going to get any of us anywhere. Each of us has the same opportunity, in this very moment, to make a difference. What will you do? Make a change or business as usual?
I know what Pastor Henry Maxwell chose to do in the play. I won’t ruin it for you, I promise. Watch the play… it’s incredible! It’s a drama just exploding with a tremendous message that could lead to fantastic impact across our great country, if truly taken to heart.
I know I was completely touched and will not soon forget Mr. Jack Manning, Mr. Henry Maxwell or the real man who brought them and several other great characters to life that day… Mr. Chuck Neighbors.
For details on upcoming events or how you can book Chuck Neighbors for your church or community event, please visit his website at mastersimage.com. He’s a phenomenal actor, director, storyteller and writer who has traveled across North America as well as 17 other countries around the world, providing thought-provoking material that shares the gospel, touches the heart and with your help, will create a ripple effect of kindness throughout neighboring communities around the world.
Thank you, Chuck Neighbors… for sharing the Word of Jesus Christ! God bless you, your journey and ministry.
You can read the rest of the feature article here: Hometown Christian MagazinePosted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
This old hat sits in display on a bookshelf in my office. What comes to mind when you look at it? It is pretty beaten up and worn. If a hat could talk I am thinking this hat might have a terrific story to tell. Which is one reason I chose it. I was looking for a hat with a story to tell.
At one time it was actually a pretty good hat. The label on the inside says it’s a Dobbs hat. Dobbs hats date back to the 1930s and the company is still in business today. I was actually looking for something that went back even farther—the 1910s would have been ideal. But for the story, this one would work fine. I found it at a thrift store in the 1980s. When I found it, it was a little too nice. I needed it to look like a hat that had been to there and back. A hat that had experienced all kinds of weather. A hat that had slept in the streets and maybe been kicked and punched a few times.
So I worked it over a bit. I wadded it up and stomped it in the dirt until it had the look I needed—a hat that had once been distinguished, now beaten, faded and tired. A hat with a story.
At that time, in the 1980s, it didn’t have any holes in it. Those came later. The holes appeared after telling the story hundreds of times. I would tell the story while holding the hat in my hands and fidgeting with it. That, combined with being thrown in a suitcase until the next time I told the story, eventually wore holes in the hat. Small at first, but becoming more pronounced over time.
Soon it reached a point where it was too worn and too fragile to withstand the rigors of the storyteller. I feared it might disintegrate in my hands if I were to keep demanding it to perform. I needed to replace it, to recast the role of the hat with a different old hat.
So I did. I went to another thrift store and found another old hat. This one was a different style but still appropriate to the time for the story. It would work, and has been my companion for telling the story for many years. But it is not the same.
I miss this old hat.
We shared so much time together. This old hat became not only part of the story I told, but part of my story too. This old hat is linked to a lot of memories. Cherished memories that I don’t want to forget.
So I keep it around, letting it occupy a place of prominence on my bookshelf, where I can see it often. It still serves a purpose. It reminds me of the journey we have had together. Of the stories we have told. It has become a part of me.
I’m just not ready to give up this old hat.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
It was after a performance of In His Steps at a church in Southern California in August. With the challenge of the drama “what would Jesus do?” fresh on their minds, I shared with congregation about our work with the ministry of Food for the Hungry and left the platform to go wait at the display table, hoping that someone might stop and sponsor a child.
Gino approached with his fiancee, Mary. I began to explain the process: “Select the child you would like to sponsor and—“
Gino cut me off and said: “Just one? I was thinking maybe six.”
And he did… he sponsored six kids! He took the challenge of “what would Jesus do?” and did what Jesus asks of us all to do.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
It’s Christmas time, and if you are like me you are probably getting swept up in all the activities of the season. One of those in our house is the making and checking of our Christmas lists. It is easy to get so caught up in the festivities that we can forget that it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. While we “make our list and check it twice” we forget that Jesus has a list as well. Since it is His birthday we celebrate, it might be a good time to see what it is that He has on His list. It starts out: “I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink.” The list ends with: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Gino’s response was a powerful reminder of why I do this ministry. Amidst the list of all I have to do—the traveling, performing, scheduling, writing and rehearsing—I need to remember what is on Jesus’ list. When it comes down to it, it is the very reason I started this ministry in the first place. The very name of this ministry “Master’s Image” was created as a reminder to be conformed to His image in the work we do. While at first glance you might think, “it’s just that Christian actor guy that does those plays in churches,” for me it’s about so much more. It’s about lives changed, it’s about people like Gino and the six kids whose lives were helped because Gino saw a play and was moved to do something that Jesus would do.
While I work on my Christmas list this year, I am also adding things that I am thankful for. This ministry turns 34 years old in 2018 and it could’t happen without the prayers and support of people like you. If you are reading this letter, you are one of those who have made this journey possible. That’s hundreds of performances and thousands of lives impacted like Gino and the kids he sponsored. Thank you!
As you look forward to 2018, we would be so very honored if you would remember us 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 (Marcia Whitehead and Steve Wilent).
Your donations make this ministry possible! We welcome your participation. (You will be taken to a PayPal page to complete your contribution.) Master’s Image is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are tax-deductible.
P.S: If you would like to sponsor a child with Food for the Hungry you can do that here: www.sponsornow.info. (sponsorships through that link also help Master’s Image!)
Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
“It changed my life” is an adage that’s often repeated. There are certainly events that are life-changers: birth, graduation, job, marriage, children, death… and so many more.
But can just the simple hearing or reading of a story actually change your life? I’m not talking about making us laugh or cry, or evoking emotions of compassion or anger. Those are a given. I’m talking about tangible change that results in action. Change that makes someone do or live differently.
As a storyteller I have heard “life-changing” applied to my craft. I have often accepted the statement as a compliment, but not taken it too much to heart. I am not sure I really believed that someone was going to live their life differently because they heard a story I told them.
I decided to put it to the test. Could I actually point to life-change in my own life because of stories that I heard or read? Once I seriously considered the question I was surprised at how quickly the answers followed.
• It was through hearing and reading the Gospel story in my youth that I became aware of a need for Christ in my life. It was the added stories (testimonies) of other believers that convinced me to become a follower of Jesus, a change that resulted in me living my life differently.
• It was hearing the stories from a missionary to South America at a youth retreat in Michigan that I became convinced that I wanted to actually serve God as a vocation. One of the few Spanish phrases I can actually remember is the translation to a familiar song that he taught us: “He decidido seguir a Cristo” (I have decided to follow Jesus). I didn’t know the path I would take, but I have never considered a job for more than a brief season of my life that was not also a ministry.
• It was through first seeing plays as a kid and then performing them that I discovered my passion was to be on that stage as a performer. I wanted to tell stories like the ones I was seeing–I wanted to live them. It became the inspiration and motivation for me to find a way to combine my desire to serve God with my desire to be a performing artist. My first job after college was 10 years on the road with a professional touring theater ministry.
• It was reading the book In His Steps by Charles Sheldon that challenged me with the famous question “What would Jesus do?” Little did I realize that years later that same story would keep me awake at night–a still small voice saying “tell that story.” Later adapting that book to the stage has indeed been life changing. It launched my current ministry and set the course of my professional/ministry career from 1984 to this day.
I am still thinking through the question but these thoughts flooded in once I opened the door to the question, “Can a story change your life?”
My answer is without a doubt, yes!
Story really does matter!
Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
As a kid, before the VCR, DVR, and Streaming, there would be those movies on TV we would watch again and again. The Ten Commandments at Easter, It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas, and of course The Wizard of Oz. All of these would air once a year on network TV and it was an event you actually made plans to watch.
Times have changed, and with the overwhelming amount of content generated on TV, we often find ourselves struggling to keep up with the latest episodes of our favorite shows. Who has time for a rerun?
With this mentality in mind, I am always a bit taken aback when a pastor asks me to perform something that I have already performed at that same church just a few years earlier. I have a handful of churches that I perform for every year and they are often the ones that motivate me to write a new show. I think to myself, “If I don’t come up with something new I won’t be invited back!” (I wonder how many of my pastor friends have that same thought when it comes to writing their sermons? “Will they remember if I preach that same sermon I preached two Easters ago?”)
My friend, Jon Karn, is a pastor in Southern California. I have followed Jon around from church to church beginning in the Pacific Northwest back in the 1980’s and at several churches he has served in California. Jon has probably seen my adaptation of Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps more than any other pastor. I can say this because not only have I performed In His Steps at every church Jon has served (at least 4 churches), but Jon has requested that I perform it multiple times for at least two of those churches. Jon really likes In His Steps!
I was back at Jon’s church a few weeks ago. I was slated to do one of my newer shows, Truth Be Told…from a Guy Who Makes Stuff Up. A couple of weeks before my scheduled performance, I get a message from Jon: “Chuck, we have decided we want you to do In His Steps again!”
Somehow I was not surprised. I mean it is Jon, and he really likes In His Steps. I asked Jon why he wanted me to do that instead of a piece that he hadn’t seen before. He replied:
“People always need to see what following Jesus looks like. I doubt the congregation will read Sheldon’s classic but they will happily watch the drama. I guess I’d say In His Steps sounds like something I’d preach. Personally, I probably need to see it for my own spiritual health, at least once every year or two.”
If I’m being totally honest, I get a bit tired of the rerun. I mean, I have performed that piece well over 1,000 times since 1984. But I need that reminder that it is not about me – that art can speak to people in powerful ways and a good story bears repeating, which is one reason we call Sheldon’s book a classic.
Anybody up for a rerun? I’m booking dates for 2018!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Sometimes I need to be reminded why I do what I do.
Sometimes I get busy in the business of my art, in the business of my ministry.
Sometimes I lose sight of the vision. My passion becomes just a job.
That’s when I need reminders…like this one.
I had just finished a performance of my one-man drama In His Steps, the classic novel that asks the famous question “what would Jesus do?” I had done all the normal after show routines: stood in the church foyer and shook a few hands, sold a few books and videos. I am usually the last to leave the church after a performance, and this was typical of that routine. Most of the people had left the building when I gathered up my props, packed them in my suitcase and headed out the door.
As I popped open the trunk of my car I noticed a young girl, probably about 15 or 16 years old lingering in the parking lot, then she slowly drifting toward me as I placed my suitcase in the trunk.
“Can I talk to you?” she asked.
“Sure,” I said…a bit puzzled.
“You talked tonight about ‘what would Jesus do?’ And…well…I am trying to figure that out for myself.”
“Ah,” I said. “Yes, that can be a challenge for all of us.”
“I have not told anybody this…I’m still in high school…and I’m pregnant.”
“Uh…oh…I’m sorry,” I think I said…I was pretty much speechless. Of all the conversations I have had after a performance, this was a new one.
“I don’t know what to do…or what Jesus would do. I was hoping you could tell me.”
My mind was reeling. I had never met this girl before. And here she was asking me, a perfect stranger to tell her, not only what to do, but what to do in light of the question ‘what would Jesus do?’
Searching for words I asked, ”Does the father know?”
“Yes…and he is the youth leader here at the church.”
“Oh…wow…I…uh…I am so sorry.”
Suddenly the question she was struggling with became my question. “What would Jesus do?” And I was struck with the realization that this poor girl wasn’t talking to me; she didn’t know me. She was talking to the character I had just portrayed on stage. She was talking to The Reverend Henry Maxwell, a fictional character who, from the stage, projected wisdom and conviction to do powerful things driven by that central question “what would Jesus do?” She was talking to Henry Maxwell, someone she felt she could trust. Someone who could help her.
We talked for some time. I tried to give her the best advice that Henry Maxwell could offer. There were some tears, there was a prayer. With her permission I later called the pastor of the church and told him of our encounter. While I don’t know the complete ending to this story, the pastor later assured me that the situation was dealt with and the girl was being loved and cared for in the best way possible.
Sometimes I need to be reminded.
Reminded of the things that brought me to the place I now stand.
Reminded that there is power in the arts that can change a life.
Reminded of the vision and the passion that propelled me on this journey.
Reminded of my calling.
I am reminded, and in the process renewed.
Two of my presentations have been featured on Moody Radio numerous times over the years. Moody pulled out all the stops making these presentations into full radio theater style productions, complete with musical score and sound effects. This makes for a truly unique listening experience, totally different from the live performance.
I offer them here for free. You can listen here or download them to your computer in mp3 format and/or transfer them to your mp3 player to listen to on the go. (Click to play in a new window. Right click or option click on a Mac to download to your computer as an .mp3 file)
Also be sure to visit the online store for videos, books and scripts!
We invite you to sign up for our monthly newsletter via email (see signup on the right) and to “Like” us on Facebook to keep up with all the latest happenings!
If you’ve experience one of our shows, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
I received an unexpected gift this weekend. Not the kind you can put in a box… more valuable than that… at least to me.
Sometimes, being an itinerant performer/ministry, you can wonder if what you do makes a difference. I show up, do my performance and leave… rarely do I get to see any tangible fruit of my labor, beyond the applause, handshakes, and thank-yous at the door. I hope, trust, and pray that God is in this with me… but sometimes, I just need a little confirmation, a little taste of the fruits of my labor.
I got a taste this weekend. The church that hosted the performance was not huge—maybe 150 people. I performed in the morning worship service, presenting my adaptation of the book In His Steps… a piece I have been performing for over 27 years… and to be honest, I sometimes wonder if it is still relevant… as an artist I am prone to doubt.
The congregation was with me, I could sense it. I finished the performance and exited the stage… and then… then the gift.
The pastor stood and began to pray. It was obvious from the prayer, that he was deeply impacted and challenged by the presentation. At the conclusion of the prayer, he asked the congregation to remain silent and to listen to what God is saying to them at this moment. After the silence he asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share. I stood in the back of the room and took it all in.
“Our sign out front says ‘Carrying Christ to our Community’ but we aren’t doing a very good job of it.”
“I keep telling myself that I am too old to do things anymore, but I need to remember that it is not my strength but God working through me… I just need to be available to be used.”
“The Bible says faith without works is dead… some of us need to hear that.”
“There are ways we can serve each other right here in this body. There are people in this congregation that need help and I need to be doing more to help them.”
Similar comments continued for several minutes. The pastor went on to affirm that it was no coincidence that I was there this particular weekend. God had orchestrated it. It was a timely message in the life of this church.
What a gift to be able to see and hear firsthand the impact of the morning. Truly an unexpected gift and a confirmation that was a blessing to me.
I left with a heart full of gratitude. Thankful to be reminded again why I do what I do. Thankful to be an artist and to see how art and ministry can work hand in hand together to build the Kingdom of God.
Do you have stories of how God has used art to touch you or the lives of others?Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 5 comments
Showers of Blessings?
I am writing this newsletter from my hotel room in Huron, South Dakota. As I look out the window it is raining again, the last thing this town needs.
I came here to perform three nights of dinner theater–a fundraiser for James Valley Christian School. The school is located along the banks of the James River which is currently about 10 ft. above flood stage. I experience a bit of deja vu, as it was just last year that I lost my own office due to flooding.
The day before I arrived the school was evacuated as volunteers began filling sandbags, working furiously to repair and reinforce a leaking dike. Governor Bill Janklow of South Dakota flew in by helicopter. He ordered in the National Guard and inmates from the prison to work around the clock to save the school. That was Wednesday, it is now Saturday… they are still working and the river has not crested.
The dinner theater has gone on without a hitch. It was to have been held in the gymn at the school but had to be moved to one of the churches in town. This was no easy task–but the town rallied together to make it happen. The the entire gymn had been decorated in a giant murral depicting the town of Raymond, the setting for In His Steps. This was transfered to a church fellowship hall. Huron University volunteered their kitchen to prepare the food for the almost 900 who would attend the presentations.
The school has held a dinner theater for several years as their fundraiser. Normally it is a big production with a cast of 20 to 30 people. This year they decided to take a break and bring in someone else to do the program. One of the committee members read about me in Guideposts and made contact.
God’s divine intervention is so obvious to them now. Had they tried to do the full scale productions of past years the relocation would have been a major obstacle. But even more encouraging is that the message of In His Steps is a powerful affirmation to these people who are a living answer to the challenge of the story: What would Jesus do?
The Lord has been lifted up through this whole ordeal. Some are fighting exhaustion and the stress of the situation is evident. Yet, instead of tempers flaring and a host of complaints people are smiling and remarkably upbeat. The example of the people of this community has made an impact on so many, including me, The Governor has noticed, the prison inmates have noticed. They have turned a disaster into an opportunity to share Christ’s love with others.
Sunday, April 6
As I began my performance last night the rain had turned to snow. The wind was picking up and before the evening ended we were in the middle of a South Dakota blizzard with winds clocking over 70 miles per hour. The wind was blowing to the north causing white capped waves to come crashing into the dike protecting the school. To the people of Huron it was like the punchline to a cruel joke
This morning as the blizzard continues to rage, I am to perform at a Sunday morning worship at one of the churches in town. Most of the churches have cancelled their services, yet mine is still on. I perform Pillars for a group of 15 gracious people. The latest word is that the dike is still holding. Later that day, as the blizzard is dying down, I go to get a bite to eat at the local Pizza Hut. Someone recognizes me from the dinner theater: “Did you hear about the school?” they ask.
“No,” I reply.
“The dike broke and the school is now under 7ft of water.”
The people invite me to sit with them. They are remarkably positive in the midst of this news. They are closely connected to the school yet seem to take this news in stride.
One could certainly ask all kinds of theological questions here: Why? Did God cause this to happen? Or did He just allow it? Could God have prevented it? I think I’ll let the theologians figure it out.
Me? I am struck again by the attitude of these people–they are far from hopeless. I am reminded that “all things work together for good, for those who love the Lord.” There is a line in In His Steps that seems quite fitting. Henry Maxwell is talking about God’s love as being “tangible–in one of the only ways it really can be–through our actions.”
Tomorrow, if I can get to the airport, I’ll fly home. But I will remember Huron, S.D. as a place where I saw a tremendous demonstration of God’s love lived out.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments