C&L! Artist Interview: Phil Shorey from Suitcase Sideshow

I’ve always been a person that loves stories. Stories are powerful. They have the ability to inspire us or challenge us. They can change the way we view the world or motivate us to get out there and change the world ourselves. Storytelling is a vital part of Come&live!’s heart; we want to inspire you with the stories of our C&L! Artists.  Recently I got to sit down with Phil Shorey from the Suitcase Sideshow and hear what they’ve been up to, what God has been teaching them and to share some stories of how God has moved through their art.
Bernie Cowan

Bernie is a Steiger missionary located in Tauranga, New Zealand.

Website: www.comeandlive.com

I’ve always been a person that loves stories. Stories are powerful. They have the ability to inspire us or challenge us. They can change the way we view the world or motivate us to get out there and change the world ourselves. Storytelling is a vital part of Come&live!’s heart; we want to inspire you with the stories of our C&L! Artists. Recently I got to sit down with Phil Shorey from the Suitcase Sideshow and hear what they’ve been up to, what God has been teaching them and to share some stories of how God has moved through their art.

Tell us about Suitcase Sideshow - what is it? What do you guys do?

We have a travelling marionette theatre; it's called the Suitcase Sideshow. We use a portable stage that comes out of an old steamer trunk. It's a bit of a house for different productions. We’ve done the story of Saul’s conversion, blessed are the poor, and I’m currently developing a few new stories, the sailor in the boat, and you are special by Max Lucado.

We travel around; we go to the people. Homeless shelters, street corners, orphanages, theatres - anywhere there is a crowd. We have translated our shows into over ten languages. When we translate the show, we translate it into the modern culture and language of the Country we tour in.
So, for example, when we do a show in Poland, we translate the show into the Polish language and the Polish culture. So it is as if Jesus comes to Poland today. So Jesus interacts with a homeless man instead of a leper, he interacts with a prostitute, and he interacts with a politician instead of a tax collector.

We present our shows in a nostalgic, intimate and approachable way where there's space for conversation to happen as well as an invitation to receive Jesus into people's hearts. We’re very bold about giving people a chance to receive Christ into their hearts, and we see a lot of that, we also see people cry and get angry.  

What has God been teaching you recently?

God’s been showing me his faithfulness, and he always teaches me about not living a double life of touring and the mundane. He’s been teaching me how to push into God even in the mundane and everyday things that life has to offer. My tours are a lot different than rock and roll tours; they are a slower pace and very relational and very spiritually driven, I wish my whole life were like that. In the mundane of every day, I have to listen to God and hear him. It’s just different and sometimes it’s just harder. Trusting God in the mundane and the big tours is something that has been big for me.

How has God been speaking to you through scripture in this time?

“I am always with you, I never leave you nor forsake you, I am with you until the end of the age.”
It's simple, it's not super profound, but if you put it in context with all the seasons you go through, and apply it to the mundane of everyday life and touring it takes on new meaning.
We can overlook this because it’s just so simple, it’s so broad but if you put it in context to where the disciples were and in context to everyday life, it is powerful and meaningful because it totally goes against everything you often feel in the chaos and the struggle.

What is a story of someone who has been brought closer to Jesus as a result of what you guys are doing?

We did a show at Woodstock in Poland at a biker tent full of these tough bikers. We were the last act of the night in this tent; the bikers favourite band had just had like six encores, and they had to cut it off cause it was going to long.
So there we were, presenting our marionette puppet show to all these bikers. They got mad and were booing us because we were just totally crashing their night.

I tried addressing the crowd; they didn't listen. We played a little music; they hated it. But when we started playing the show the whole crowd just went quiet.

In our show 'Blessed are the Poor', the first act is all about the Pharisees prayer. It's creepy; it's scary, and we wanted it like that. Its the Pharisee saying how good he is and how much better he is than everyone else. So full of pride and it's just evil. It's really intense. We try to scare everyone and give everyone a taste of creepy marionettes.  That caught their attention; no biker left the tent, they watched a full  25-minute show that was openly about Jesus.

Afterwards, you could hear a pin drop. I preached the gospel and asked if people wanted to know Jesus. A few people came over, it wasn't a huge response, but the exciting response was in the reaction of the crowd, how God's word had just went out and impacted people. God has done a lot of great things, and he's kept us going.

What something that you’ve been encouraged or challenged by that we can share or you think would be encouraging or challenging to the C&L community?

One of the biggest fears that I hear from other artists isn't about being rejected or disliked but actually, "I’m afraid I’m going to give Christians/Jesus a bad name", or "I'm going to cause someone not to want to follow Jesus". As Christian artists, we tend to try to carry all that weight of stupid things Christians have done or have said. We think that, "We’ve got to be the hero, we've got to be the cool Christians! The ones that make people find Jesus and end up liking Christians".

We can quickly get this crippling fear that if you say it or do it the wrong way that you are doing more harm than good.
I just think that we shouldn't worry about that because it’s ultimately God who is impacting people, not us.
What I’m trying to say is that we have this fear that we’re going to mess it up and ruin it for someone's future walk with God. But we’re not the end all, God is.

It’s not our responsibility to win people it's just our responsibility to be the messenger of the gospel - the Holy Spirit does all the heart work.
We want to be the cool Christian, but we need to lay that down. Be the uncool Christian, be the idiot Christian, not in a mean sense, but be obedient.

Don't worry about if you're going to mess it up, or negatively affect someone's walk with God, just be obedient and bold; allow the Holy Spirit to dictate the results even if you don't see it or not. God has the end game for everybody, not you.

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