Whether we like it or not, movies are shaping the worldview and values of our children, grandchildren and young Christians. We can either shake heads and throw up our hands in frustration, or use film to teach. A dozen times in my ministry, I’ve gathered young men together for pizza and a movie, and used films to teach.
While there are a growing number of quality Christian films being produced, most younger people are wary of them. And most of them are just painfully bad. So, I don’t use most “Christian” films. I’d prefer first quality, made in Hollywood films, or those few Christian films with great actors.
Jesus taught using parables. In fact, Matthew 13:34 says this, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable.” So, while movies today are a lot edgier than Jesus’ stories, the basic principle is the same. Let the story teach and the memory of the story, reinforce that teaching.
When I watch these films for teaching purposes, I will often have a brief discussion ahead of time with my group, so they’ll be watching for certain themes (See my blog last week for some general themes that run through many films). So, here are a couple of my favorite movies for teaching, and why I like them and a brief outline of these themes for each.
I’ve met with lots of men who find Jesus intriguing. But they’re often scared to death that by becoming a Christian, they’ll become wimpy and domesticated. So, I’ll often begin by telling them what follows, to assuage their fear.
Have you noticed that nearly all the great stories follow the same story line? Things were once good, then something awful happens and someone or something evil destroys the good life, a hero rises up, risk his or her life, destroys the villain, rescues the situation, sets things right again, good triumphing over evil and they all live happily ever after. Think about it! From our childhood fairy tales The Shawshank Redemption, Braveheart, LeMiserables, Titanic, Star Wars, Gladiator and Lord of the Rings, this story line holds true. Why do you think that is?
It’s because all of these stories borrow their power from the Grand Story woven into the fabric of our being. It’s the storyline of the Bible. It’s part of our spiritual DNA! Humans were created in the image of God and every person no matter how far they’ve wandered from God knows that something is terribly wrong with this world. We long for someone or something to rescue us from whatever, or whoever it is that frightens us, or holds us captive. And every man dreams of being the hero, rescuing others from injustice and evil and winning the respect of our peers. This is the story line of our dreams. It’s the storyline of what God wants for you as well!
Every man knows he’s hard-wired to live this adventure;
But first, he must be rescued!
About a year ago, I began meeting with a young businessman. This guy was bright, good looking, educated, very successful and he was spiritually lost. He just didn’t “get it!” (The gospel that is.) Perhaps you’ve had the same experience. The following are a few of my observations and my advice, if you truly want to understand what it takes to “break the code” of a person who has little interest in Jesus. Interspersed in this blog are specific ideas to overcome some of these barriers.
Almost everyone I know became serious about following Jesus after they had a crisis of faith – cancer. Why? Because it’s easy to be a religious Christian until something “unfair” happens to you, or you have to make a choice that truly tests your faith.
“Crisis’ of faith” comes in two forms.
1. A loss that appears to be totally unfair.
I’ve sat with men whose wives have had an affair, who’ve lost a job they loved, or lost everything they owned in a bad investment, or failed business. Everything in them, including the evil one, is whispering, “you trusted God. You tried to live faithfully. But he failed you.” I addressed this type of crisis of faith in this blog, The Things You Should Never Trust God For. (http://bit.ly/Y97AUz) However, this blog deals primarily with a second type of faith-testing experience.
2. A “crisis of faith” can also be a major decision that we are reasonably certain God is calling us to make, which will cost us something we really value.
It may be a decision you’re facing regarding a simpler lifestyle; eliminating debt; your relationships with a parent who has deeply hurt you; an ethical decision that could cost you your job; the forgiveness of an unfaithful spouse; a sacrificial gift; the leadership of a ministry; or the unconditional love of a difficult child, friend, or even a stranger.
A crisis of faith decision is larger than the daily obedience or sin choices each of us make because it will usually alter the way we live!
Here’s how this type of a crisis of faith generally evolves: As we grow in spiritual maturity and in our understanding of some of the deeper truths of God, we become increasingly aware that the normal Christian life is a journey of faith steps, or decisions. Each choice we make is an indicator to God and ourselves of how much we really love and trust him.
Occasionally, we are confronted with a major decision that requires us to seriously examine what it truly means to live by faith. Sometimes it begins when a truth from scripture hits us head on and we are convicted that we have not been obedient in that area of our life. It can also begin when an opportunity or trial comes our way that forces us to evaluate what it really means to trust God and live for God.
While it’s true, there is an excitement about living on the edge for God, it’s also true that it is scary to consider the real cost or implications of obedience. This fear often causes us to initially dismiss the idea. But the Holy Spirit will usually come back repeatedly and remind us of his will in this matter and then he waits to see the strength of our convictions and character.