Weekend Teaching Series: Hollywood Jesus (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Our identity must be in Christ or we will feel alone, fall and believe the lies of the world.
Service Length: 62 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we wrapped up the Hollywood Jesus series – using clips from a movie to help illustrate biblical concepts. This week Travis Prouty spoke in HSM, and chose Muppets in Space as his movie. He used several clips of the movie and weaved a talked about our identity in Christ throughout. My favorite moment was when he talked about how insecure he was growing up as a missionary kid in China and on top of that being home-schooled as a kid. Great vulnerability and helped students easily relate to their own insecurities and identity issues. It was his first time speaking to that many students, and he did a great job.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a fun video we made last year called Parker Don’t Shoot and had a great new game using the Nerf Bazooka. Students had to shoot at cup targets around the room and win a gift card. As a surprise bonus, students who sat around the targets (risking getting hit by the bazooka) got to keep the cups at the end of the game and get a free Coke after the service!

Music Playlist: Man ha Man ha Man ha (Muppets cover), The Earth is Yours, Christ in Me, Avalanche, What Would I Have Done

Favorite Moment: For sure this weekend’s highlight (and lowlight, honestly) was saying goodbye to Hope – a bittersweet goodbye to such an incredible part of our team. She served as an intern for the past 2 years and has grown dramatically as a pastor and woman of God. I am SO proud of her – at each service we laid hands on her and prayed for her future as she wraps up her internship.

Up next: Worship Together Weekend #3

I love movies. As in, I’ve watched 85 films already this year, which averages to around 3 a week, if my math is correct. Some might call me a movie snob; I prefer the term “cinephile.” While one could argue that film is a big waste of time and money, I believe filmmakers are theologians of sorts. They tell us stories that both reflect and shape our cultural values, including our views of humanity and God. The movie theater becomes a sanctuary, a 2-hour respite from the summer heat and boredom. In the youth ministry world, movie theaters–alongside malls–become the centers of summer activity for many of our students.

Your students are not only watching movies this summer, their views are being inherently shaped by them whether they realize it or not. Students tend to approach films in one of three ways. Some are sponges–they mindlessly soak up anything and everything that a film offers, including messages and values that are intrinsically unBiblical. Others are funnels–they mindlessly avoid all cinema (and all other media, for that matter) and let it slide past them due to its supposed sinfulness. Finally, some are sieves (or colanders, or strainers, or whatever word you prefer for that thing you use when making spaghetti!)–they wisely filter which movies to watch or avoid, using a Biblical filter for discerning the messages that films are presenting, and critiquing films based on Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.

People don’t become sieves on their own. Students need wise and discerning people to watch movies with them in order to have conversations that go deeper than, “yeah, that was a cool movie.” They need someone who will take them to a film, then take them out for ice cream or coffee afterwards in order to intentionally have that spiritual conversation. They need someone who will expose them to films that reflect the beauty of our Creator that they might not otherwise watch. They need someone who will hold them accountable to the films that they watch, lest they become sponges like the majority of teens around them. They need to know why a film isn’t okay to watch, not just what is wrong with it.

So go watch a film. Invite some students along. And expect Jesus to show up at the movies with you.

Joel Mayward is first and foremost a follower of Jesus, which is the foundation for his love of his wife Katie, and son, Copeland. Joel loves pondering all the interconnections between film, theology, and youth ministry. He is the high school pastor at Red Mountain Community Church in Mesa, AZ. You can read his movie reviews and youth ministry musings on his blog.