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5 things I learned at the Jesus and the Shawshank Redemption Event

1. Films are a shared language

I am trying to follow the lead of Tolkien and Lewis in exploring the way that:

The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.

Mythopeia

There is such a thing as common grace, the echo of eternity in the stories of our times. Paul in the Areopagus, John with his usage of Logos, Justin Martyr, C.S. Lewis, France Schaeffer and many other men and women in between have built cultural bridges for the gospel to travel over.

There are ofcourse snags in using movies although a the majority of the students had seen the movie, I spoke with an Indonesian student who had not seen the film which made the use of the film as a common language a little difficult. Working out how to make a talk work which engages with the film at a deep level with people that haven’t seen the movie is at the moment beyond me. I tend to run out of time to explore the film, our culture, the gospel and its implications and be interactive. So it might be a juggling act I need to more practice with (let me know if I can come and have another go in your context ;o) ).

I wrote a fuller piece on the use of film as a shared language here.

2. Jesus is Global

Love the fact that London is such a cosmopolitan city. Enjoyed the opportunity of talking with students from Indonesia, Hong Kong, America and Argentina. In fact the UCCF staff did a great job in making sure “to honour interational guests” at the event that the Bible readings have been done bilingually.

Questions that came from international students tonight

“How does prayer work?” – Indonesia
“What about the dinosaurs?” – Germany
“Is there any point trying to be good? Hong Kong

Still haunted by the question from a Chinese student yesterday “Isn’t Christianity just for western people – does it really have anything to offer the rest of the world?”

3. Interactivity and Expositional preaching are compatible

Jesus was often interactive as a preacher, yet there is strong resistance in some circles for preaching to have an interactive element. Some say it devalues the preaching event others (Driscoll and Piper can’t possibly be interactive as they are using prerecorded sermons broadcast in another time slot in a venue where they are not present…. See here for more details). But I believe there is something meaningful both in our cultural context and if pushed theologically on the interaction of scripture, Spirit, speaker and audience.

Been struggling with the time issue – would normally have liked to have made the engagement with the biblical text the interactive part – instead used the ideas of the film the interactive part… Maybe tomorrow.

4. Sometimes sorry is the hardest word

I preached from Luke 11 on Jesus’ challenge to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and God’s desire for authentic worship that involved compassion for the poor, the pursuit of justice and not just intellectual or ritual assent to religious externals. I apologised for the times when the church has abused its power and become judgemental and oppressive like the Pharisees. I called Christians and seekers to consider what it is to follow Christ in word and deed.

5. Leave room for rational and experiential apologetics

Because Shawshank has such a strong sense of aesthetic signals of transcendence I used that as a bridge point for exploring what theologians call the Sensus Divintatis. Because we are trying to communicate to students from across difference cultural contexts and because we are all wired differently we need to engage at all levels and use every tool that God has given us to engage head, heart and hands to experience the truth of the gospel.

Things I’d like to do better…

  1. Time Management

am trying to do lots of things at the same time – trying not to script the talks but allow the spirit, the mood of the room and wisdom to guide how we proceed through the material I have prepared. So watching the time is a challenge.

  1. Cultural reference

it’s a very international audience so making sure we reference more cultural connectors from different geographical contexts.

See also 5 Things I learned from Jesus and Lord of the Rings.

 

2 thoughts on “5 things I learned at the Jesus and the Shawshank Redemption Event”

  1. I have an American friend over here in Ukraine who has film nights in her home with Ukrainian students. She picks a film then they discuss the film in context of the Bible, life and how we should live it. This has been quite successful for her.

  2. hooray for Interactivity and Expositional preaching being compatible. Perhaps there should be more dating agencies for them.

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