Last week I spent some time in our local upper elementary school, Cooper Elementary. I had been invited to participate in their Leadership Day. They initiated a student leadership program a few years ago based on Stephen Covey’s book. The Leader in Me. And, for the last three years, they invite leaders from the community to come and see what is happening within the walls of their school. I was impressed!
We have been trying to make a connection with this school so that we could encourage the teachers & students. Yet, I was the one who was encouraged. The teachers and administration have taken Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and applied them to their school curriculum. Every aspect of teaching includes these leadership principles. They have, in effect, empowered the students to be responsible for themselves and to hold one another accountable.
I watched as these 5th and 6th graders showed more leadership skills than many adults. They were involved in the school leadership at every level. They had a fully developed student council. They had established accountability partners. And they were tracking and setting goals for themselves in each major life area. I had to keep reminding myself they were only eleven and twelve years old!
In the last portion of the day, we had an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with a few of the students. Each student would explain their Leadership Binders to us. Each binder told a story of what was happening in their lives and how they were taking responsibility for their choices. These students confidently engaged me as an adult. They took ownership of their lives and their choices. I began to ask them questions that were “off topic”. I asked them questions like “what are you reading right now” and “what is your strongest/most challenging subject”. I was impressed with how they were able to go with the flow of the conversation. They gave thoughtful answers rather than canned responses. They had learned to think and reason and make good choices.
Now, to be fair, these children were still children. They gave developmentally appropriate responses. They still get in trouble. They are still immature pre-teens. But I saw that our children have more potential than we think they do. They want to be empowered to make good choices. And they want to believe they have some control over their future. I think we owe it to this generation to empower & believe in them.
I am encouraged today that our world still has a future. God is not finished with us yet. And He desires to give all of us a hope and a future. Let’s win in 2014 by encouraging this next generation to be the leaders God has destined them to be.
Last week, I took my daughter to see God’s Not Dead on opening day. I am not a movie buff and I usually wait until movies come out on DVD. Call me cheap! I paid $12 for popcorn! I had no intention what so ever in seeing this film. Actually, it was Kevin Sorbo (Professor Raddison) who drew my attention. I figured if he could pull off Hercules…And he did make the film a worthwhile trip.
My review comes from the perspective of a Christian pastor. But also from the perspective of a former atheist. I was 22 years old before I heard the Gospel or opened the Bible. I walked into my first church completely unfamiliar with the culture of evangelicalism. And it is still foreign to me on most days. So I went to see this movie through the eyes of my former atheist self. And I have to be honest, it stunk!
I want to give it some credit. It had better acting than most Christian films. Kevin Sorbo did a great job as the professor (and he is pretty good looking…can I admit that as a pastor?). I mean, he was Hercules! They also had some well-acted supporting roles. In a particular scene, a woman discovers she has cancer. The actress really does a fantastic job conveying the pain, confusion, and loneliness she is feeling.
On the other hand, it is very predictable and cheesy in some places. They even met their dead-bed conversion quota for the film. I wanted to see something radical and out of the ordinary. The closest they come is having Josh’s girlfriend leave him over his “radical” faith.
But I had two major reactions to this film.
1. My daughter was inspired to live for Christ at a deeper level.
My daughter is 14 years old. Any movie that can inspire her toward faith or her future is worth the money. The best thing I took from this film was a chance to listen to her heart as she talked about her faith in Christ. I would go see it again for that reason alone. If you are looking for a conversation starter with a nominal Christian, this is it. It is not a movie designed to convince atheists they are wrong. It is a movie designed to help the undecided make a decision.
2. My daughter and I were equally appalled by our fellow Christians viewing the film with us.
There is a scene where Josh (the college student) asks his professor why he is so angry at God. He pushes Sorbo’s character into a corner (so to speak) and the professor finally confesses that “yes, I hate God! He took everything that I ever cared about from me”.
Josh responds with saying, “How can you hate Someone who doesn’t exist”?
The student’s words reverberated through the theater followed by a burst of applause and “Amen”s. I was disgusted, embarrassed, and broken as I sat their feeling the pain of my former atheist self. The professor had just confessed to pain and anger and unbelievable hurt. Yet, here, the Christians sat applauding their “win” rather than feeling his pain.
In that scene, the movie became exactly what I thought it would be: an opportunity for Christians to strut around with their spiritual arrogance completely void of an ability to “mourn with those who mourn”. We are more interested in rubbing our prowess in someone’s face than we are in being “wounded healers”.
My heart ached for the professor because he is a real person somewhere. He is someone who has been wounded. He is someone who is lonely and confused and in pain. He is me twenty some years ago!
If you are a Christian, I hope you will take the time to see the movie. If you are not a Christian, I hope you will take the time to see the movie also…just wait until it comes out on DVD.
Keep winning in 2014!
Autumn has arrived and it is a breath of fresh air. It is the season of change. It is interesting how many of us enjoy autumn, but not seasons of change. We typically fight change every step of the way. I think we fight it because it is usually forced upon us. But what if we made the decision to change? What if change was a choice?
In the month of October, we will spend time discussing what it means to make healthy life choices. We may not be able to change the past, but we do have a choice about our future. We can choose to make changes that will improve our relationships, our health, and our lifestyles. We can choose to be victors rather than victims. We can choose to break generational cycles of pain and dysfunction. We can choose a life that is good and pleasing to God. And we can choose happiness.
Join us in October and take control of your future. Come learn how to make healthy life choices that will impact you and the people in your life. Come learn what Jesus meant when He said He has come to give us abundant life.