Thinking Out Loud

May 9, 2014

Curriculum Review: AHA by Kyle Idleman

AHA Church Kit - Kyle Idleman - City on a Hill ProductionsAfter veering off into a more documentary style with the small group curriculum for Kyle Idleman‘s Gods at War, City on a Hill Productions returns to the cinematic type of production it does best: an integrating of multiple dramatic story lines with direct teaching. AHA: Awakening.Honesty.Action takes a modern look at the story of The Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel and has the courage to suggest that not every wayward son who has a moment of clarity while feeding the pigs actually makes it back home.

I thoroughly enjoyed watching all six episodes. The video clips run about a half hour each. The acting is superb to the point where I wondered, with all the Christian movies releasing lately, if City on a Hill ought to be reaching for an even wider audience.

There are various applications to this curriculum. So far, Idleman, the teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky has released three books and three videos, plus the H20 video series (see the review linked below) which landed him on our radar. So that leaves you with several choices, and these are just my suggestions:

  • If I were working with new Christians or even seekers for whom the story of The Lost Son in Luke is foreign, I would probably use the video.
  • If I were working with people who have been Christians for awhile, I might do the book study.
  • If I were working with people who have been in small groups for a fair amount of time, and like to think and like to discuss, I would do the video.

The video really provoked some thought when we watched it as a family in ways that the book didn’t. And like the parable, not everybody lives happily ever after. But the book is excellent by itself as I stated earlier this year.  And the curriculum possibilities get even more complex:

  • The church kit comes with a leader’s guide and a journal. You could simply watch the videos, have a weekly discussion, and a small homework assignment for the following week.
  • You can also get a journal for each group member, for which a sample is included. It provides a day-by-day writing assignment between group meetings, so the teaching content remains fresh when the group reconvenes and there is opportunity for personal transformation.

If you’ve been around the church for any length of time, you might argue there’s nothing new here. In many respects, Idleman’s Gods at War covered material also found in Tim Keller’s Counterfeit Gods or Pete Wilson’s Empty Promises and AHA is reminiscent of Keller’s Prodigal God which Idleman quotes at one stage in both the book and the video.

But Jesus’ parable in Luke offers limitless applications; it’s the story that keeps on giving.

[Note: This is a review of the Small Group Kit; AHA is also available for a teaching series in your local church in a Pastor's Kit, which is an entirely different product containing only short video clips at a much lower price.]

At the end of the last episode, we watched a couple of the features which clearly reveal the hearts of the director and cast. They are truly committed to excellence. Honestly, I can’t wait to see where City on a Hill Productions goes next. I leave you with their corporate tagline:

Story is the language of our Hearts
Media is the language of our times
We use both to share Jesus with the world

February 28, 2014

Kyle Idleman Returns with AHA

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:59 am

AHA Kyle IdlemanAs I’ve confessed elsewhere on this blog, since the inception of the H20 video discipleship course, I’ve been a huge fan of the preacher from Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kyle Idleman. The book Not a Fan stayed on bestseller lists over much of both 2012 and 2013, but then the sophomore book project, Gods at War didn’t seem to resonate with audiences as much.

So I’m happy to say that Kyle Idleman is back on top with AHA: Awakening Honesty Action, with a new publisher, David C. Cook. AHA covers a wide swath of Bible narrative, but at its core, it’s about the young man we know as The Prodigal Son. This in itself raises the question, is Kyle tracking Timothy Keller’s book subjects — AHA vs. The Prodigal God and Gods at War vs. Counterfeit Gods — or is this just a coincidence?

Either way, AHA firmly establishes Kyle’s firm-but-gentle style of Bible exposition that includes humorous and intimate moments.

As I’ve already blogged about the book a few weeks ago, I simply wanted to post something as the book’s official release approaches, as I think this is going to be one of the major releases of the first half of 2014. To me, AHA epitomizes what a Christian living title is all about, and whether you read it devotionally over the course of two weeks (as I did) or read it in one day, you will certainly benefit from its insights and will be aware of our common need to move from spiritual self-discovery to taking action steps.

June 6, 2013

Kyle Idleman – Gods at War: The Video

Gods at War Video CurriculumThe Gods at War video curriculum is a six-week, interactive, DVD-driven Bible study for small groups that can be offered in a 90-minute weekly format, or if the group is time-constrained, in a 60-minute weekly format. The video clips themselves run 22 – 30 minutes. The curriculum is based on Idleman’s sophomore book with Zondervan by the same title, though the curriculum offers its own Follower’s Journal which retails for $9.99 US; therefor it isn’t necessary that group members read the book, although some will want to.

The Gods at War video teaching series is one of five major DVD-based church resources released from City on a Hill Productions to feature Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky; however unlike the Not a Fan and H20 group studies This one abandons the cinematic style that had him teaching on location and doesn’t have any scripted dramatic vignettes or story line. Instead, the teaching is interspersed with documentary style interviews with five individuals who have wrestled with various ‘gods’ in their past: Pleasure, love, money, power and self.

One of those interviews is with the late Chuck Colson, and that, as the saying goes was worth the price of admission. It’s a story about the lust for power that everyone needs to hear, not just Americans. But two of the interviews are with individuals, a woman and man respectively, who wrestled with same sex attraction and sexual addition and infidelity. For that reason, I suspect the DVD series may be a little to edgy for more conservative churches and/or certain teen groups. The intention is that for discussion purposes, small groups would split up into male and female subgroups, and in that context these portrayals are real, and honest, and probably a best fit for generating conversation.

The curriculum package retails for $59.99 US and contains a sample of the 208-page Gods at War Combat Journal — also available separately — which was written by Southeast’s Ross Brodfuehrer and offers two phases of processing the video material; as well as a 44 page leaders guide with discussion questions. The DVD also offers a 15-minute message from Kyle to group leaders with tips on managing discussion in a small group format, which should be required viewing for people using any DVD curriculum to lead a Bible study.  

The curriculum kit should not be confused with the Pastor’s Kit which retails for $29.99, not reviewed here, which is for pastors who want to teach through a six-week series on Sunday mornings and contains much shorter video clips.

With the Not a Fan book and video series still riding high on national sales charts, many churches looking for something else may want to move on to Gods at War. The book covers similar themes to Pete Wilson’s Empty Promises and Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods, but the video series is more distinct. While I missed the full movie treatment used in previous City on a Hill series — I referred to H20 as Alpha Course meets Nooma — I think this series has the potential to promote life change even among those of us who would never think that idolatry is a factor in our lives, even if its expression in our lives is more subtle than those in the featured interviews. 

Watch the series 2-minute trailer here.

February 4, 2013

The Other Gods We Worship

With his book Not a Fan currently riding high atop most lists of Christian bestsellers, Southeast Christian Church pastor Kyle Idleman is back with his second title, Gods at War: Defeating The Idols That Battle for Your Heart   (Zondervan).

This is a book about the various things in life we idolize, creating idols which compete with God who does not want to share top spot in our lives with anything else.  You get a sense of that in this excerpt, part of which reads:

…When we hear God say, “You shall have no other gods before me,” we think of it as a hierarchy: God is always in first place. But there are no places. God isn’t interested in competing against others or being first among many.

Gods at War - Kyle IdlemanGod will not be part of any hierarchy.

He wasn’t saying “before me” as in “ahead of me.” A Better understanding of the Hebrew word translated “before me” is “in my presence.”

God declines to sit atop an organizational flowchart. He is the organization. He is not interested in being president of the board. He is the board. And life doesn’t work until everyone else sitting around the table in the boardroom of your heart is fired. He is God, and there are no other applicants for that position. There are no partial gods, no honorary gods, no interim gods, no assistants to the regional gods.

God is saying this not because he is insecure but because it’s the way of truth in this universe, which is his creation. Only one God owns and operates it. Only one God designed it, and only one God knows how it works…

Kyle Idleman – Gods At War pp. 23-24

While there are definite echoes of things you’ve read elsewhere, Kyle is writing for a new generation of Christian book readers; possibly some for whom Not a Fan was even their first cover-to-cover read of a Christian title; and others who are or will be doing the related six-lesson curriculum study or will be watching the live simulcast on February 27th from City on a Hill Productions.

Kyle Idleman 2013He divides the various gods that compete for our affection and attention into three categories according to where we find them: In the temple of pleasure (food, sex, entertainment), in the temple of power (success, money, achievement), and in the temple of love (romance, family, self-worship). 

The book is a tapestry of contemporary and Biblical stories and for the current ones, QR codes and websites link you to original interview content on video. My only complaint is the lack of a wrap-up chapter, the book ended all too abruptly, but Kyle did warn us that the final god he considers is somewhat at the heart of all the others.

Watch a book trailer for Gods at War here

August 6, 2012

What Idols Do You Worship?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:18 am

For our Sunday sermon binge yesterday we stopped at Southeast Christian Church to hear another message from Kyle Idleman. He asked the congregation a series of questions that are worth considering:

The answer to these questions points to what might be God’s primary competition in our lives:

  1. What are you most disappointed with? or What do you complain about the most?
  2. What do you sacrifice your time and money for?
  3. What do you worry about?
  4. Where do you go when you get hurt; when life is hard? or Where do you go for comfort?
  5. What makes you mad, angry?
  6. What brings you the most joy?
  7. Whose applause do you long for?

Use this link and go to the sermon for 7/15 (week # 2 of the series)

June 17, 2012

Kyle Idleman: God Doesn’t Do Boxes

Filed under: theology — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:13 pm

This morning for Father’s Day my wife wrote a reading that involved some of the kids.  It was an abridged — and slightly Canadianized — version of the following sermon clip from Kyle Idleman at Southeast Christian Church.  (Link is to a generic sermon page.)  For my wife’s version see the comments section.

If you’ve never read the book Your God Is Too Small by J.B. Phillips, it’s a very concise book that deals with our misconceptions about God’s nature.  I’m also always reminded at times like this of this E. Stanley Jones quotation:

When say we begin with God, we begin with our idea of God, and our idea of God is not God.  Instead, we ought to begin with God’s idea of God, and God’s idea of God was Christ.

June 13, 2011

Not a Fan: The Fall Kickoff Study DVD You’re Looking For

Elsewhere on this blog I’ve reviewed the book by Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan.  If you haven’t read that, you might want to start with a general understanding of the major outline of the book, so just click here, and we’ll wait for you to get back.

…This, on the other hand is a review strictly of the six-part DVD-based study package available from City on a Hill Productions, and from retail stores which can order product through STL Distribution.

Since I’ve already devoted a lot of space on this blog to the H20 course, I want to make some comparisons, but again, if you’re not up to speed about H20 — which I always refer to as “the Alpha Course meets NOOMA” — you can click here for my review, and we’ll wait for you to get back.

…Wow.  Everybody back? So much to learn and we’re only four paragraphs in. But don’t let my meanderings cause you to miss my full endorsement:  This is a very high quality DVD production that is going to generate serious discussion and bring about some equally serious life change in people willing to take the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23 seriously and put them into practice.  In fact, I’d say that if you’re looking for some adult, college and career, or senior high curriculum to kick off the fall schedule, this is the the product to very seriously consider at the top of your list.

The similarities to H20 are many.

  • Same high quality of cinematography
  • The same mixing of storylines and teaching segments, some of which directly overlap
  • Same length per segment, at least 23 minutes min. and 34 minutes max.
  • Kyle Idleman, who has the ability to look at the camera like he’s looking at you, and you’re the only person in the world at that moment

The differences are worth nothing:

  • While H20 is ten segments, Not a Fan is six mini-movie segments
  • While H20 films present a variety of stories, Not a Fan is one continuous story
  • While H20 segments can be shown in a variety of sequences, Not a Fan episodes should be used in the order they are presented

Time for some of the DVD creators summary:

Jesus is NOT looking for fans…

He’s looking for followers.
Followers who understand that…

There is no forgiveness without repentance.
There is no salvation without surrender.
There is no life without death.
There is no believing without following.

Twenty times in the New Testament, Jesus Christ issued a compelling and challenging invitation: “Follow Me.”  Jesus is not interested in mere fans.  He doesn’t want enthusiastic admirers.  He wants completely committed followers.   Built around the engaging approach of Kyle Idleman, Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, this one of a kind small group study examines what it means to deny one’s self and truly follow Jesus.

…Participants follow the journey of Eric Nelson, a man leading a compartmentalized triple life as a pleasure-seeking rebel, a cutthroat corporate executive, and a nominal Christian.  But when confronted with a near death experience, Eric embarks on a spiritual journey that transforms his commitment to Jesus Christ and tests the faith of his friends and family.

The storyline mentioned above with Eric Nelson is unique to the curriculum and not found in the book.  It’s safe to say here — it’s not a spoiler if it happens in the first five minutes — that this is a movie that is centered around a death, and as such it is a much more emotionally weighty production than H20.  The subject matter, the use of background music, even the fact that Kyle Idleman wears black throughout most of the production; all these combine to create a number of extremely evocative moments, playing perhaps on our past memories or our greatest fears.  Maybe for some the first episode will be an unexpected “downer;” but to do otherwise is to miss the whole point of the scripture verse on which the teaching is based.

Personally, I don’t think anyone can do this series and ever read Luke 9:23 the same again.  (My youngest son and I had both read the book cover-to-cover before watching the DVD, so we’re twice as aware of all that is implied in denying yourself and taking up your cross on a daily basis…)

The series comes with a leader’s guide and a 42-day, 160-page participants (followers) guide, of which extras may be purchased individually for $9.99.

I want to end this on a different note, however.

Because the Not a Fan DVD is essentially one two-and-a-half hour movie, I want to suggest an alternative way that this could be used effectively.  I’d like to suggest that, using the material in the leader’s guide as a discussion guide, Not a Fan would also make an excellent retreat program in lieu of a guest speaker.  For example:

  • Friday night: Session one
  • Saturday morning:  Session two
  • Saturday after lunch: Session three
  • Saturday after supper:  Session four
  • Saturday later evening: Session five
  • Sunday morning: Session six

I know this isn’t what the creators had in mind, but I think there could be some serious impact by showing it all at once, while the storyline and segments are all fresh and memory, and everyone in the “group” is in attendance for all the various  parts.  Of course, the traditional and intended format — using the 42-day guide — will work well, too. 

…I just finished re-watching some of the final episode before completing this, and was reminded of the multiple story lines I didn’t realize I’d been following.  Again, I’d write more, but don’t want to spoil anything.  Best just to say: This is a really well produced resource that shouldn’t be overlooked by churches, if for no other reason than that it has, at its heart, the core of the gospel.

Click this link to see a preview, and a message from Kyle to pastors and group leaders.


January 10, 2009

H2O: An Alternative to the Alpha Course for a New Generation

Filed under: bible, Christian, Christianity, Faith, Jesus, theology — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 1:37 pm

This post was originally written in late February. This week, Thomas Nelson Publishing is re-launching the H20 course described here, for which it purchased the rights from Standard Publishing, so it seemed like a good time to compare the course with Alpha, a commodity with which most of you are familiar…

h2oAs a general rule, resources come and go, so we’re always looking for new things to recommend to people. A couple of years back we were sent a demo DVD in a plain cardboard package from Standard Publishing of Ohio, promoting a new evangelism course called H20. Right away I knew we were on to something good. The best way to define the program is to compare it another evangelism course, The Alpha Course with Nicky Gumbel.

Similarities

* Both deal with the core doctrines of Christianity
* Both use a 20-30 minute DVD clip as the centerpiece
* Both are designed to be best presented around the fellowship of a meal over a ten week (H2O) or twelve week (Alpha) period
* Both recommended a couple of episodes towards the end be presented around a retreat weekend

Differences

* While Alpha features Nicky Gumbel in a kind of “talking head” lecture format, H20 scripts are presented against the background of dramatic, feature film quality narratives
* H20 host Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY definitely skews to a younger audience

* A supplemental video series called Storm is available for loan out for people who want more depth and is presented in a form more similar to Alpha, but isn’t part of the H20 weekly presentations
* While they are available, H20 doesn’t lend it self as strongly towards the use of study workbooks; in fact it might appeal best to a generation that would be turned off by that approach.

The person who gave me the original demo disc suggested that H20 could best be described as “Alpha meets Nooma” referring to the series of 18 or so teaching clips featuring Rob Bell. The comparison is certainly valid.

In the two years since however, we’ve only recently been able to get a church in our local area to sponsor a showing of H20. It’s a shame that such a quality resource — each episode would have cost ten to twenty times the cost of an Alpha episode — continues to be relatively unknown in the Christian community. No wonder they say that a high percentage of the cost of books and CDs is marketing. (And no wonder that so many authors eventually gravitate to companies like Thomas Nelson, who can force product sales through the pipeline.)

We hosted a media day for pastors and leaders in January of 2007. Many of the people came from greater distances (one of whom bought the course) but few people from our own county showed up. Then this fall, we did a leadership track presentation, showing 2-3 episodes per night over four Mondays. There was a great response among those present, but we’ve resigned ourselves to the idea that when it comes to new innovations, our influence is extremely limited. Just as parishioners won’t read anything their pastor (or Benny Hinn or James Robison) doesn’t tell them to; so also are pastors and leaders reluctant to try anything that doesn’t have momentum or isn’t sanctioned by their denominational headquarters. Sigh!

This is a quality resource that a forward-thinking church simply can’t afford not to look at. It holds the highest likelihood for connecting with a seeking person in their 30s, 20s or even teens.

As we typed this, we discovered that the fantastic preview site Standard had for this resource is no more; and the Thomas Nelson website promotion of this product is not yet. If anyone knows when a preview site is going live, please let us know in the comments section.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Tim for giving us this YouTube link in the comments section.

The Silver is the New Black Theme. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.