Thinking Out Loud

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

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.


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