Thinking Out Loud

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.


May 23, 2011

Book Review: Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

I believe what we’re looking at here is a book that has the potential to pick up where books like Crazy Love by Francis Chan and Radical by David Platt left off and move us to the next level of commitment.

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman is one of those “Snakes on a Plane” type of titles; since once you’ve seen the cover, you know exactly where the story is headed.  There were people in Jesus’ day, just as there are in ours, who are fans but not followers.  End of synopsis.  The book consists in accurately delineating the difference.

But I am, in fact a fan — of the author, teaching pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky and host of the brilliant but underrated H20 video evangelism series, Kyle Idleman; which is why I begged the people at Zondervan to toss me a freebie of this one, which, I can now say, I would have gladly paid for anyway.

Just as the ten short films in the H20 collection cut back and forth between teaching and story, Not a Fan cuts back and forth between Bible narrative and illustrations from people Kyle has known, including some very candid stories from his own life and family.

The book begins in an off-hand, light-hearted way, using occasional footnotes suggestive perhaps of an ADD or ADHD author who is his own worst distraction.  But there’s nothing light at all about the book, which sets the bar high in terms of what Christ followership implies.  If anything, the relatability of the author, including some rather self-deprecating moments, leave you totally unprepared for the moments where the hammer falls in terms of truly deciding if you’re a follower or a fan.

The first seven chapters include snapshots from the gospels of people at various levels of intimate relationship with Jesus.  The next four chapters are a superlative breakdown of Luke 9:23–

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

— while the last three chapters continue to explore the implications of that theme.  For the last seven chapters in total, it rolls out this way:

  • Anyone: No list of pre-qualifications or character references required
  • Come After: Pursuing God with passion; with abandon
  • Deny: What happens when it costs everything to be a follower
  • Dying Daily: Taking up your cross today, tomorrow, and the next day
  • Wherever: It’s probably not where you think
  • Whenever: Right here, right now, no excuses
  • Whatever: No second thoughts

Each of the 14 chapters ends with a testimony of someone who wishes to stand up and be counted as being “Not a fan.”  Honestly, if you can live out everything this book challenges us to do and to be, there ought to be button you remove or a sticker you peel off on the last page to demonstrate your desire to make that same commitment. 

I am giving this book my unqualified full endorsement as the book to read in the summer of 2011.  But I want to go beyond that; I want to suggest that Not a Fan is the book for house church, small group or adult elective study for the fall.  You can combine chapters one and two to create a 13-week curriculum out of this, if you have to stick to a quarterly schedule.  Others may want to take even longer to flesh out the implications of Luke 9:23 and what Jesus truly intended when he said, “Follow me.”

My name is Paul Wilkinson, and by God’s grace, and with God’s help, I am not a fan.

Read an excerpt of the book posted here on May 1st and another at Christianity 201 on May 11th.

September 22, 2010

Wednesday Link List


The links are back!   Here are some highlights of my past seven days online…

  • The upper picture is another classic entry from the classic photo site, Shorpy.com; which I’ve mildly colorized.    It’s an auditorium in Ocean City, NJ set up for a revival meeting sometime in the time period 1900 – 1910.   Click here or  on the image all the way through for a full size image.  (It’s my computer desktop this week!)
  • Donald Miller explains why, for now, the movie based on the Thomas Nelson book Blue Like Jazz isn’t happening.
  • Elsewhere in film production, City on a Hill, the people who brought you the Alpha-Course-alternative known as H20 have brought Kyle Idleman back to host  a new series titled Not a Fan.
  • Bill Mounce wades into the subject of accuracy in Bible translations in the first of a weekly series.
  • Randy Morgan gives you an inside peek into the world of pastors, and how and why the whole guest speaker thing occasionally happens.
  • Okay, that fun, but maybe it was a little superficial; so do this instead:  Click on Randy’s home page, and scroll back to September 13th and then check out his five-part series on his visit to the local AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) chapter.   Long, but worth it, especially if you have family or personal history with AA.
  • Link list links

    Preparing for the upcoming Eighth Letter conference in Toronto, Matt at the blog, The Church of No People, delivers his pressing message for the church in North America.

  • It’s 7-pages long, but Christianity Today gets into depth on the church’s relationship with sex offenders.
  • CNN boldly goes into a full scientific explanation for what happened when Moses parted the Red Sea.
  • A repost of a classic poem asks the question What would He say, if He should come today?    Also at Christianity 201, the Love Chapter from I Corinthians rewritten for kids; and something borrowed from David Hayward, aka Naked Pastor.
  • Following in the tradition of Russell D. Moore — who this week deals with a tough dilemma — and inspired by the Desiring God video series, Randy Alcorn is inviting questions at Ask Randy; but the deadline is today, Wednesday the 22nd.
  • Zach at Take Your Vitamin Z linked this week to this New York Times article which is self explanatory:  Deciding Not To Screen for Down Syndrome.
  • Seen something online you think should be here next week?   Try to get to me by noon on Tuesday.
  • Well…choosing a cartoon for this week’s list was no contest after Abraham Piper reminded all of us of this classic:  Solomon’s ideal woman as reflected in Song of Solomon interpreted literally; just as it appeared all those years ago at The Wittenburg Door.

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