Ministry and Media
group magazine: November-December, 2005
Music: Kanye West
SONG: “Heard ‘Em Say” (from Late Registration)
THEME: People chase after material things, which don’t last.
BACKGROUND: Kanye West moves beyond hip-hop’s typical self-indulgent topics on Late Registration, the best mainstream rap album yet—unfortunately, it still has inappropriate language and songs that reference premarital sex. He’s enlisted pop maestro Jon Brion as co-producer to add adventurous textures such as classical, world, and pop without distracting from the album’s distinctly urban spirit. West’s amazing rhymes perfectly match the musical inventiveness and make you think while you laugh or cry. For example, he points out the true consequences of materialism on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix),” shining a light on the bloody civil war that rages over the diamonds that rappers and their fans buy. It’s a shame that West felt compelled to use the n-word throughout his album and to include two (nongraphic) sexual songs—even though these songs portray premarital sex as empty, undesirable, or unworthy. (Warning: Be sure to play the “Edited” version of this song.)
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What are some ways our society promotes the idea that “money is the key”? In your opinion, what’s the biggest benefit to having money and material possessions? Are there any drawbacks you can think of? Explain. Read aloud Deuteronomy 8:11-20. Ask: Why are material possessions such a lethal temptation for most people? How do you struggle most with materialism? What would a Christlike attitude toward material possessions look like?
SONG: “Stars” (from Nothing Is Sound)
THEME: The singer encourages those who are lonely to seek the Someone who cares for them.
BACKGROUND: Switchfoot doesn’t mess around with their multiplatinum formula for success—these guys know how to write hooks that stick. For example, the radio hit “Stars” begins with a Foo-Fighter-esque cacophony that builds to the band’s trademark clear vocals and bouncy beat, ending in a triumphant chorus that points to the sun/Son. Switchfoot obviously feels a sense of responsibility to turn their audience toward the Lord. They sing of loneliness, loss, and confusion, but with a sure sense of hope and meaning that includes answers. Nothing Is Sound is certain to build upon the success of Switchfoot’s last album, bringing light to our darkened radio dials.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What does the singer point to as a source of loneliness? Do you agree? Why or why not? When do you feel most lonely? How do you typically respond to loneliness? Does this help? Explain. Read aloud Psalm 68:4-6. Ask: How does loneliness affect a person? Does faith and trust in God always alleviate loneliness? Why or why not? What are some practical ways you can find comfort when you experience loneliness? offer comfort to others who are experiencing loneliness?
TV: Three Wishes (NBC, Fridays at 9:00 p.m.)
Amy Grant rolls into a small town, sets up a tent, and listens to the townspeople’s wishes, big and small. Then she and her team set to work to make three wishes come true by the end of the week. This TV show proves something good can come from the idiot box—helping needy people in tangible, life-changing ways. After you go through a box of tissues, you should be inspired to lead your own ministry in making a difference in the lives of those living in your community. Afterward, you can spark a discussion on how God answers our own wishes. People call out to God every day, and his responses range from an immediate, miraculous yes to seeming indifference and everything in between. Help your students make sense of God’s reponses to our requests.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What wish would you ask to have fulfilled? How would that wish coming true change life for the better? Do you feel as if your wish will ever be answered? Explain. Read aloud Matthew 7:7-12. Ask: How can these verses be true if we don’t get everything we pray for? How can God possibly “give good gifts” if he allows a sick person to die or suffering to continue? Where’s the love of God in these situations? Why should we continue to bring our requests to God even when it seems he isn’t answering? What one wish would you like prayer for?
Video: Coach Carter (PG-13)
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 49:1-4
CLIP LOCATION: 1:52:30 through 1:53:45* (DVD Chapter: 20)
SYNOPSIS: Kenyon tells Kyra about his scholarship and says that the school also wants to help her and the baby. Kyra reveals that there’s no longer any baby—she’s aborted it. She had a choice and it’s been made.
GOSPEL FILTER: Abortion is a lightning rod in our society that immediately creates high tension whenever it’s mentioned. Engage in a thoughtful discussion with your young people, giving them God’s heart on the matter rather than the radicalized sound bites from both sides that may be familiar to them from media reports.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What arguments do people give in support of abortion? Do you believe abortion is ever justified? Explain. What other choices has a person made before ending up in a situation where a decision about abortion is considered? Read aloud Isaiah 49:1-4. Ask: How are these verses used to oppose abortion? What medical or scientific reasons might a person have to oppose abortion? How do you think Jesus would want us to respond to someone who’s considering an abortion? to someone who’s had an abortion? How might the church better care for these people despite disagreements?
Video: Million Dollar Baby (PG-13)
SCRIPTURE: Psalm 100
CLIP LOCATION: 1:13:00 through 1:14:30* (DVD Chapter: 21)
SYNOPSIS: Maggie shows her mom and sister the house she’s bought them. Her mother gets upset—-saying that she’s going to lose her welfare checks and Medicaid! Maggie promises to send more money if they need it. Her mother can’t believe Maggie bought them a house without asking. She should’ve just given them the money.
GOSPEL FILTER: Does such boldfaced ingratitude seem incomprehensible to you? Well, that’s how we treat God every time we’re ungrateful. In the light of his tremendous blessings—most notably the sacrifice of his blessed Son on our behalf—our lives should be filled with continual expressions of gratitude.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What’s the most ungrateful thing you’ve ever seen or heard? What was your reaction at the time? What motivates people to respond to others with ingratitude? Read aloud Psalm 100. Ask: Why is it so important for Christians to be grateful in all circumstances? What basic things do all human beings have to be grateful about, no matter their current “material” situations? What prevents us from focusing on these fundamental blessings? What would help you keep an attitude of gratefulness as you go through the day? How might this change your direction in life? your relationships?
Video: Constantine (R)
SCRIPTURE: James 5:13-16
CLIP LOCATION: 11:30 through 12:45* (DVD Chapter: 4)
SYNOPSIS: Angela enters a confessional and admits to killing a man. She’s a cop and killed someone as part of her duty, but she feels guilty all the same. The priest assures Angela that God has a plan for her life and urges her not to let guilt overcome her faith.
GOSPEL FILTER: Confession is an important part of our spiritual journey. Having a regular time where we come clean to God and man about our shortcomings encourages positive Christian growth. Challenge your students not to shy away from God’s call to confess.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What’s the point of confessing sin that God’s already well aware of? What purpose does it serve? Read aloud James 5:13-16. Ask: Do we have to confess every sin we commit to other people? Why or why not? How can you make confession a more natural part of your routine? What positive effects might this have on your personal relationship with God? How can you keep your confessions, both directly to God or to other people, honest? Is there anything you need to confess right now? What’s preventing you from doing so?
Bryan Belknap is media editor for group Magazine. Visit our massive online resource www.MinistryandMedia.com for hundreds of Bryan’s biblical discussion starters based on popular movies, music, and videos.
Video Game: The Simpsons: Hit and Run (Rated: Teen)
SCRIPTURE: Colossians 3:12-14
LOCATION: In the third section of the game, this will be the second mission you undertake as Lisa Simpson. Lisa goes to the Noiseland Arcade and meets Milhouse. You can stop when Milhouse says, “It’s never a good time!”
SYNOPSIS: Lisa is searching for Bart, and Milhouse gives her various locations to check, but each time she arrives Milhouse is already waiting for her. This mission has a time limit, so you’ll want to practice it ahead of time to be sure you can complete it. Or choose a teenager who’s played the game before.
GOSPEL FILTER: Sometimes we’re so focused on our own concerns that we ignore people who may really need us. Teach teenagers that sometimes those “annoying” people who seem to constantly pop up are inviting us to be Jesus’ presence in their lives.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: Have you ever had someone in your life who kept popping up wherever you went? How did that make you feel? Have you ever popped up repeatedly in someone’s life? Explain. What were you feeling that made you want to be with that person? How did that person respond? Read aloud Colossians 3:12-14. What do these verses tell us about how we should treat those who come into our lives? Milhouse felt that Lisa never had time for him. Do you often find yourself not having time for certain people? If so, what’s typically the reason? Is it possible to give our time and attention to every person who approaches us? Why or why not? What are some practical ways you can show compassion to those who seek you out?
Scott Firestone IV, assistant editor for group Magazine, writes our video game discussion starters.
Coming Soon to Our Website, MinistryAndMedia.com
Walk the Line (PG-13)
Country music legend Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) rises from humble farmer to music star, getting involved in drug addiction and a torrid romance with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon).
King Kong (PG-13)
A director (Jack Black) and his film crew discover King Kong on Skull Island and bring the gigantic gorilla back with them to New York City.
The New World (NR)
Cultures collide in the 17th century when English explorer John Smith (Colin Farrell) falls in love with Native American maiden Pocahontas (Q’Orianka Kilcher).
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (PG)
Four children discover a magical world inside their wardrobe and join the forces of Aslan the Lion to fight against the evil rule of The White Witch (Tilda Swinton).
Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith (PG-13)
Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christiensen) succumbs to the Dark Side, leading an extermination of the Jedi and fighting his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor).
Batman Begins (PG-13)
After witnessing his parents’ murders, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) searches for the means to fight injustice, returning to Gotham City as...Batman.
An imaginative 7-year-old boy, Damian (Alex Etel), sets out to do good deeds after a duffel bag stuffed with money falls out of the sky and into his hands.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (PG-13)
John (Brad Pitt) and Jane Smith (Angelina Jolie) break out of their marital doldrums when they discover they’re both high-priced assassins—hired to kill each other.
The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (T)
You control The Hulk as he completes missions in various huge, expansive, and completely destructible environments.
Sid Meier's Pirates! (E)
You’ll sail vast oceans, search for treasure, engage in swordfights, sneak into towns, and dance with the governor’s daughter in this lighthearted, swashbuckling strategy game.
Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory (M)
As a covert operative working for the government, you use high-tech gadgets and physical prowess to fulfill your missions.
Castlevania: Curse of Darkness (NR)
One of Dracula’s former allies has decided to give up his dark powers and fight for good...pitting him against the forces of evil.
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