I’m Not Ashamed Movie Review

I think it goes without saying that most “Christian” movies aren’t very good.  The budgets are low.  The scripts are poorly written.  They aren’t given a wide release.  They feature actors or actresses that are long passed their box office draw.  Above all, the main characters are COMPLETELY unrealistic.  They tend to portray Christians as “perfect” human beings with all the right answers.  Movies that come to mind with “perfect” characters are “God’s Not Dead” (either one), “Fireproof” (other than Kirk Cameron) and “Facing the Giants.”  The reality is that we don’t live perfect lives.  We have our ups and downs.  Our lives are like a roller coaster and our walk with Christ is usually no different.

This movie bucks that trend.  “I’m Not Ashamed” is the story of Rachel Scott and the year leading up to the shooting at Columbine High School.  Rachel was raised in a Christian house, but wasn’t really living out her faith when she got to high school.  The summer before her junior year, Rachel went to visit her aunt and cousins who talked to Rachel in a non-judgmental way (see Colossians 4:2-6 especially the part about “letting your speech always be gracious”).  While she was there, she rediscovered what it meant to be a Christian.

During the next year, she still continued to struggle with her faith.  This was refreshing because, unlike most Christian movies, coming to Christ didn’t fix all of the main characters problems.  Her relationship with her friends was still rocky.  She struggled to find her identity in Christ.  She didn’t always do the right thing.  As a church worker, I thought this was the best part of the movie.  It made Rachel more relatable and realistic.  My students could easily identify with her and her struggles.

In the end, I really liked this movie and I think it would be great to show to high schoolers.  I would not show the film to a middle school group due to the violence at the end of the film.  It wasn’t gratuitous “Tarantino-esque” violence, but it was a little jarring watching a high school student get shot especially when you know that it was based on actual events.  Most students are aware of the story of Columbine, but to watch it unfold on film was tough to see.

We used the film as part of our #REELTalk (Get it? It’s a play on “real talk,” but it’s a movie reel?!?!)  series.  We provided dinner, snacks and the movie and then had a 45 minute discussion about the film.  There is material that you can order online that coincides with the film, but we let the discussion begin and continue organically.  I took some notes about scenes or lines in the film that I thought were relevant and used that as a springboard for our discussion.  It was an extremely successful night, and we plan on doing it again soon.  If you’re looking for a cheap, easy event to have for your students, having your own #REELTalk event might be a good idea.

-Jeff

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The Bride of Christ

I have been a leader in ministry for the better part of 20 years.  During that time, I have seen a lot of highs and lows.  I have seen the Church be a beacon of hope for the world and also a place that could use some improvement, to say the least.  I think there’s a reason that the relationship between God and the Church is often compared to a marriage.  My wife and I have been married for eight years and we’ve had our highs and lows; our ups and downs.  But in the end, we love each other and have each other’s best interest at heart.

No matter what good or bad things I’ve seen at the local Church, I know that, in the end, the Church is the vessel that God uses to transform and change lives.  We should all want to see the Church be successful.  We should all want the Church to follow Christ.

As I was scouring iTunes the other day, I came across a podcast that was created by disgruntled former church workers, for disgruntled church workers.  As I listened, I was shocked at what I was hearing.  Each episode was an hour long “airing of grievances” of the Church’s failures.  Their opinions weren’t helpful.  They offered no solutions.  It bothered me greatly and still bothers me now.

If you Google “lifespan of a youth leader,” you usually wind up with 18 months to 2 years.  That’s the average length of stay at a given church for a youth leader.  Worship leaders aren’t much longer.  Gone are the days where a pastor stays at a church for 30-40 years.  Church staff members leave their churches for a variety of reasons, but the complete departure from ministry rate is astounding.  It saddens me when church leaders get so frustrated that they leave the Church altogether.  I know that frustrations and trials will come, but the Church is still the Bride of Christ.

Instead of bashing the Church, offer solutions.  Have I thought about leaving full-time ministry? Of course!  But it’s come with the condition that if I did, I would be a “rock star,” reliable volunteer at my church that the leadership can count on regularly.  Forsaking the Church, as a whole, isn’t the answer.  It’s actually one of the reasons we started Concepts in Ministry.  It began in order to give leaders and volunteers the resources and support they needed to succeed in their own ministries.  We know that everyone doesn’t have a strong support system around them.  Instead of telling you to “give up,” we want to tell you to “keep going and here’s some Gatorade to help!”

I know that your ministry career will be like a roller coaster; filled with ups and downs.  Focus on the highs.  Learn from the lows.  Encourage others around you and build one another up.  Offer solutions to help the Church reach more people and don’t discourage others from following God’s call.  By working together, we can live out the Great Commission: “…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you…”  Matthew 28:18-20

-Jeff Kuester