by Will Penner
Approximate length: 90 minutes
• VCR or DVD player, and TV or projector and screen
• Video or DVD copy of An Insiders View of Jesus, 2002, YS/Zondervan
• Video or DVD copy of Cruel Intentions, 1999, Columbia Tri Star
• Video or DVD copy of Jerry Maguire, 1996, Columbia Tri Star
• Video or DVD copy of Back to the Future, 1995, Universal
• Video or DVD copy of Liar, Liar, 1997, Universal
• Large, decorative fish net, strung along the front of the room, hanging down like a curtain.
• One 2-inch piece of yarn per person in the group. They can be given out or placed in a bucket next to the net.
• One candle and lighter or matches.
• A clipboard, large piece of cardboard, or other object that would effectively block the candlelight from the students.
This talk is a good way to dissect portions of the Sermon on the Mount. It can be lengthened into a weekend retreat or multi-week series, or it can be shortened into a 30-minute talk by taking out the movie clips.
When Jesus calls his first disciples, they are already engaged in another occupation. In fact, they’re still on the clock. They’re actively fishing when Jesus walks by and proposes something different for them to do—something better. In one statement, Jesus offers Peter and Andrew the opportunity to fish for people instead of fish.
• Choose a couple of your more dramatic students to act out the scene in Matthew 4:18-20 (the calling of the first disciples). They could act it out with the dialogue, or a narrator could read the passage while the actors pantomime the action.
• Movie clip: An Insider’s View of Jesus
• Ask kids what in the heck it means to fish for people. Once they determine that Jesus is talking about evangelism, see if the group can brainstorm a couple of other metaphors that would have the same meaning: such as:
* To a farmer: “Drop your plow and follow me, and I’ll give you a crop of people”
* To an accountant: “Drop your ledger and follow me, and I’ll put people in your life for you to count.”
* To a dishwasher: “Drop your dishrag, and I’ll make you a cleaner of people.”
* To a big game hunter: “Drop your rifle, and I’ll give you people’s heads on your walls.” (Real answer from my group!)
The Heart of the Talk
• Explanation: Matthew says that when Jesus issued the invitation, Peter and Andrew immediately dropped their nets and followed him. What our our “nets”? What are those things which Jesus would have us drop in order to follow him better?
• To make it more interactive, you could begin by asking the group to brainstorm some of the “nets” in their lives and posting them, or you could just select a few (or all) from the list below to talk about.
• You could also ask your kids to break into small groups and dissect the Sermon on the Mount to look for “nets” that Jesus refers to as things that separate people from God. Or you could just give out each Scripture reference below to the small groups and ask each group to read the corresponding Scripture and come up with a way to illustrate it to the group (through a drawing, skit, song, personal or made-up story,etc.).
1. Anger
• Scripture: Matthew 5:21-24 (leave your gift at the altar, and be reconciled with your brother)
• Discussion: ‘But I Hate Him!’ (see below)
Discussion: ‘But I Hate Him!’
How might life be different if we all took this seriously? Would it be difficult if, before we went into worship next time, we had to go and take care of any relationships in our lives that weren’t right? How many people would be in church next Sunday? Would you be there? On the paper provided, write a letter to someone you’ve been angry with, and offer a word of forgiveness. You won’t have to send these (though you’re certainly welcome to), but try to write a letter of forgiveness anyway. If you’re so angry that you can’t, then write a letter to God asking for the willingness to forgive.
2. Popularity
• Scripture: 6:1-4 (When you give alms…), 5-8 (When you pray…), 16-18 (When you fast…)
• Movie Clip: Cruel Intentions
• Discussion: Outsides vs. Insides (see below)
Movie Clip: Cruel Intentions
Start at 00:10:30 when Katherine says, “Do you remember Court Reynolds?” End at 00:11:24 when she says, “Everybody loves me, and I intend to keep it that way.” In this clip Sebastian and Katherine are stepbrother and stepsister, and they both enjoy playing games with other people’s lives to satisfy their desires. Katherine has just begun to tell Sebastian about her latest plot.
There’s another clip at the end that ties it together well, too, but use some discretion for language. Start at 01:30:37 as Katherine begins her student body speech, and end at 01:33:23 when the principal shakes his head.
Discussion: Outsides vs. Insides
Three common things religious people did during the time Jesus was alive were: giving to the poor, praying, and fasting. These are very good things, and you find Christian youth groups encouraging kids to do all three of these things today, as well. Jesus’ concern was that many people did all of the religious things outwardly, but they weren’t very loving on the inside. How much time do each of us spend on trying to popular at school through the way we dress, talk, and act (even when our outsides don’t match our insides)? It’s in our youth groups, too. Remember the WWJD fad a few years ago? There are a lot of youth groups out there where kids feel like they have to wear the right Christian t-shirts, listen to the right Christian music, and give the right “Christian” answers in the Bible study class in order to be accepted by our church peers (instead of just being ourselves, with our doubts, questions, and fears).
3. Money
• Scripture: Matthew 6:24 (no one will serve two masters)
• Movie Clip: Jerry Maguire
• Explanation: Many of us get so bound up in wanting money that we lose sight of anything more important. We’ll risk our health, our families, our happiness, all in order to make more money. When we do that, money becomes what we worship, instead of God.
Movie Clip: Jerry Maguire
Start at 00:02:50 when Jerry says, “Inside that guilding, that’s where I work.” End at 00:04:22 when Steve Reno says, “I’ve gotta get that bonus.” In this clip, Jerry is relating why he doesn’t feel good about what he’s doing for a living any more. It’s shortly followed by him choosing a personal connection with his clients over the continual pressure to “show me the money,” which causes him to lose his job.
4. Future
• Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34 (do not worry)
• Movie Clip: Back to the Future (see below)
• Discussion: Stop Worrying (see below)
Movie Clip: Back to the Future
Start at 01:15:17 when Marty says, “Doc, about the future…” End at 01:15:33 when Doc says, “…through the natural course of time.” In this clip Marty is trying to tell Doc about the future so he can prepare for it. Doc really believes it’s important to not know too much; it might disrupt the natural order of things.
Discussion: Stop Worrying
Almost all of us wonder what’s going to happen to us in the future. In fact, we’re encouraged to think about it from the time we’re small: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Even in church, we continue that conversation, (even if we couch it in theological jargon): “What do you think you’re called to do?” Or even, “Where do you think you’ll go when you die?” Jesus is asking us not to worry about it nearly as much; God is in control, and we can rest assured that all will work out according to God’s purpose.
5. Judgmentalism
• Scripture: Matthew 7:1-5 (Take out the plank)
• Discussion: One of the primary qualities we all yearn for are people who accept us for who we are…people who won’t judge us. Yet, we can often be so judgmental toward others. What might be some reasons for that?
6. Timidity about Faith
• Scripture: Matthew 5:14-16 (Light of the world)
• Object Lesson: Light under a bushel (see below)
Object Lesson: Light under a Bushel
Light your candle and hold it up for all to see. (The darker you can make the room, the more powerful this will be.) Say something like this: For a candle to effectively illuminate anything, it must be out there shining brightly, sometimes even in the midst of the darkness. And to whatever extent the candle is hidden (place object in front of the candle), it’s no longer useful to enlighten. Jesus created us to be light in a dark world. When we choose to hide our faith, or joy, or even our struggles from others, we diminish how useful we can be to them.
7. Lying
• Scripture: Matthew 5:33-37 (Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes.’)
• Movie Clip: Liar, Liar
• Explanation: ‘It’s Just a Little, White Lie…’ (see below)
Movie Clip: Liar, Liar
Start at 00:39:02 when Max and his dad are running out of the school onto the playground. End at 00:41:46 when Max says, “But you’re the only one that makes me feel bad.” Max’s dad lied a lot, and Max made a birthday wish that his dad couldn’t tell any more lies. In this clip Max’s dad is telling him why he wants him to take back his wish.
Explanation: ‘It’s Just a Little, White Lie…’
It’s popular in our culture, as it was in Israel 2,000 years ago, to not always tell the truth. In fact, most of us don’t really trust each other deep down…and we have a lot of reason not to. Even as little kids, we have to qualify what we have to “swear,” or “cross my heart; hope to die,” or other similar oaths, as if to say, “Sometimes I don’t always tell the truth, but this time I am…I promise!” Jesus says that if we say yes when we mean yes and no when we mean no, then we’re better off. This is less about “swearing to God,” and more about being a person of your word—telling the truth at all times.
• People have always struggled with the “nets” we’ve been talking about, and they always will.
• Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount provides us with a plan for how we should act in the world. In it, he tells us God’s desire for how dealing with the “nets” in our lives.
• Activity: Preparing the Net (see below)
Activity: Preparing the Net
Tie a large fishing net across the front of the room such that kids can come and tie a piece of yarn somewhere on the net. And after everyone has come up and tied on their yarn, the net should be visible to everyone with all of the yarn, as well.
Ask kids to come up as they feel led to tie a piece of yarn on the net to represent a “net” in their lives they need help dropping. Ask them to prayerfully tie on the yarn, aware that God will help them drop their nets. Play some soft music while offering a chance for kids to respond, and close with prayer. For added effect, you could have the net rigged so that it drops during a closing benediction as you tell kids to drop their nets and follow Christ out into the world.
Student Talkback
Middle School:
• What were the names of the first two disciples Jesus called? What did he offer them? What was their response?
• What were the “nets” that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount—those things that keep us from following him more closely?
High School:
• What were the “nets” that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, and which one do you think is the most difficult to drop?
• How did the disciples respond to Jesus’ invitation? Do you know any people personally who’ve “immediately drop their nets” to follow him?
Life-Application Questions
• If Jesus were giving his Sermon on the Mount right here to this group, what kinds of “nets” would he describe about you or people you know?
• If Jesus were standing before you now to issue an invitation to follow him:
1. What would he offer? (like making you fish for people)
2. What would he ask of you? (like a fisherman dropping his nets)
Going Forward
• Given what we’ve discussed about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, we need to continually watch for those “nets” in our lives that we need to drop. Discuss some ways to stay aware of those nets (mentors, accountability groups, Bible study, prayer, written character inventories, etc.)
• Let’s examine the evangelism strategy we have in this youth group. How do we share the gospel with people? How do we call young people to be disciples? Are we asking too much? Too little? Are we setting realistic standards?