Hollywood Jesus Leader Guide: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture

Hollywood Jesus Leader Guide: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture

by Matt Rawle

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Hollywood Jesus Leader Guide: A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture by Matt Rawle

Pastor and author Matt Rawle is on a mission. He sees Christ all around him-in books, movies, TV shows, rock music-and he wants to share what he sees. As Matt says, "God offers the raw ingredients, and 'culture' is whatever we cook up."

Hollywood Jesus is pastor and author Matt Rawle's study of Jesus and Christ figures in films including Cool Hand Luke, The Lion King, The Truman Show, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Explore what happens when script meets Scripture, when pop culture encounters the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Leader Guide contains everything needed to guide a group through the
Participant Book and DVD. It includes session plans and discussion questions, as well as format options.

Hollywood Jesus is part of The Pop in Culture Series of Bible studies in which Matt Rawle stirs up a tasty gumbo of insight, humor, and inspiration based on some of your favorite pop culture classics. A Participant Book, a DVD
featuring four sessions with the author, and a Worship Resources Flash
Drive also are available for group study.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501803932
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Publication date: 09/01/2015
Series: Pop in Culture Series
Edition description: Leaders Gu
Pages: 64
Product dimensions: 4.80(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

Matt Rawle is Lead Pastor at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, Louisiana. Matt is an international speaker who loves to tell an old story in a new way, especially at the intersection of pop culture and the church. He is the author of a new series of books titled The Pop in Culture Series. The series includes The Faith of a Mockingbird, Hollywood Jesus, The Salvation of Doctor Who and The Redemption of Scrooge.

Read an Excerpt

Hollywood Jesus Leader Guide

A Small Group Study Connecting Christ and Culture

By Matt Rawle, Josh Tinley

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5018-0393-2


Session 1

From Scripture to Script

Planning the Session

Session Goals

Through this session's discussion and activities, participants will be encouraged to:

• reflect on the role that story plays in the church;

• consider how stories point to truths beyond themselves;

• look at the ways they tell Jesus' story;

• identify the essential truths about Jesus that God calls us to communicate;

• examine how we fill in the spaces in Jesus' story, and how these filled-in spaces affect our understanding of Jesus;

• consider, referring to Mark 12:30, the different ways that Christians receive the gospel story: heart, mind, soul, and strength.


• Read and reflect on the first chapter of Matt Rawle's Hollywood Jesus.

• Read through this Leader Guide session in its entirety to familiarize yourself with the material being covered.

• Read and reflect on the following Scriptures:

[] Philippians 2:5–11 [] Matthew 14:13–21 [] Matthew 21:12–17 [] Mark 1:16–20 [] Luke 10:38–42 [] John 12:1–11 [] John 20:24–29 [] Romans 14:14–23 [] Mark 12:30 [] Matthew 4:1–11 [] Matthew 8:5–13 [] Matthew 8:23–27 [] Matthew 21:12–17 [] John 4:4–30 [] John 11:1–46

• Make sure that you have a markerboard or large sheet of paper on which you can record group members' ideas.

• Have a Bible for every participant.

• Have a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil for each participant. Other art supplies are optional for the closing activity.

Opening Activity and Prayer (10–15 minutes)

The title of a popular 1965 film called the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus The Greatest Story Ever Told. While Christians largely consider Jesus' story singularly great, all of us have encountered other great stories, whether on film or in print.

To open your time together, ask each participant to name a story he or she would consider "great." These stories can be from movies, novels, short stories, television, comic books, or oral. They can be fictional stories or true stories, but they should be stories that have some special meaning to the participant who chooses them.

After everyone has had time to respond, list these on a markerboard or large sheet of paper. Once you've made your list, ask:

• What stories were you surprised made our list? Why?

• What are some common themes you notice in these stories?

• Why do you think people are drawn to these stories?

• Introduce the topic of this study: portrayals of the gospel through film. Then ask:

• Which of the stories on our list bear similarities to Jesus' story?

• What makes Jesus' life, death, and resurrection so compelling as a story?

Lord, thank you for bringing us together to examine the ways we hear and tell your story, particularly through film. Watch over us these next few weeks as we explore Jesus' life and ministry from different perspectives. Thank you for the different gifts, experiences, and points of view each person brings to this group. May we take what we learn during our time together and use it more effectively to tell Jesus' story to those who are eager to hear it or who need to hear it in new ways. Amen.

Watch DVD Segment (10 minutes)

Study and Discussion (30–35 MINUTES)

Note: Discussion helps and questions that correspond to Chapter One: "From Scripture to Script" are provided below. If you have more time in your session, or want to include additional discussion and activities to your time, see "Additional Options for Bible Study and Discussion" at the end of this section, listed after the Closing Activity and Prayer.

How to Tell a Great Story

(See Hollywood Jesus,pages 23–27)

Revisit the list of great stories that participants compiled for the opening activity. Rawle writes that great art "points beyond itself." In other words, great stories make a point or have some significance beyond the events of the story itself.

Ask each participant to select one story from the list you compiled earlier and to say how it points beyond itself. For example, if the Harry Potter saga was on your list, a participant might say that it teaches lessons about courage, sacrifice, love, and humility. If Animal Farm is on the list, a participant might mention that this story is an allegory of Soviet Communism under Stalin. (You might also refer to Rawle's example of "The Three Little Pigs" on pages 23–24.)

Then read what Rawle writes on pages 24–25 about how the story of the gospel points beyond itself.

For discussion:

• How does the gospel point to something beyond itself?

• How is the gospel more than just another great story?

• What do you think Rawle means when he says that the gospel cannot "be contained within a category on Netflix"?

The Space Between

(See Hollywood Jesus,pages 31–36)

Read aloud Rawle's assessment of the classic miniseries Jesus of Nazareth on pages 31–32, focusing on how the creators of the series filled in spaces where Scripture itself was silent. To get a feel for the challenges the filmmakers faced, divide participants into teams of three or four and assign each team one of the following Scriptures:

• Matthew 14:13–21

• Matthew 21:12–17

• Mark 1:16–20

• Luke 10:38–42

• John 12:1–11

• John 20:24–29

Each team should read its assigned Scripture with an eye on the "spaces in between." Teams should think of ways to fill in these spaces. For example, John 12:1–11 gives the impression that Jesus' disciples are present. But, except in the case of Judas, the text doesn't say anything about how his disciples responded to Mary pouring out ointment on Jesus' feet. This is a space that we are left to fill in.

After teams have had plenty of time to read, discuss, and fill in the spaces of their Scriptures, invite each team to summarize its passage, name the spaces identified, and say how these spaces might be filled. Following each team's presentation, ask participants what surprised them about how that team filled in the spaces of its Scripture.

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Even when Christians are not piecing together the parts of the narrative on the margins of the stories in Scripture, we're filling in spaces in the Bible. As Rawle points out, the Bible doesn't give us specific instructions for responding to any situation imaginable. We have spaces to fill in. For that we must rely on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

For discussion:

• How do you experience the Holy Spirit's presence and guidance?

• How do you seek counsel from the Holy Spirit when making a decision, particularly a decision you must make quickly?

As a group, read what the apostle Paul writes in Romans 14:14–23. Discuss:

• What does Paul teach us in these verses about living in the Holy Spirit?

• What does Paul teach in these verses about filling in the spaces in Scripture?

• What is most challenging about following the guidance of the Holy Spirit (as opposed to looking for a clear "yes" or "no" from Scripture)?

Framing Jesus

(See Hollywood Jesus,pages 36–40)

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

As Rawle explains in this section of Hollywood Jesus, storytellers — whether authors or filmmakers — frame their stories, creating a structure that allows the story to take place. He notes the opening words of Genesis and the final verses of Revelation frame the Bible as one giant prayer.

Jesus' story is told in each of the four Gospels. Compare and contrast how each of the Gospels frames its story. As a group, look at the Gospels one at a time, looking at the opening verses, then skimming the first chapter and the last chapter, focusing on the final verses. (Keep in mind that Mark has two different endings, a short one that is most likely the original ending and a longer one that was probably added later.) After going through all four, discuss:

• What differences do you notice in the ways that the Gospel writers frame their stories?

• Why do you think the different Gospel writers choose different starting and ending points?

• What does the way each Gospel is framed say about the writer's intent and point of emphasis?

Rawle goes on to discuss how filmmakers frame not only stories but individual shots. He also covers how different Hollywood portrayals of Jesus frame Jesus in different ways.

For discussion:

• Why do you think the Bible gives us four accounts of Jesus' life, each framed in a different way?

• How can the different portrayals of Jesus on film — even ones whose accuracy we doubt — help us better understand who Jesus is and why he is important?

• Of the Hollywood depictions of Jesus that you are familiar with, which have had the biggest impact on your understanding of Jesus? How did the makers of these films frame Jesus' story?

Closing Activity and Prayer (10 minutes)

As Hollywood filmmakers prepare to shoot a movie, they usually create a storyboard. A storyboard is a set of comic book-style panels or sheets of paper, each of which contains a rough sketch of one scene of the film. Storyboards are helpful for organization and sequencing and make clear how the visuals of the film connect to the script.

To close your time together, give each participant a sheet of paper and instruct him or her to create a storyboard panel illustrating one scene from Jesus' life that you looked at during this session. Through drawings or words, participants should consider how they will frame the scene, what they will focus on, what characters will be in the scene, and what the setting will look like. (If your group is large, you may want to break into teams for the sake of time.)

Give participants plenty of time to work, then post their storyboard panels in your meeting space. As possible, arrange the panels in story order. Have each person talk about:

• What "scene" he or she chose.

• Why he or she chose this scene.

• What he or she hopes this scene will explain to an audience about Jesus.

Close your time together by discussing the following:

• What aspects of Jesus' story resonate most with you? Why?

• Based on what we've discussed today, how can film help us better understand and appreciate Jesus' story?

• Could film ever distort or hinder our understanding of Jesus?

• What is one thing you learned or realized about Jesus from this session that you didn't know or realize before?

• In what ways do you tell Jesus' story? How will what we've discussed today affect how you communicate Jesus' story? What might you take into consideration that you wouldn't have otherwise?

Lord, thank you for this time we've had together. Thank you for living among us as Jesus, giving us the "greatest story ever told." You have called and equipped us to be storytellers. Give us the vision and wisdom to be aware of all the ways we tell your story, to be mindful of how others perceive the story we tell, and to find new ways to tell the good news of Jesus. In his name we pray, amen.

Additional Options for Bible Study and Discussion

Decisions, Decisions (15 minutes)

(See Hollywood Jesus,pages 27–31))

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Matt Rawle asks us to imagine giving a three-minute "elevator speech" about who Jesus is and why he is important. When we're short on time, we must use our words wisely. Rawle mentions Philippians 2:5–11 as an example of the apostle Paul giving a concise summary of Jesus' story and significance.


Read Philippians 2:5–11. Based on these verses, as well as their prior knowledge about Jesus, have participants come up with a summary, in three minutes or less, of Jesus' life and significance. Have participants pair off. One person in each pair should give an elevator speech to his or her partner. Set a timer to make sure that these speeches don't exceed three minutes. After three minutes, have partners switch roles. Following this activity, ask:

• How effective do you think your summary was?

• What do you wish you had included that you didn't?

• Is three minutes enough time to adequately introduce someone to Jesus? Why, or why not?

• What do you think would be most challenging about writing and directing a movie about Jesus, particularly when it comes to deciding what to include and what to cut?

For discussion:

Rawle writes that we make decisions about how we portray Jesus not only when we tell his story but also through our words and actions. What do your words and actions reveal to people about Jesus?

• When and how might you have given someone the wrong impression of who Jesus is and what he means for us?

• How does our congregation tell Jesus' story in worship? What could we do better?

• Rawle warns against making Jesus in our own image. When have you confused Jesus' priorities for your own? How might this have given people a warped image of God?

A New Gaze (10 minutes)

(See Hollywood Jesus,pages 40–44)

Read aloud or summarize for the group:

Read the greatest commandment from Mark 12:30. This commandment echoes Deuteronomy 6:5, but Jesus changes the wording a little bit. The verse in Deuteronomy mentions loving God with our heart, soul, and being. The verse in Mark mentions heart, mind, soul (or being) and strength. Rawle uses Jesus' words in Mark 12:30 to examine the different ways that we, as members of an audience, receive the stories we hear.

Read through Rawle's description of heart, mind, soul, and strength people on pages 43–44. Then, as a group or in teams of four or five, read each of the following Gospel Scriptures and discuss whether each one would appeal most to a head, mind, soul, or strength person. (There is not necessarily one right or wrong answer for each of these.)

• Matthew 4:1–11

• Matthew 8:5–13

• Matthew 8:23–27

• Matthew 21:12–17

• John 4:4–30

• John 11:1–46

For discussion:

• Would you describe yourself as a heart, mind, soul, or strength person? Why?

• How might these differences in perspective and interpretation cause division in the church?

• How does the church benefit from having people of each type?

Activity: Pitch a Movie

Divide participants into teams of three to five. You can assign teams at random, group together people who all appreciate a particular movie genre, or create teams based on whether participants identify as heart, mind, soul, or strength people (see the previous "A New Gaze" activity).

Each team should come up with a pitch for a movie about Jesus' life. To begin, teams should consider the following:

• What do you want audiences to know about Jesus?

• What aspect(s) of Jesus' life and ministry do you want to focus on?

• How will you frame your story? How will the story open? What will its climax be? Its resolution?

• Will your story follow one of the four Gospels? Will it follow a particular series of events?

• In addition to Jesus, who will some of the primary characters be? Will your movie be told from a particular character's point of view?

Once teams have considered all of the above questions, they should create a rough outline of their movie idea. This outline doesn't need to use roman numerals and letters; rather it should be a series of 10–15 sentences and/or short paragraphs explaining the overall story arc and major plot points. Time may not allow teams to put together a complete outline. That's okay, as long as team members have an understanding of their movie's plot, key scenes, and points of emphasis.

After teams have had enough time to put their movie ideas together, have each team "pitch" its movie to the others. In their pitches, teams should summarize their movies using the outlines they've put together; they also should explain what makes their movie unique and what they hope the movie will communicate about Jesus.

Following each pitch, participants should act as producers. They should ask questions for clarification; they should identify things that they like about the idea; and they should give suggestions for ways to alter the story so that it more effectively communicates its intended message.

After all of the pitches, discuss:

• How would our movies be different from other Hollywood portrayals of Jesus?

• How might our movies reach people who were previously unfamiliar with Jesus' story or who had not heard Jesus' story in a way that resonated with them?

• Might any of our movies be controversial? If so, why?

• Do you think actual Hollywood producers would be interested in making a movie like those you've pitched? Why, or why not?

• How do you maintain a relationship with Christ amid the challenges, sacrifices, and dangers?


Session 2

The Jesus of Now ... Whenever "Now" Is

Planning the Session

Session Goals

Through this session's discussion and activities, participants will be encouraged to:

• evaluate how stories and accounts are products of a particular place and time;

• determine which qualities of Jesus are specific to the time and place in which he lived and which are timeless characteristics that we should emulate;

• name the assumptions they make about Jesus' identity and priorities;

• identify ways that they recreate Jesus in their own image and likeness;

• consider the questions they have about Jesus and where they could look for answers to those questions;

• apply Jesus' wisdom and example to current-day issues and situations.


Excerpted from Hollywood Jesus Leader Guide by Matt Rawle, Josh Tinley. Copyright © 2015 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


To the Leader,
1. From Scripture to Script,
2. The Jesus of Now ... Whenever "Now" Is,
3. The Gospel According to ...,
4. Everyone Has a Story,

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