Surprised by Jr. High Depth: In Response to "Follow Jesus"

Tonight at Jr. High Youth Group I showed a video from Francis Chan's "Basic" series called "Follow Jesus."

My students have grown accustomed to watching videos, mostly NOOMAs ('cause I love them), but I'd never used anything from Francis Chan before. Francis has some pretty good stuff out there but I've never used it for youth ministry because... well... he's never totally resonated with me. Even in college at APU when Francis Chan would speak at chapel and all my roommates would be pretty excited about it, I was always hesitant.

Francis Chan is actually an amazing person. We could all learn from his humility and from his genuine and honest passion for Jesus, but just because his heart is incredible and his process is sound does not mean that his perspective is healthy all the time. I have great points of tension with his message. But tonight I decided that I'd let my Jr. Highers wrestle with him. I figured that they'd never pick up on the subtle things with which I have problems. I figured that they only pick up on the overall message of the video (with which I agree)--that following Jesus is about being like him and reflecting his life into the world. I figured that they'd miss the part where Chan says that he chose to follow Jesus out of fear of judgment or the part where he misses the irony of the phrase "wrath of the lamb."

My students surprised me.

The first comment from a student after seeing the video was, "did he just say that he follows Jesus because he's afraid of going to hell?!" They picked up quickly on the subtle differences between what I've been teaching and what Chan was suggesting and, the best part, they didn't miss out on the truth and challenge of the video. I was so proud of my students for the way they processed and wrestled with things. Whether or not I'm a heretic for what I'm teaching my students, they're actually learning it.

By the way, I recommend Francis Chan's Basic series. I don't agree with it all but it's great for raising questions.