When I was growing up, one of my favorite movies was Dead Poets Society. It’s a story of teenage boys who become friends at an elite preparatory school and find unity in their common struggle to discover their identity, while attending an institution steeped in long-standing tradition. Failure to adhere to the school’s strict policies resulted in physical beatings from the school’s headmaster, under the auspices of teaching the students discipline. Professor John Keating, portrayed by Robin Williams, encourages the boys to be free thinkers and espouse the ideals of a secret club called the Dead Poets Society, which utilizes the romance and beauty of poetry as a mental refuge from daily problems. As the movie progresses, one of the boys commits suicide, when his attempts at declaring his uniqueness and personal ambitions do not go over well with his parents. The headmaster finds out about this club, fires Mr. Keating, and demands that the boys renounce its ideals immediately or face expulsion from the school. In response, at the end of the movie, the boys stand on their desk in defiance of the headmaster’s demands and declare “O Captain, My Captain”, a phrase that Keating encouraged his students to use to address him in a slightly more daring manner.
As I reflected on the words of Pastor Bryon from this past Sunday, this movie came to mind because it represents teenagers rebelling against authority, as did Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were also young, searching for their identity, and were subjected to the strict policies of a ruler named King Nebuchadnezzar. When they refused to bow before the golden idols of the king because of their deeply rooted faith, they were thrown into a fiery furnace, a severe physical punishment meant to instill fear and discipline in others who observed their defiance. The difference between the movie and the story of Daniel is that Daniel and his friends did not draw their strength from being in a secret society and reading poetry. Rather, they drew their strength from the Lord, in spite of their circumstances. Psalms 121:1-2 says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” When they knew the end could be near, Daniel and his friends did not beg the king for mercy, but instead stood their ground and declared, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king” (Daniel 3:17).
Pastor Bryon also mentioned in his sermon that from 2007 to 2017, the suicide rate has tripled among young people ages 10-14, the same age Daniel and his friends are believed to have been in this story. It is not surprising that one of the main characters in Dead Poets Society commits suicide amidst mounting pressures because his source of hope came from poetry and a professor, rather than the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. We know we can rely on the Bible as the one, authoritative truth because we read in 2 Timothy 16-17 that, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” Daniel and his friends were willing to risk their lives because they knew that God’s Word is true and powerful.
As we reflect on and pray for the next generation of servant leaders, we must ask ourselves who we will stand for. Do we put our trust in the words of man or the Word of God? During this season of thanksgiving and focus on missions, let us all prayerfully consider giving to Kingdom Builders, which will help to raise up the next generation of servant leaders in our Church through Kingsway Leadership School.
by Paul McCullough
Paul and his family came to Kingsway four years ago, after moving back to the United States from an overseas military tour in Japan. He has been with his bride, Heather, for 21 years and they have been blessed with two great kids, Paul IV and Sarah. Paul is passionate about ministry, working full time at the American Bible Society and engaging at Kingsway in KLS, Growth Track, Next Steps, and LifeGroups. He enjoys spending his spare time reading, building nanoblocks, and watching great movies.