Main Point of Discussion:
Tune out static that forms barriers to hearing God… and find God in gentle places.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:12-13)
IMPORTANT NOTE TO LEADER ABOUT DISCERNMENT: We at The Source for Youth Ministry believe that certain elements in our youth culture can serve as good discussion jump starters with students. At the same time, we would never hope to introduce a student to a negative influence that they haven’t already encountered. This balance is a delicate one.
In our experience most students, churched and unchurched, keep pretty current with music and music videos. Thanks to YouTube, MTV.com, and iTunes, the most popular music videos and songs are free to access only a click away.
Some have said Haley Williams’ faith is important to her. But only God knows the truth about such assertions. So in case kids from your group have strong opinions about Williams in this regard, make sure to direct them back to the song’s popularity and the song’s lyrics—and discourage discussion about her faith (or any artist’s faith or lack thereof). We see but micro-fractions of others’ spiritual states at any one time and making judgments based on what we see in those short moments is ill-advised as we’re not seeing the massive remainder. The best solution: Live out your Christianity as if others are always watching (Titus 2:7-8); realize you never have enough data with which to pass judgment on others (Matthew 7:1-3).
The Song: “Airplanes”
B.o.B.’s “Airplanes” (from his album Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray) is #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 this week and has charted for the last three months—so most kids are familiar with this hip-hop/pop song. It’s a short and simple tune, with a monotone, repeating chorus (sung by Williams) that quickly gets into your head.
The most interesting aspect of “Airplanes” is its very thoughtful, almost contemplative lyrics. B.o.B. asks big questions about life, where he came from, and where he’s going. He seems to want to get off the quickly accelerating merry-go-round that is his musical career and just take stock and make sure he’s not kidding himself about the lure of success (and the demands that come with it). There’s only a single, blatant curse word toward the end of the song, which is muted on the official music video; beyond that his “h*ll of it” reference is probably tame enough for most young ears—but as always, use songs with discretion.
This discussion will use “Airplanes” as a springboard to talk about life direction, simplicity, tuning out static that forms barriers to hearing God, remembering Christ as our first love, and finding God in gentle places (i.e., a whisper instead of a storm).
The Music Video:
The song’s video can be found at the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-2OeptDm1-A
Introducing the song—SAY THIS:
“Here’s a song that’s #3 right now on the Billboard charts. You’ve probably heard “Airplanes” a ton of times over the last few months. Let’s examine its messages and look at how it parallels and hints at a lot of what Scripture has to say about examining our lives, where God can be found, and staying close to God after you find him.”
Large Group questions—SAY THIS:
- What are some of the messages you heard from this song?
Let me read the lyrics:
Song Lyrics: “Airplanes”
Can we pretend that airplanes
In the night sky
Are like shooting stars?
I could really use a wish right now (wish right now, wish right now)
I could use a dream or a genie or a wish
To go back to a place much simpler than this
Cause after all the partyin’ and smashin’ and crashin’
And all the glitz and the glam and the fashion
And all the pandemonium and all the madness
There comes a time when you fade to the blackness
And when you’re staring at that phone in your lap
And you hoping but them people never call you back
But that’s just how the story unfolds
You get another hand soon after you fold
And when your plans unravel
And they sayin’ what would you wish for
If you had one chance
So airplane, airplane sorry I’m late
I’m on my way so don’t close that gate
If I don’t make that then I’ll switch my flight
And I’ll be right back at it by the end of the night
Somebody take me back to the days
Before this was a job, before I got paid
Before it ever mattered what I had in my bank
Yeah, back when I was tryin’ to get into the subway
And back when I was rappin’ for the he** of it
But nowadays we rappin’ to stay relevant
I’m guessin’ that if we can make some wishes outta airplanes
Then maybe, yo, maybe I’ll go back to the days
Before the politics that we call the rap game
And back when ain’t nobody listened to my mix tape
And back before I tried to cover up my slang
But this is for the Cada, what’s up Bobby Ray
So can I get a wish to end the politics
And get back to the music that started this s**t
So here I stand and then again I say
I’m hopin’ we can make some wishes outta airplanes
Check out the song’s first verse. What things in life does it say eventually fade to blackness (along with you)? (partying, smashing, crashing, glitz, glam, fashion, pandemonium, madness)
What things in your life parallel the things in B.o.B.’s life that are fading away?
Do you suppose it’s valid that someone with B.o.B.’s fame and fortune complains that his chosen profession isn’t fun or feels like “a job”?
Are there areas in your life that have grown so complex and overwhelming that you wish things could return to the way they used to be (even if your new way of life is more comfortable or affluent or successful)?
Transition Statement—to Divide into Small Groups:
B.o.B. doesn’t sound too thrilled about his fame and fortune. He’s longing for a simpler, more innocent time—unaffected by the demands his success has brought him. That’s a lot like what happens in our spiritual lives when a lot of clutter and static get in the way of us seeing and hearing God properly—in our heart of hearts we want a clear, short path to Christ, not overgrown brush along an unmarked trail. We need to continually work at keeping that path as healthy as possible—and make sure we’re looking for our Creator in the right place when we get to the end of that path.
Let’s go ahead and split up into our discussion groups, and then afterward we’ll come back together for a final word.
CLICK HERE for a quick training article on how to maximize your small groups using our small group format—a great resource to equip your small group leaders.
- AROUND THE CIRCLE: Let’s go around the circle, share our names, and tell each other the last time we wished time could go in reverse—and what period of our lives we wanted to return to.
- ASK A FEW: In the song, B.o.B. wants to return to a simpler time in his life—even though that means giving up all his fame and fortune. Have you ever felt that way about your spiritual life?
- ASK A FEW: If you’ve ever wanted to return to a different time in your spiritual life, what were you hoping to find?
- ASK A FEW: Where do you usually expect to find God when you’re looking for him?
Read the Following Passage of Scripture:
1 Kings 19:1-13
1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.”
3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The LORD Appears to Elijah
And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
ASK SOMEONE: Why was Elijah running away?
ASK A FEW: Check out the second part of verse 4, just after Elijah got to the desert (“I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”) Have you ever felt that way in your life or spiritual walk?
ASK A FEW: I verses 6 through 9, what signs did Elijah receive that shows God was looking out for him? Is it ever hard for you to do what God wants, even when God makes it clear that he’s paving a way for your journey?
ASK A FEW: When Elijah finally reached his destination, he explains to God the reason why he came (verse 10). In verse 11, God replied—kind of. Does anything about God’s “reply” to Elijah strike you as odd? (God didn’t take pity on Elijah, ask for more information, etc.; instead he just offers direct access to him)
ASK A FEW: If God offered you an all-access glimpse of him like God offered Elijah, would you take the offer? Would you anticipate any risk by taking such an offer from God? (no, verse 16 says these things are not from the Father)
ASK A FEW: What natural, terrestrial events preceded God appearing to Elijah? (wind, earthquake, fire)
ASK A FEW: Why do you suppose God couldn’t be found in those natural events?
ASK A FEW: Why do you suppose it’s significant that God was found in a whisper?
ASK A FEW: What things were happening in Elijah’s life that may have necessitated God speaking to him softly rather than with great volume and fanfare?
Heading Toward the Wrap Up…
AROUND THE CIRCLE: Let’s go around the circle and share one thing that we discussed tonight that made you think.
Wrap Up—SAY THIS:
It’s not uncommon to wish to revisit an older, earlier, “more innocent” time in our lives. It’s a natural reaction to negative forces in our presents. In “Airplanes,” B.o.B. is doing just that—even though his present reality is generating a ton of fame and cash. (Anyone want to trade places with B.o.B. and his bank account—even for just a day?)
Such longings also happen to us spiritually from time to time. We get caught up in all the activity glued on to our daily schedules, and we realize we’ve gotten into a habit of forgetting about Jesus—our first (and only) love.
What things in your life are holding you back from hearing God’s voice whispered lovingly? What’s taking up your ear space? Your eye space? Your head space? Your loyalty? Your admiration? Your time and attention? What can you do about those obstacles?
Let’s think about those questions as we pray and close our time together.
Close in Prayer
Written by Dave Urbanski