Final in the Matthew 25 video discussion series released

Guide looks at films that can be of help for a church wanting to enhance its congregational vitality

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

The third in a series of Matthew 25 video guides is now available for download. (iStock photo)

LOUISVILLE — “Engaging Matthew 25 Through Film – Building Congregational Vitality” is a video guide that helps the reader answer the question: What is congregational vitality?

One might think that the vitality of a congregation or worshiping community is based on the number of members, the scope of programs, the size of financial gifts or some other statistics. That is not entirely true. A community’s vitality is primarily its spiritual strength and its capacity for purposeful mission.

This third and final issue in the video discussion series looks at five films that demonstrate, despite a myriad of problems, the church can not only survive, but become very much a vital force in bringing change to society. It is available for free digital download here.

Congregational vitality is evident in a worshiping community when its structural systems, finances and discipleship practices are aligned in such a way that the community is actively engaged in the mission of God in their local community and the world, and they are powerfully focused on growing as disciples in the way of Jesus Christ. Faith comes alive when we boldly engage God’s mission and share the hope we have in Christ.

Engaging with Matthew 25 and the three areas of focus that make up the vision — building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty — is being addressed in a variety of ways by the 1,100-plus congregations, mid councils and groups that have signed on since its launch in April 2019.

This final installment was delayed for several reasons, but that might have been by design. Disney released “Encanto” in the fall of 2021 and surprised many by providing deep insight into the spiritual nature of human beings and our yearning to encounter God.

“I am thrilled that we were able to include ‘Encanto’ in this resource. It is the parable about gifts and family we need for the church right now,” said Stephanie Fritz, mission coordinator for Christian Formation. “Think of the apostle Paul’s observance about the church and the various gifts of its members. ‘Encanto’ allowed us to see God in ourselves and others.”

The author of this video discussion series is Dr. Edward McNulty, a Presbyterian minister who for many years was the film reviewer for Presbyterians Today. Three of his 14 books are published by Westminster John Knox Press: “Praying the Movies,” “Praying the Movies II” and “Faith & Film.” There are many more of his reviews of films dealing with racism and social justice issues at visualparables.org.

The first two installments in the series are available for free digital download: Engaging Matthew 25 Through Film: Dismantling Structural Racism and Engaging Matthew 25 Through Film: Eradicating Systemic Poverty.

Matthew 25:31–46 calls all of us to actively engage in the world around us, so our faith comes alive and we wake up to new possibilities. Convicted by this Scripture passage, both the 222nd and 223rd General Assemblies (2016 and 2018) exhorted the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to act boldly and compassionately to serve people who are hungry, oppressed, imprisoned or poor.

The Matthew 25 vision is our guidepost. Action is our charge. Together, we’re evolving to keep our feet to faith and our focus on actively engaging our world.


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