Support our siblings affected by disaster, hunger and oppression through One Great Hour of Sharing.

The power of storytelling


One of Jesus’ best-known parables stars sheep and goats

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, is leading a pair of workshops on the Matthew 25 invitation at Presbyterian Youth Triennium this week. (Photo by Rich Copley)

WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — As she’s done for audiences around the country and beyond, the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett is delivering the rationale behind the Matthew 25 invitation during a pair of workshops at Presbyterian Youth Triennium, being held this week at Purdue University.

The Matthew 25 invitation calls on Presbyterians to actively engage in the world so their faith comes alive and they can awaken to new possibilities. The two most recent General Assemblies, in 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 final parable in Matthew 25 — Jesus judging the nations — is proof that storytelling draws listeners closer to the teacher, according to Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

“When you tell stories, people lean in differently,” she said. “Stories stimulate us because we see ourselves in them. Jesus used them subversively. He would tell stories to religious leaders who would see themselves in his stories. But what could they do?”

The Matthew 25 vision is focused on dismantling systems that exacerbate serious problems including poverty and racism.

“We see poverty all over the planet because we get all we can, can all we get and sit on our can,” she said to chuckles among her hearers. “We are cooperating with the system that caused the problem. Why do people need to come to the food pantry or the clothes closet? They are hard questions, but we want churches to look at systemic causes, because Jesus critiques these systems.”

The Matthew 25 invitation has three focus areas. Churches and mid councils can pick one or more to work on.

  • Congregational vitality has to do with how faithful one’s church is to the gospel mandate in the church’s particular context. Here’s the test, Moffett said: “If you were to close your doors, who besides your members would miss you?”
  • Structural racism is laws, policies and practices that structure, reinforce and perpetuate discrimination, bias, prejudice and the oppression of people of color.
  • Systemic poverty is the economic exploitation of people who are poor through laws, policies, practices and systems that perpetuate an impoverished status.

Moffett said the Matthew 25 invitation’s impact could result in heightened spiritual energy, a boost in the impact of the church in the world, an increase in disciples and an ignition of the PC(USA)’s witness and work.

“We want you to very much consider this,” she said to a group that included pastors, church officers and youth group leaders. “We believe most of you are already doing this work. It’ll just mean you need to drill down a little bit.”

During a brief question-and-answer session that followed her talk, Moffett said churches and mid councils can select a particular problem in their community to work on — “something that is affecting the residents in your community,” she said. “We say this mandate came from the 222nd General Assembly (in 2016), but it really came from Jesus. He was always critiquing systems, and that’s why he was killed.”

Learn more about the Matthew 25 invitation by visiting

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

Categories: ,
Tags: , , , , , , ,
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Ministries: ,