Can a Christian Movie Impact Your Community?
Pastor Ken Murphy had one of the most exciting weekends a pastor can have after his church viewed the Erwin Brothers‘ movie, Woodlawn. That momentous weekend, 256 individuals made the decision to get baptized.
Murphy, the pastor at Cypress Church in Columbus, Ohio, believes that Christian movies, like Woodlawn and I Can Only Imagine, are a powerful representation of how Christ can change lives. However, he also notes that simply showing a movie, no matter how powerful, will not lead to decisions such as salvation or baptism.
“Celebrating the birth of new people in the family is always a wonderful thing,” Murphy explains. “Just don’t think you can show people the movie and then expect them to show up and get baptized. It’s the prayer and leadership before and in the midst of worship that leads to those decisions.”
After salvation or baptism occur, some churches can drop the ball in leading new Christians toward their Christ-given purpose.
Help New Christians Find Their Purpose
Murphy encourages other churches to have a plan in place for new Christians. After new believers are baptized at Cypress Church, they have the opportunity to explore their faith in a class where two fundamental questions are addressed:
- What should I do?
- What and how do I become?
Murphy notes that some churches become too focused on encouraging personal growth through Sunday school and other internal programs. Churches must remember that serving others is key to producing and receiving the fruit of the spirit.
Churches must remember that serving others is key to producing and receiving the fruit of the spirit.
When it comes to making a difference, it’s not all about making a difference in themselves. It’s about making a difference in the community and the world around you. Not only did Jesus model a servant’s heart, but service is a consistent theme throughout his teaching.
Reach the Lost by Serving the Community
God wants us to experience joy and fulfillment through our acts of service. In fact, serving others is more important than it’s ever been. We have a tendency to approach it as an obligation, instead of an opportunity to reflect the servant heart of Jesus.
Murphy points to small groups as a great starting point for any church that serves new Christians and does outreach with the lost. He cautions against becoming an event-oriented ministry rather than an ongoing ministry with special events. It’s important to remember that God works in his own time so we should avoid getting caught up with creating a mountaintop experience.
Cypress Church has personal experience with this because, after the weekend of 256 baptisms, only 124 were baptized the following weekend. Fortunately, Murphy is quick to acknowledge the victory anytime even one person comes to Christ.
Using Christian Family Movies as a Tool for Ministry
“While that was an incredible experience,” Murphy says, “we don’t want to live there, because then we might miss out on what God wants to do this weekend.”
Instead of living in that one mountaintop moment, Murphy looks at the big weekend of baptisms as a snapshot of the church. They focus on representing everything they say they believe and stand for. He views this as a marker for the health of any church.
If your church is preparing a path for new Christians and serving those who are lost, Murphy believes Christian family movies are an excellent tool for your ministry. Since most people go to the movies anyway, it’s easy for congregants to gather and invite their friends and family. It’s a low-pressure environment where people feel free to let their guard down long enough to be receptive to the gospel.
If your church is preparing a path for new Christians and serving those who are lost…christian family movies are an excellent tool for your ministry.
Murphy says he would recommend any Erwin Brothers‘ project, especially I Can Only Imagine, for a movie event. “The one thing I like about what Andy and Jon do is that they present captivating stories of human interest and moral dilemma and weave a redemptive Christian story into it,” says Murphy, “this makes it easy for churches to use the movie as a springboard for conversation.”
Check Your Heart for the Lost
Murphy had a gut feeling that I Can Only Imagine would have the greatest impact out of any of the Christian family movies the Erwins have done.
He credits the success to the universality of a Christian family movie, which portrays family relationships. “Woodlawn,” he notes, “is in the context of football while I Can Only Imagine is about a parent-child relationship so it will appeal to more people right out of the gate.”
Whether a congregation chooses Woodlawn or I Can Only Imagine, Murphy’s disclaimer stands for those who are interested in using any film for study. “I would go back to if the church and the pastor do not have a heart for the lost, simply watching a film will not make anything happen,” says Murphy.
With that in mind, it’s hard to deny that Woodlawn is anything but powerful, resulting in 256 baptisms at Cypress Church and many other decisions for Christ across the nation. For churches that have that strong foundation to build upon Woodlawn, Mom’s Night Out, or the new Erwin film, I Can Only Imagine, may lead to that mountaintop moment in your congregation.
Just remember Murphy’s advice and don’t live in the mountaintop moments. Always remain open to what God has in store, because it is a big world, and we have a great commission.
A movie event is an effective outlet for gathering your congregation and expanding your community outreach. Read more about how to plan your next movie event and why a movie event is a great way to reach your community here. If you are thinking about hosting a movie event, purchase your movie license here and start dreaming about what your community-building event could be!
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