In 2020, Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, CA became the center of controversy when it flouted pandemic health guidelines in favor of holding in-person church gatherings. Now, the John MacArthur pastored church is producing a feature length documentary about their dispute with the California government, including a lawsuit that the church ultimately won.
Titled “The Essential Church,” the documentary will be released by Grace Productions, a ministry of Grace Community Church.
“When Grace Community Church faces state orders to shut down indefinitely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they realize the state’s attempt to replace Jesus Christ as the head of the Church,” the film’s synopsis reads. “This sets off a series of challenges leading to a surprising pathway forward, suing the government.”
“This upcoming feature-length documentary explores the ancient struggle between the Satanic World System and Christ’s people through the story of Grace Community Church’s legal battle, church history, and the church during worldwide lockdowns,” the film’s website goes on to describe.
In the film’s trailer, a man can be seen in a storage room looking through old cassette tape recordings of John MacArthur’s sermons, selecting a 1975 sermon on the Scripture passage 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 entitled “Forgive Because You’re Forgiven,” and putting it in a stereo to play.
“Am I to forgive a Christian brother who offends me? Yes,” MacArthur can be heard saying.
“There may be times when you will go to court, but this issue will be this: that wherever the word of God or the work of God is at stake, I have the right to claim my legal privileges,” MacArthur goes on to say in the old recording. “If, for example, some ordinance came along and tried to close down Grace Community Church, would we say, ‘Oh, it’s alright. We forgive you. We’ll all go home and just forget the work of God’? Not on your life!”
“We’d be down here with every sort of legal thing you can imagine, trying to prove that we had the right to exist. It’s a matter of protecting the privileges that God has given us for the proclamation of His word,” MacArthur says.
The screen then goes black, and a voice can be heard asking present-day MacArthur, “When did you come to the decision that you were okay with suing the government?” MacArthur replies, “How far back do you want to go?”
When Grace Community Church continued to hold in-person services despite pandemic guidelines, the church faced threats of fines, and LA County terminated a lease the church had held on a parking lot in August of 2020.