“The Essential Church,” a documentary about Grace Community Church’s (GCC) fight against California’s government to remain open during the pandemic, released today (July 28) across the nation in approximately 1,000 theaters.
The documentary was produced by GCC’s Grace Productions, a ministry within the church that “produces God-honoring, media content for our church and the Church worldwide.” Grace Productions states that its mission is to “spread the gospel and honor our Lord, Jesus Christ through engaging video content and storytelling.”
GCC is led by 36 elders, most notably among them the church’s pastor-teacher, John MacArthur.
The synopsis of “The Essential Church” reads, “When governments use Covid edicts to restrict the gathering and worship of the Church, three pastors facing the risk of imprisonment re-open their churches in the face of a world that has chosen to comply.”
Coates and Stephens are both pastors in Canada who defied government orders to close their churches during the pandemic, which resulted in jail time for both. Coates was imprisoned in a maximum security prison for 35 days, while Stephens was arrested twice and placed in a maximum security prison for a total of 21 days.
The documentary “explores the struggle between Church and government throughout history. It takes us to multiple countries and parallels today’s conflict with those from the past who sacrificed their lives for their beliefs.”
During a screening of the film, MacArthur told attendees that he wanted to produce something that “would show how the Lord blesses those who are faithful for the purpose of the future.” He also “wanted some pastors and leaders to see this and feel guilty,” referring to pastors who adhered to government orders that caused some churches to suspend in-person worship services for a period of months or even up to a year.
— Jon Root (@JonnyRoot_) July 24, 2023
ChurchLeaders asked the film’s director, Shannon Paul Halliday, why pastors need to see “The Essential Church.”
Halliday said that it is important for churches to remember what happened to churches during the COVID-19 pandemic because it will likely happen again.