Grace Productions’ The Essential Church documentary recounts government persecution of the Church in 2020 and how Christians fought for the truth in the same way the Scottish Covenanters did in the 17th century — by obeying God and defying tyrants.
Here’s my video review (text to follow):
Scientific, Legal, & Biblical Perspective
The documentary’s website says the film offers a “scientific, legal, and, most importantly, a biblical perspective” on how these Christians defied unjust orders from authorities during the COVID period. All three of these categories needed to be convincing, in order for the movie to be a slam dunk — and I would I argue it was.
The film features interviews from people you might recognize just from watching mainstream news networks in the past few years.
Dr. Scott Atlas, a former member of the White House COVID-19 Task Force, as well as Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, who co-authored the anti-lockdown “The Great Barrington Declaration,” debunk the fake science that was used to justify lockdowns.
Thomas More Society’s legal team, featuring Jenna Ellis, tell us about their legal battles against Los Angeles County and California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
We hear firsthand from John MacArthur and the elders of Grace Community Church how they navigated re-opening their church in the summer of 2020, and went through the legal gauntlet in the following months.
We also hear from Canadian pastors James Coates and Tim Stephens who were both arrested for their defiance of government mandates against their congregational meeting.
All the way down the line, the film features exactly the people you’d want to hear speak about these events. Each interview offers an authentic, truly first-person perspective on what it was really like to be in the room that day when these momentous events were unfolding. The sum of these interviews results in a powerful refutation of the tyranny that was prevalent in the COVID era.
A Satisfying Cinematic Experience
This film deserved a theatrical release. I thought this would be a straight-to-home-video type of release, but I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see it in a movie theater.
The music and the visuals were stunning. It goes above and beyond what you might expect for a low-budget Christian documentary. It may not be a summer blockbuster, but this documentary provides a satisfying cinematic experience that is worthy of the silver screen.
On the visual side, whether it’s the B-roll, the cinematic re-enactments, or the haunting archival footage of American and Canadian tyrants, there is a surprisingly epic feel to the movie.
The Grace Community Church’s choir sings throughout the soundtrack of the documentary, and the only reason I know that is because it says so in the credits. All of the music is world class and Grace Community really did it themselves.
Another aspect of the film that really impressed me was how it told the story of the Scottish Covenanters.
Whenever the Scottish Covenanters are referenced, the film features statue-looking 3D models portraying the history being narrated. I found this to be a visually gripping way to immortalize the great example that the Scottish Covenanters set for Christians to follow down through the ages. These are the images that stick with me more than anything else from the film.
This was certainly the intention of the director — to engrave in the viewer’s mind the incredible faith of these Christians. They defied tyrants in the name of Christ, even unto death, and, in most cases, horrific deaths. These segments were usually narrated by a proper Scot, Ian Hamilton, who provided these scenes with both an authoritative and heartfelt tone.
We must obey God rather than men.
Although this documentary shows the ultimate victory each of these pastors achieved in their particular cases, this movie is a lot more than just a theatrical victory lap. This film is as prophetic as it is historic.
Pastor Stephens, who was incarcerated twice for his defiance of government orders, said the trials he endured prepared him for the next battle Christians will face.
Whatever the next battlefront for persecution is, The Essential Church wants its viewers to follow the example of the ones who have gone before us who obeyed God rather than men.