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The Essential Church: New Documentary Asserts God Over Government

“Government decided that protests were essential, strip clubs, liquor stores, and marijuana dispensaries, were labelled essential. You could pack into Costco, and Walmart, but not the church.”


Handing headship of the Church to Caesar is the focus of a new documentary recounting events that saw pastors arrested and John MacArthur’s Church sanctioned.

For writer and director, Shannon Halliday the Grace Productions documentary is a mirror, not just a historical record.

The world needs to see how “lockdowns stretched us in our understanding of the relationship between church and state.”

“What is that relationship supposed to be like? What are the boundaries? Where should we hold to convictions?”

The past three years shifted the wheat from the chaff in this regard.

“Things had become real mushy [regarding religious freedom] during that time, and people didn’t know where the convictions should land.”

“I think people were informed by a lot of other things that seeped into their Christian worldview,” he added.

This, Halliday said, was why The Essential Church leans on Church History.

“You can see the steel in the veins of the church, see what they did to work through” state-sanctioned abuses of power.

To see where the line has to be drawn, when the sword has to be wielded, and how the Gospel guides and restrains both.

Another feature of the documentary is a look inside how Churches responded to government overreach during the so-called pandemic.

The look inside the inner workings of Grace Church in California, as well as a closer look at the right response from pastors in Alberta, Canada, shows the inner struggle to put God before Government.

“People look at John McArthur’s church and think he runs everything.”

That perception is wrong, assured Halliday.

The Church is actually run by elders.

“They all had to agree and work through Romans 13” to get to the point where a stand could be taken guided by exegesis proper.

“That took a little time for some people.”

Others, said Halliday, saw the inconsistencies between government enforcing “stay home save lives” with an iron fist, while not lifting a finger against Black Lives Matter rioters.

“They saw the partially from the politicians, saying some things were essential, while the church was not.”

By telling the church it was not essential, the government took on the role of absolute ruler.

“Who are they to decide this?”

That really is, “a form of persecution.”

“When given that kind of power, they make themselves the arbiters of truth.”

Government decided that “protests were essential, strip clubs, liquor stores, and marijuana dispensaries, were labelled essential.”

“You could pack into Costco, and Walmart,” but not the Church!

While these things, he said, may have pushed the elders at Grace into resisting, they still “had to agree theologically by way of the correct interpretation of scripture.”

This is when “they became united.”

If they hadn’t, Halliday explained, “Grace Church would never have been the same again.”

Lockdown lover’s lane “really was a challenge for the church.”

This is what The Essential Church examines.

Here in Australia, the three B’s: brothels, bottle shops, and Bunnings, were all designated essential, while pastoral care was thrown under the bus.

Romans 13 spouting “Winsome Johnnies,” constantly appealed to “nuance,” and “follow the science,” while a weakened the church, asleep in the light, lined up to salute every word, jab, and injustice.

Spouting Romans 13 from Zoom “Church”, and social media’s towers of Babylon, those theologically opposed, were told, “Don’t be a naughty boy, practice sacrificial love, bow down to Caesar!”

Jesus Christ, pastoral care, and their own vocations were irrelevant.

Thankfully, Australian pastors weren’t without representation.

Not every pastor hid until it was safe to say something, and not every pastor corrupted their vocations, by applauding the government’s zero-sum game.

Some Australian pastors wrote open letters such as the Ezekial Declaration, Moses Statement, and No To Segregation.

Some joined Reclaim the Line, gave a pastoral voice, and biblical guidance to the pro-freedom movement.

We also made Caldron Pool available to the frontline’s defence of religious freedom, despite being mocked, derided, deplatformed, demonetised, and shadow banned.

As for when the documentary will arrive in Australia, Grace Productions told the Canberra Declaration, “There were no plans for The Essential Church to play in Australian cinemas.”

The film will be made available online, and hard copies can be purchased via their online store.

WATCH Halliday’s complete discussion about the film with Exposit the Word here:

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