Recently my church experienced something of a small spiritual awakening. I wouldn’t call it a full-blown revival, but something close to that. The fruits of it are obvious and wonderful: increased clarity on the gospel, a more intense abhorrence for false teaching, a deeper burden for the lost and desire to reach them, and more profound gratitude for what Jesus has done for us.

While I wish I could say this awakening was the result of my own preaching and teaching, it wasn’t. It all came about due to a documentary we decided to show on a whim because I was short on time and couldn’t locate anybody to substitute teach adult Sunday school. It’s a documentary I’m enthusiastically recommending to everybody I talk to, American Gospel: Christ Alone. In fact, I believe so strongly in the power of this film that I offered to buy all my pastor-friends a copy, something I’ve never done before.

As the title suggests, American Gospel examines the “gospel” proclaimed in the majority of evangelical churches and demonstrates how most professing Christians think Jesus is simply a short-cut to achieving the American dream. “Trust Jesus and He’ll give you a happier marriage, or a step-up in your career, or better-behaved kids, or better self-esteem, or [essentially whatever your earthly nature desires].” This is what most Americans are hearing weekly from evangelical pulpits. The latter half of the film examines the most egregious expression of this “gospel,” the so-called prosperity gospel of Osteen, Jakes, and TBN. The movie is really shocking and eye-opening, but even better, it does an outstanding job clarifying what the true gospel is – forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God through faith alone in Jesus alone. The movie is really shocking and eye-opening, but even better, it does an outstanding job clarifying what the true gospel is - forgiveness of sins and reconciliation to God through faith alone in Jesus alone. Click To Tweet

Brief interviews with pastors and theologians such as Paul Washer, Chris Rosebrough, Mike Horton, Bryan Chapell, and John MacArthur are interspersed with testimonies from those who had been deluded by the health and prosperity gospel but now have seen the light. The quality of production is really excellent and captivating. I’m on my second way through it and anticipate re-watching it every so often. I’m trying to conceive of a way whereby we have all our church members watch it.

While I cannot recommend American Gospel enthusiastically enough, there are a couple of small caveats worth mentioning. First, early on in the film, they take two brief swipes at President Trump for epitomizing the so-called American gospel. While not without warrant (since Trump famously claimed he had nothing to seek God’s forgiveness for), if you’ve got some big-time Trump supporters in your church, you’ll probably have some interesting conversations. Second, while brief and very subtle, the documentary assumes an “open-but-cautious” view of the Charismatic gifts. As a happy cessationist, I’m not thrilled by this, but it’s honestly quite minor and will probably go over most people’s heads. Lastly, at 2 hours, 19 minutes the video is too long to realistically watch in one sitting. For our one-hour Sunday school class, we divided it up into 5 approximately 35-minute segments and then discussed during the time remaining. If I had been in charge of the project, I probably would have divided the content up into 4 or 5 self-contained lessons. But it’s really not difficult to show as is in multiple sessions.

I reiterate again that the Lord has chosen to bless this documentary in a somewhat remarkable manner, more so than essentially anything I’ve used in 13 years as pastor of our church. I suppose that by contrasting the true gospel with the false “gospel” of America, our people come away with a very clear understanding of what it really means that Jesus saves those who trust in Him. And as a pastor, what greater joy could you see?

Watch American Gospel and then show it to your congregation. It just might ignite a revival in your church.