One Way to Use “American Gospel” in Your Church


Recently, our church partnered with two other local churches to host an event using the documentary film “American Gospel: In Christ Alone.” Our goal was to communicate the gospel clearly, especially on key points where the true gospel has been confused with moralism, Catholicism, and prosperity movements so prevalent inside and outside the church.


For two hours on a Friday evening, we invited friends from all around our community to think together about the gospel with us.  We chose two 20-minute clips from the “American Gospel” film, and structured the time around them. The first clip addressed the question: “What is the Gospel?” and the second, “What Is Not the Gospel?”  The movie does a wonderful job of defining the gospel (through interviews with prominent evangelicals and well-crafted illustrations).

After each clip, 6 panelists (3 local pastors, and 3 guests from out of town—thank you again Nate Pickowicz, Jared Wilson, and Owen Strachan!) engaged questions presented by the movie clip. We prepared these questions ahead of time so that we could provide thoughtful interaction. We wanted to take the content of the movie and relate it to the people in our churches and the non-Christians we hoped were in the audience.

Finally, we opened the floor for audience Q & A.  Two rounds of this (clip, panel, Q&A) filled more than the 2 hours allotted for the event.


If you’re trying to find ways to articulate the gospel in your community, I would encourage you to consider doing something similar. Or if you’re trying to build relationships with other area churches and pastors, this might be something to consider.  There were several benefits.

  • We got to hold out the good news of Jesus Christ.
  • We got to partner as local churches in the mission of spreading the gospel. We weren’t all the same denomination (Baptist, Presbyterian, and Nondenominational). In this way, although our churches disagree on various denominational distinctives, we demonstrated our essential unity around the cross of Christ.
  • We encouraged the saints in attendance to keep watch over the gospel—to value it, cherish it, and be clear on what it is when sharing it. We got to encourage God’s people to faithfully steward what has been entrusted to them.
  • We offered an occasion for skeptics and seekers to engage the gospel.
  • We left rejoicing again in the wonderful news that the Son of God died and rose to save sinners!
Philip Van Steenburgh

Philip Van Steenburgh is the senior pastor of Grace Harbor Church Cape Cod in Hyannis, Massachusetts.

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