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Eight Eye-Opening Church Documentaries You Need to Watch

Eight Eye-Opening Church Documentaries You Need to Watch

Watching documentaries about the Church is rarely easy, likely because the topics covered can be wild and unpredictable. Some leave us shocked, others leave us horrified. And some leave us feeling uncomfortable, especially when it hits a bit too close to home.

Sadly, there’s no shortage of documentaries about the Church. Many highlight absurd instances, but there are a few that represent the truth of the modern church in a difficult light. It can be easy to ignore these documentaries, but it might actually be important for believers to engage with these documentaries to understand what those outside of the Church think of God’s kingdom.

Here are six documentaries that will leave you frustrated, upset, maybe even angry — but they’re all still worth the watch.

Dancing With the Devil

What it’s about: Netflix’s latest documentary, Dancing For the Devil: The 7M TikTok Cult, is a three-part docuseries examining Los Angeles-based Shekinah Church and the charismatic pastor that many say abused his spiritual authority and led it like a religious cult. At the center of the story is a group of very influential TikTok dancers that joined the church and ultimately signed with the pastor’s talent management company, 7M, which ultimately was used to control every aspect of their lives.

Why you should watch it: As former members point out, the Shekinah Church of today is not what it’s always been. Many spoke of how it was a place for community, for refuge, for growth. But along the way, spiritual manipulation from its leader Robert Shinn twisted the church up and lead it down a different path. It’s not a completely uncommon story, and it’s one that believers everywhere should be on the look out for in their own leaders.

God Forbid

What it’s about: This Hulu documentary is not just a salacious story about a sex scandal. It is also a film about the power of religion and the dangers of hypocrisy. The film shows how Jerry Falwell Jr. used his position as a religious leader to justify his own behavior, and how his actions lead to major consequences for Liberty University. It also shows how the Falwell family’s fall from grace had a ripple effect on the evangelical community.

Why you should watch it: The Falwell family has had a massive impact on modern evangelicalism, and to a larger extent on American politics. The documentary explores how things came to be, and how it all imploded with Falwell’s scandal.

The Way Down

What it’s about: The HBO Max documentary looks into Remnant Fellowship Church, a Tennessee-based church led by charismatic leader Gwen  . In the 90s, Shamblin gained popularity for her diet lifestyle book, The Weigh Down. Her success “naturally” led her to starting her own church where she preached “the gospel” of self-control and losing weight. The documentary dives into the consequences of the false gospel, how well-intentioned believers can be misled by a false teachers, the secrets and abuse hidden in a church and so much more.

Why you should watch it: Many former members of the church share their experience with Shamblin and Remnant Fellowship. Through their stories, they warn others how staying connected to The Truth is the best way to steer clear of lies.

The Secrets of Hillsong

What it’s about: This Hulu documentary explores the rise and fall of Hillsong Church, one of the most popular and influential churches in the world. Over four episodes, the story chronicles the church’s meteoric growth, its celebrity following and its hidden secrets, including allegations of sexual abuse and leadership abuse. The documentary also examines the role of Hillsong founder Brian Houston, who has been accused of covering up his father’s sexual abuse.

Why you should watch it: Hillsong Church has been one of the most influential churches of the 21st century. From worship to preaching, their leaders have impacted the global church in more ways than one. If you want to understand how and why things are the way they are today, you need to check out this doc.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God

What it’s about: The Catholic Church sexual abuse is, at this point, a well-documented story. There have been numerous documentaries and films about the abuse, but one of the most important is Mea Maxima Culpa, which translates to “my great fault.” This documentary explores the abuse of power in the Catholic Church through the story of four courageous deaf men, who in the first known case of public protest, set out to expose the priest who abused them.

Why it’s important: The story of uncovering Catholic Church abuse is one of the most difficult ones for the Church to face. But it’s an important part of Church history that cannot be overlooked. Additionally, this HBO documentary challenges Christians to be on the look out for those with disabilities in the Church, ensuring they are being cared for just as much as anyone else.

Keep Sweet, Pray and Obey

What it’s about: This gripping Netflix documentary delves into the world of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS). Through firsthand accounts and unseen footage, it exposes the chilling control and abuse wielded by its leaders, particularly Warren Jeffs. This eye-opening series unravels the deep-seated corruption within the FLDS, shedding light on the resilience of those who escaped.

Why you should watch it: At the crux of this docuseries is a profound understanding of the dangers of unchecked power and the impact of religious extremism. The documentary offers compelling, firsthand testimonies that highlight the resilience and courage of those who escaped. Additionally, it serves as a critical reminder of the importance of vigilance and advocacy for human rights and justice.

Shiny Happy People

What it’s about: Amazon Prime’s limited docuseries explores the hidden truths beneath the wholesome Americana surface of the reality TV mega-family and the organization they’re members of: The Institute in Basic Life Principles. Through the lives of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting family, the Duggars, secrets begin to unravel about the family America watched and the religious organization they helped grow.

Why you should watch it: The bombshell documentary unveiled that the persona held by the Duggars on screen did not match up to the children’s actually lives. Several daughters spoke candidly about their upbringing, alongside formed IBLP members who expressed the harm they received at the hands of the organization’s leaders.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye

What it’s about: Long before Jessica Chastain put on the hair and makeup, the story of real-life televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker was told in this bombshell 2000 documentary. The film follows the “Queen of the Eyelashes” journey from her love-at-first-sight encounter with Jim, through the glory days of PTL, to the scandal that brought both their empire and their family tumbling down.

Why you should watch it: The days of televangelists have (thankfully) waned in this century, but in many ways they’ve simply been remolded into something new. Christian leaders have twisted their position and authority to scam believers for years (let’s be honest, this list wouldn’t exist without it) but few are more infamous as Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.

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