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3 years ago

How a Secret Church meeting in Alabama became a worldwide phenomenon

Secret Church

Imagine all the blinds closed on the windows of a dimly lit room. Twenty leaders from different churches in the area sat in a circle on the floor with their Bibles open. Some of them had sweat on their foreheads after walking for miles to get there. Others were dirty from the dust in the villages from which they had set out on bikes early that morning.

They had gathered in secret. They had intentionally come to this place at different times throughout the morning so as not to draw attention to the meeting that was occurring. They lived in a country in Asia where it is illegal for them to gather like this. If caught, they could lose their land, their jobs, their families, or their lives. (Excerpt from Radical by David Platt.)

In this particular meeting, the local church leaders had not only gathered to share struggles and to pray together, they also came to study the Bible with an American who would soon become the pastor of one of the largest congregations in the United States.

With a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, Dr. David Platt, at the time in his mid-20s, taught his way through the Old Testament over the next 12 hours. When he was done, the leaders wanted more, urging him to come back the following day — in spite of the danger — to go through the New Testament in another marathon session.

Three weeks after my third trip to underground house churches in Asia, I began my first Sunday as the pastor of (The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama). The scene was much different. Dimly lit rooms were now replaced by an auditorium with theater-style lights. Instead of traveling for miles by foot or bike to gather for worship, we had arrived in millions of dollars’ worth of vehicles. Dressed in our fine clothes, we sat down in our cushioned chairs.


Please don’t misunderstand this scene. It was filled with wonderful, well-meaning, Bible-believing Christians who wanted to welcome me and enjoy one another. People like you and people like me, who simply desire community, who want to be involved in church, and who believe God is important in their lives. But as a new pastor comparing the images around me that day with the pictures still fresh in my mind of brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. (Excerpt from Radical by David Platt.)

The stark contrast between to two scenes compelled Platt and other church leaders to begin discussing ways to capture the urgency and intensity of the underground churches in areas of the world where Christians literally risk their lives for their faith — a tall order in a city like Birmingham in the heart of the Bible Belt.

“We started thinking through, how could we gather together with that kind of devotion to God’s Word?” Explained Platt. “How could we gather together to promote in the people of God a hunger for the Word of God like that? And then while we’re doing that have some time when we can identify with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world and spend time in intentional prayer for them.”

In 2006, Platt and the Brook Hills leadership decided to host an intense, 6-hour Bible study and prayer time on a Friday evening from 6 p.m. ’til midnight. Just like in the tiny, dimly lit room in Asia, a survey of the Old Testament would be the topic.

Secret Church was born.

Even with promotion limited to announcements in Brook Hills church services, 1,000 local churchgoers showed up on the first Friday night. It was successful enough that they decided to do another one several months later. This time a couple thousand people showed up to hear a survey of the New Testament. Several months later the church’s massive auditorium couldn’t hold the turnout to hear 6-hours of teaching on how to study the Bible.

Unlike many of the mega-church scenes on television, the production was sparse. No arena concert-level production. No quasi-motivational speaker spouting feel-good platitudes. Just six hours of intense Bible study and prayer. The whole scene seemed to buck every nugget of prevailing wisdom on how to get busy, entertainment-saturated Americans to show up to church. And yet within months they were talking about whether or not to rent out an arena for the next event.

“We were excited, but concerned,” recalls Angelia Stewart, who was around Secret Church from the beginning and now works for Radical, David Platt’s resource ministry. “What will we do? We had to start selling tickets because people began to travel in from around the country and we wanted to make sure they had a place to sit and a study guide. The costs began to be burdensome on the church because we were printing thousands of study guides, so we charged just enough to cover the costs. It got to the point that tickets would sell out in a matter of minutes.”

Secret Church organizers realized that at some point there would not be a room big enough to hold everyone who wanted to attend, so rather than even attempting to find a larger venue, they opted instead to simulcast the event online.

“When persecuted Christians in other parts of the world come together, it’s a smaller setting. We wanted to maintain that intimacy,” Stewart said. “We thought, ‘How could this best serve the church?’ And simulcasts came up.”

They approached LifeWay Christian Resources, one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, about helping them launch a simulcast. The company quickly agreed. The first Secret Church simulcast took place in 2012 and an astonishing 35,000 people signed up to view it.

In April of 2014, the fourteenth edition of Secret Church included 60,090 participants. At least one church in every state hosted a simulcast and churches in 81 foreign countries participated as well.

Every Secret Church has been recorded and translated into 12 different foreign languages that encompass approximately 70 percent of all speakers on the planet, accomplishing another one of the organizers’ goals — to give seminary-level teaching to Christians all over the world, especially those in countries where they are persecuted.

“Knowing the Word and knowing our persecuted brothers and sisters, and serving both for the glory of Christ… Secret Church tries to bring those two together,” said Platt.

And stories have come in from all over the world about the impact the events are having.

“A couple of American girls were serving in Asia and were able to form relationships with friends there and ultimately led them to Christ,” said Stewart. “The first place they turned to for teaching was our website where the Secret Church resources had been translated into Mandarin. They began sharing the Gospel with their friends and meeting regularly. Then they got to the Secret Church teaching on The Body of Christ — the church — and realized, ‘Hey, we’re a church!’ So a new church was born. When you hear stories like that, you know it’s all worth it. Now people are able to come and get resources and have secret churches on their own.”

On April 24 of this year, the fifteenth edition of Secret Church will be held at the Church at Brook Hills, in churches around the United States, and in just about every corner of the globe.

To learn more about Secret Church or to host a simulcast, head over to the Secret Church website.

(Video below: David Platt discusses Secret Church)

5 hours ago

Backed by Alfa, Rick Pate rolls to victory in Alabama ag commissioner race

Lowndesboro Mayor Rick Pate on Tuesday survived late-campaign attack ads dredging up a three-decade-old divorce to claim the Republican nomination for Alabama commissioner of agriculture and industries.

Pate defeated state Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) with about 57 percent of the vote. With no Democrat on the ballot in November, Pate is all but assured of succeeding Republican incumbent John McMillan, who is term-limited.

“We thought we would win,” Pate told “We had the right message. I am a farmer and a businessman. I thought that is what people would want.”


Dial made it to the runoff after running light-hearted ads featuring a catchy jingle proclaiming, “It’s Dial time.” Trailing by a significant margin, however, Dial went negative this month.

Ads by Dial’s campaign referenced a 1986 divorce petition filed by Pate’s ex-wife, Carolyn, that accused Pate of domestic violence.

Pate hotly disputed the allegation.

“I denied that then and I deny that now,” he told the Decatur Daily earlier this month.

Pate told the paper that he and his ex-wife now exchange Christmas cards and that she wrote a note in May explaining that she and her ex-husband hurled hurtful words at one another at the end of what had been a good marriage.

Pate had the backing of powerful agriculture and business interests, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, or Alfa. The group’s political action committee donated nearly $100,000 in cash and in-kind donations. That was nearly a fifth of Pate’s total.

Pate also racked up endorsements from the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Forestry Association, the Associated General Contractors of Alabama and the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, among others.

The Lowndesboro mayor, who owns a cattle ranch and runs a landscaping company, pledged to use the department to help farmers improve productivity.

Pate also promised to attack “over-regulation,” taxes and barriers to investment. He pointed out on his campaign website that some have estimated that food production will have to double by 2050 to meet worldwide demand.

It will take “visionary leaders who understand that we have to work smarter, not just harder, to achieve these goals,” according to the website.

Pate’s victory was broad. He won 59 counties — including Choctaw by a single vote — compared to just seven that went to Dial, who even lost his home base in Clay County.

The loss means Dial, come next year, will be out of elective office for the first time in 44 years.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”


5 hours ago

Ainsworth defeats Cavanaugh in Lt. Gov runoff election

After a long and hotly contested race, the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor in Alabama has been decided. Will Ainsworth defeated Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Cavanaugh in Tuesday night’s runoff election.

With 99 percent reporting, Ainsworth defeated Cavanaugh with a little more than ten thousand votes. Ainsworth received 51 percent of the vote, leaving Cavanaugh with 49 percent.

Ainsworth issued a tweet thanking those who supported and voted for him saying, “This is your victory as much as ours.”


Ainsworth also used the hashtag #ANewDayForAlabama in his first tweet since becoming the Republican nominee for Lt. Governor of Alabama.

Ainsworth mentioned his opponent as he spoke after the election results were revealed and said that he looked forward to working with her in the future.

Cavanaugh conceded around 9:30 p.m., saying,”He ran a strong race — Will Ainsworth — and he now, I hope, will go on to be our next lieutenant governor here in the state of Alabama.”

Ainsworth will now square off with Democrat Will Boyd in November.

6 hours ago

Steve Marshall beats Troy King in heated attorney general runoff

Alabama Republicans have chosen their candidate for attorney general: incumbent Steve Marshall.

Marshall beat his Republican competitor former attorney general Troy King in Tuesday’s primary election runoff, winning 62 percent of the vote as of 9:30 p.m., with 92 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

A last-minute endorsement by close Trump ally Roger Stone proved unable to deliver King a victory in what became at times both a heartbreaking and heated campaign.


Marshall and King both temporarily suspended their campaigns in late June, following the tragic death of Marshall’s wife, Bridgette.

In the race’s final weeks, King argued that Marshall’s acceptance of campaign contributions from the Republican Attorneys General Association was an infraction of Alabama’s campaign finance laws. He filed a lawsuit in Montgomery Circuit Court against Marshall last week, but a judge dismissed the case.

Marshall faces Democrat Joseph Siegelman in November’s general election.

11 hours ago

Live blog: Alabama votes — Runoff Returns

The state of Alabama (well, likely an “extraordinarily low” percentage) is voting Tuesday, July 14.

The lieutenant governor race pits Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh against Will Ainsworth in the runoff, while incumbent AG Steve Marshall squares off with former AG Troy King for attorney general. Also on today’s ballot, Martha Roby faces Bobby Bright for House District 2 and the race for commissioner of Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries between Gerald Dial and Rick Pate.


Update 9:40:
It’s no longer Dial time

Update 9:22:

Update 9:08:
Still a tight one for Cavanaugh and Ainsworth

Update 9:05:
A touching tribute

Update 9:01:

Down goes the King

Update 8:36:

AP calls House District 2 for Roby. She will face Tabitha Isner in November

Update 8:22:

NY Times has Roby 19,651 (67.2%) and Bright 9,599 (32.8%)

Update 8:15:

Update 7:48:

Marshall party enjoying the MLB All-Star Game

Update 7:40:

Update 7:25:

Per Montgomery Advertiser:
Lt. Gov race is a tight one.
Ainsworth: 105
Cavanaugh: 104

AG race also close early on.
Marshall: 125
King: 93

AG Commissioner close early.
Pate: 108
Dial: 96

NY Times shows big lead early for Roby in House District 2:
Roby: 261
Bright: 101

Update 7:00:

Polls are closed. Now we wait as results come in.

Update 6:50 p.m.:

Listen Live: Yellowhammer’s Jeff Poor and Dale Jackson on with Mobile FM Talk 106.5’s Sean Sullivan 8-10 p.m. at

Preview stories:

Five things to watch for on Runoff Election Night
The anatomy of races for attorney general and House District 2: What a win might mean
Here are the Alabama candidates who won the money race ahead of runoff

13 hours ago

Republicans don’t have to oppose Trump because he refuses to admit Russia meddled and wanted him to win

Russia meddled in the 2016 election and President Trump’s Director of National Intelligence acknowledges it. Russia wanted Trump to win, Russian President Vladimir Putin even admitted it. This does not mean there was collusion, it does not mean the election was stolen, and it doesn’t mean you have to support Hillary Clinton in 2020 or Democrats in 2018. It also doesn’t mean I, nor anyone else, has to second guess our reasoning for voting for Trump in 2016.

My reasoning was the open Supreme Court seat that would become Neal Gorsuch’s and the one that will become Brett Kavanaugh’s. A good friend of mine messaged me last night taunting me about Trump’s performance at the Trump/Putin press conference:


You know what, it was.

But the game here is quite simple: Putin wanted Trump over Hillary, therefore you shouldn’t have.

The problem with that is Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are actually to blame for all the problems that are being brought to bear today, and Trump fails to acknowledge that.

Take this by former Congressman Mike Rogers (not Alabama’s) Tweet as a guide:

Let’s check the timeline…

— Waged continuous & increasingly aggressive cyber attacks against us – 2015(?)-present
— Interfered in our 2016 elections – 2015-2016
— Annexed Crimea – 2014
— Shot down a civilian airliner – 2014
— Supports Assad in Syria – 2013
— Invaded our ally Georgia – 2008
— Murdered opponents in London – 2018

A grand total of one of those events started during Trump’s term.

More interestingly, the media, Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continued to act as if Russia was an ally — or at best a nuisance.

Clinton offered a reset button:

Obama asked for space so he could win an election:

How is it that Trump’s failure to call out Russia’s acts before he was president is ushering in a more powerful Russian Federation, but years of straight-up weakness should have been rewarded with a third-term for team Obama? It makes no sense.

Now, I have been clear, President Trump should acknowledge Russian-meddling, but that meddling does not de-legitimize his win. He needs to acknowledge this, but so do his opponents.

There is more to the world than our relationship with Russia. The economy matters, the Supreme Court matters, controlling our borders matters, and no one can tell you that your choice in 2016 was wrong because Obama failed to do his job.