“Secret Church” is the fourth of five conversation segments with David Platt, senior pastor of The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., and author of the new book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.
Preaching: David, tell me about “Secret Church.”
Platt: “Secret Church” was born out of a time I spent with some underground house churches in East Asia, where they gathered together for 8-12 hours at a time at the risk of their lives. When they make the sacrifice to get together, they want to make the most of it. So they gather for 8-12 hours and study the Word together—literally for 12 (sometimes more) hours a day. They’re just so hungry for the Word. These are contexts where there’s no entertainment value, so to speak, apart from the Word—simply the Word. That is enough for them to risk their lives to get to know it.
When I came to Brook Hills, we began asking, “Why can’t we do the same thing?” So the first time we did it, we called it “Secret Church”; but we said, “OK, we can’t do 12 hours; we’ll start with six hours.” So from 6 to midnight, we gathered in our auditorium and studied the Word—no emphasis on music, lights or anything like that, just stripped down bare, just us and the Word of God. We take breaks, and on our breaks we pray intentionally for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world who gather together at the risk of their lives to study the Word like this.
The first night, we had about 1,000 people show up, and it was good; it just grew from there. We only are able to do it a couple times a year; but when we do, we have to take reservations because we don’t have enough room. It’s like $5 per person, which covers the study guide. When we put the tickets out for reservations, they sold out in three hours; we’ll have more than 3,000 people there. We have one overflow room and our regular auditorium. It’s one of my favorite sights as a pastor to look out after midnight—we hardly ever finish right at midnight, we usually go to closer to 1 a.m.—but to look out at 12:30 and see a room packed full of people with their Bibles open, just diving into the Word and praying for the persecuted church. That’s what “Secret Church” is.
Preaching: As you have led your church through this adventure in radical discipleship, how has that influenced or impacted your own preaching?
Platt: It’s been huge in my own preaching. Where a lot of this started was in my own personal life and conviction from the Word as I was reading through the Bible, particularly in the gospels. I was challenged and convicted in my own life. When I began to preach some of these texts, I already was beginning to make various adjustments in my own life and our family. So as I began to preach through the text that really had pierced me; that overflow came about in the way I was preaching. I think the Word had humbled me. The Word had convicted me, had challenged me
As we preach the text, the more it is internalized and transforms us, the more effectively we are able to communicate that Word with clarity, authenticity, passion, humility and hopefully with accuracy. So in that way it certainly transformed my preaching. As a result of that, some other things have happened. For instance, I was preaching through James. James just messed me and messed us up. James says you can’t just hear this; you’ve got to do this. When it comes to