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The Church at Brook Hills simulcasts Secret Church for first time, reaches thousands worldwidecomment (0)

May 19, 2011

By Grace Thornton

Forget football tickets — some of the hottest tickets in Alabama for the past few years have been tickets to a six-hourlong Bible study.

It’s true.

Secret Church, a meeting held on Friday nights a couple of times a year at The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, has sold out in minutes the last few times it’s been held.

“The last several years, we have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls asking for us to move to a larger venue or simulcast or webcast Secret Church, begging us to make a way for other churches and small groups to participate,” said Angelia Stewart, communications director for Disciple-Making International (DMI), the Brook Hills ministry responsible for Secret Church. “When we realized how many people were truly hungry for a six-hour, in-depth Bible study and were desperate to participate, we couldn’t help but explore how we might possibly provide them the opportunity to do just that.”

The answer: A simulcast with the help of LifeWay Christian Resources on Good Friday.

The topic: Crucifixion, Salvation and the Glory of God.

All 10 of the Secret Church meetings held since 2006 have been on core subjects of the Christian faith. The style has been similar to the way Pastor David Platt preached in secret house churches in Asia — like “drinking from a fire hydrant,” with as much teaching as possible in the time allotted.

The initial purpose was to provide the recordings for believers in countries where openly studying the Bible would bring persecution. The fact that members of the Birmingham Baptist Association church were present in the worship room while the lessons were recorded was just a bonus in the beginning.

But it quickly grew into something bigger.

“It was obvious to us that God was doing something that had potential impact far beyond the Brook Hills campus,” said Jim Warren, DMI executive director. “We thought about a larger venue in Birmingham or a few simulcast locations around Birmingham. That led us to simulcast not just in the Birmingham area but as far away as the Internet reaches.”

And on Good Friday, Secret Church reached across at least 12 time zones and into homes, college dorm rooms and churches.

“There are between 50,000 and 60,000 people involved in Secret Church tonight, in homes and church buildings from Florida to Washington, Hawaii to Maine, and everywhere in between in the United States,” Platt told listeners at the first Secret Church simulcast. “And then we have brothers and sisters in Australia, Cambodia, South Korea, Uganda, Namibia, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Malaysia, the Cayman Islands.”

Kevin Spratt, adult event coordinator at LifeWay, said he was amazed at the reach of the simulcast, which was LifeWay’s first attempt at webcasting to groups smaller than churches.

“With the Internet, there’s always been capability to get into individual homes, but this was the first time we had decided to do it,” Spratt said. “On David’s prompting to reach internationally, we decided to go for it. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, to get out there into the world as well.”

Spratt said LifeWay is still tallying the results but a conservative estimate is that the simulcast reached between 1,200 and 1,300 groups and more than 50,000 people.

“At one point, Secret Church trended in the top three on Twitter. That was huge for us,” he said. “The event was successful on all accounts.”

Stewart agreed.

“From all of the feedback we have received and the buzz on the Internet, it looks like it was successful,” she said. “During the evening, we put up pictures that churches and small groups were sending in, and at one point, we put up pictures from a church in Cambodia and a small group in Guatemala City. When those pictures came up, we were just overwhelmed with what God had done.”

Stewart said Platt and other DMI leaders hope the simulcast will fuel a fire that will spread the gospel around the world.

“We don’t want the teaching from that night to stop with those attending Secret Church. We want everyone to take what they have learned and share it. We want it to spread,” Stewart said.

And even with the expanding numbers, the initial purpose for starting Secret Church is still what drives the event, she said. Offerings given during the event provide funding to transcribe and translate the teaching into various languages for persecuted Christians around the world.

“Our hope in expanding Secret Church is that tens of thousands of people will learn as much as they can and will be equipped with God’s Word so that they can take it out into their communities, sharing the gospel and discipling others so that we can reach the nations for the glory of God.”

For more information, visit www.disciplemakingintl.org/secretchurch.

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