The Church at Brooks Hills in Birmingham evacuated the entire campus Friday after receiving a threat of violent acts hours before its planned Secret Church event, which was to be led by International Mission Board President David Platt. The gathering was instead held in the night at an undisclosed location amid police investigation.
"Due to security concerns, the elders and leadership at the church have decided to close the church for the simulcast. The simulcast will take place, but not at Brook Hills. If you are a ticket holder, information has been sent to you via email," said the website of the Radical ministry, which is headed by former Brook Hills pastor Platt and which received the threat.
Staff of Brook Hills and pupil of the preschool were evacuated, and police and fire departments were called to do a sweep of the building hours before the scheduled six-hour Secret Church gathering, which includes prayer and Bible study.
Police didn't find anything.
"We want to ensure the safety of our staff and members, and all those who are going to participate," Chris Kinsley, the Church's communications director, told Yellowhammer. "We live in a world where our fellow Christians around the world face threats on a daily basis. We're lucky enough to live in a country where that is unusual, but when it does happen we want to take it seriously but also not allow it to cause us to shrink back from the message we have to share."
In the simulcast, Platt covered the topics of slavery and sexuality, based on Leviticus 25:35-43 and 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
Platt and the Brook Hills leadership have hosted the Secret Church event more than a dozen times since 2006.
"Secret Church is a time where we join together to study God's Word and to identify with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted in countless places around the world," according to the ministry's website.
"When we think of 'church' in America, we think of going to meet at a building, singing, praying and hearing a message from a Pastor or teacher. But in many places around the world, 'church' meets in a home, an apartment, even in secret. These small groups of Christ-followers often meet for many hours in study, prayer and fellowship, as it is dangerous to travel to 'church' and they want to make the most of their time together."
Platt was inspired by his experience in Asia when he was in his mid-20s. With a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, Platt taught through the Old Testament for more than 12 hours, according to Yellowhammer. After the study, the leaders requested him to come back the following day — in spite of the danger — to teach them through the New Testament.
"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," Plat writes about his experience in his book, Radical.
"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."
In April 2014, the Secret Church event drew 60,090 participants even as tens of thousands of Christians from various countries watched the simulcast.