In some areas of the world, churches are forced to meet in secret. Those who attend know they risk imprisonment and even death if they are caught.
Pastor David Platt taught in underground churches and witnessed the persecution firsthand during his trips to Asia, so he decided to start an initiative called "Secret Church" here in the United States.
On Tuesday, Platt held an online forum on Facebook to answer questions regarding his underground church initiative and church persecution.
The website for Secret Church says it is a "house church where we meet periodically for an intense time of Bible study, lasting four to six hours, and prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters across the globe."
The next Secret Church event will take place on Good Friday, and is specifically focused on the people of the Horn of Africa, where many remain without access to the Gospel in their heart language and where thousands are dying every day. The theme for the upcoming simulcast is "The Cross and Suffering."
Platt, who leads The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Ala., spent an hour answering questions from online followers regarding this upcoming Secret Church meeting and the persecution of Christians around the world. The following are excerpts from the online session.
Q: How do we reconcile God's goodness with the ongoing suffering of others in parts of the world where they have little or no access to the Gospel? With those who may never see physical respite from their suffering?
Platt: Great question, and one that we will tackle from the start during Secret Church. In the end, we will see that God is absolutely good in the midst of a world of evil and suffering...and I look forward to not only showing this in Scripture, but considering how this is great news for the kind of people/situations you are talking about.
Q: To what degree should Christians defend our religious rights vs. rejoicing in persecution?
Platt: It's obviously good, wise, and biblical for us to work for justice in this world. At the same time, living in a sinful world, injustice will be prevalent, and much like the NT church in Acts 4, our prayer should always be that no matter what the circumstances, God will enable us to speak His Word with great boldness. So...let's work for religious freedom and also rejoice in persecution...all for the spread of the gospel.
Q: What do you think suffering/persecution would look like for a follower of Christ in the United States?
Platt: It all depends on the context (i.e., the United States is pretty broad). There are pockets of unreached people groups in the U.S. where becoming a Christian is extremely dangerous (i.e., threats from people's families). On the other hand, persecution may involve ridicule, loneliness, isolation, rejection, ostracism, and a host of other challenges.
Q: Has the actual persecuted "secret church" been made aware of this ministry? If so, what has been their feedback?
Platt: Yes...we work with all kinds of persecuted bros/sis around the world, and they are always encouraged to know that they are not alone. In addition, we provide all of these resources to these bros/sis who don't often have access to such resources, which is part of the whole purpose. So be encouraged...our brothers and sisters around the world are thankful to know that we are with them, praying for them, and coming alongside them.
Q: How do you determine the topic for Secret Church?
Platt: To this point, it's been a variety of factors...wanting to hit on major doctrines as well as pertinent issues that our church is facing as we engage in global mission. We've not done one on suffering yet, and I am convinced that a biblical theology of suffering is integral to a biblical understanding of mission. So I've been looking forward to this particular topic for a while...
Q: How has Secret Church impacted your life and ministry?
Platt: It's certainly helped to fan the flame in my own heart for the supremacy of God's Word and the importance of identifying with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. I really do love preparing for this, diving into a major doctrine, and trying to boil it down to 4 (or so) hours of what is most important about that doctrine. My hope has been that this would serve and strengthen the church in order to more effectively mobilize us for the spread of God's glory around the world.
Q: What changes do you see happening with secret church in the next few years? Any long term goals/plans?
Platt: Good question...this thing has evolved in ways we certainly didn't plan (or could have planned). So I'm hesitant to say exactly what this looks like in the coming days. I do know that we want to be intentional about mobilizing people with God's Word for the sake of God's mission with a particular emphasis both on unreached peoples and persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
Check out more on the Secret Church here.