Bestselling author and Christian minister David Platt will be teaching on the end times in the upcoming Secret Church meeting that expects to virtually gather anywhere from 50,000-60,000 Christians in over 50 countries in a six-hour simulcast scheduled for Good Friday, March 29.
The theme of the upcoming Secret Church global gathering is "Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World," and will have Platt speak to the confusion, fear and hope among Christians and non-Christians who may be unsure of what the Bible says about the afterlife. The Birmingham, Ala., preacher argues, however, that what is most important is what the Bible's eschatology, or end-times teaching, says about the Christian's life and purpose in the here and now.
The Secret Church Simulcast, led by Platt and hosted by LifeWay, is described as "six intense hours" of teaching and prayer primarily focused on the persecuted church. It was the minister's experience with underground house church leaders in Asia that inspired the first event in November 2006, which was held at Platt's The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham and attracted more than 1,000 people.
Reservations for Secret Church meetings usually sell out quickly with many churches and small groups clamoring to participate in the six-hour meeting of Bible study and prayer, which shows people are hungry for the word of God, according to Platt. The LifeWay Secret Church website provides details for this year's only simulcast gathering along with a map showing the location of host churches across the U.S. participating in the simulcast. Media from previous Secret Church gatherings can be accessed via Platt's Radical website, and video of the March 29 meeting will be available for viewing until April 29 at midnight.
In addition to serving as pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, Platt has co-authored with Francis Chan Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to Live and his New York Times bestseller Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream and has founded a resource ministry of the same name to equip Christians in making disciples.
Platt recently spoke with The Christian Post about the Good Friday simulcast, which is the 13th Secret Church gathering since the event's inception. Below is a transcript of the interview conducted via email.
CP: Why preach on the subject "Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World"?
Platt: It is critical that we address these topics, first and foremost, because God has revealed them to us in His Word. It's not simply that people find these topics fascinating, though they certainly do, but more importantly, these are topics addressed throughout Scripture, and they have eternal consequences. Most of what we know about hell comes from the teaching of Jesus himself, and if we believe what He said, namely, that hell is an eternal state of conscious torment, then it would be unloving not to urge people to believe the gospel and escape the judgment to come. On the other hand, what could be more glorious than the believer's future hope of a new heavens and a new earth in the presence of Christ? The New Testament consistently holds out this hope as that which compels us to persevere through trials and suffering now. The second coming of Christ is the event that the church of Jesus Christ is looking toward while we proclaim the gospel to all nations. So I guess the question is: How can we not preach on these things?
CP: How does teaching on the end times affect Christians in the here and now?
Platt: The "end times" is an intensely practical subject for Christians as we seek to be faithful to Christ on a day-to-day basis. For example, we're told in Romans 8:18 that our present sufferings don't compare with the glory to come, and Paul uses this to encourage believers in the here and now. Christ promises His people eternal treasure in the age to come, and the Spirit uses this promise today to keep us from grasping after the deceitful and temporary pleasures of this life. Also, because we know that Christ's coming will mean judgment for unbelievers, we understand that the need to make disciples is urgent and eternally significant. Proclaiming the gospel in our everyday lives, while it can be challenging, only makes sense. It's probably not a stretch to say that every area of our lives should be affected by how we view the end times.
CP: The Secret Church simulcast description reads: "Sadly, these critical topics are often embellished, fantasized, diluted, abused, or altogether avoided in our day." Please comment on some of the harmful attitudes people seem to have toward these topics.
Platt: We tend to run to extremes when it comes to these topics. Some Christians ignore these topics because they're uncomfortable or unpopular; talking about hell to unbelievers is viewed as unloving. For others, the topic of the end times and the book of Revelation can be too confusing, so they don't even venture into this strange territory of beasts and dragons. For those who do study these things, one's view of the end times can become a point of division, so that Christians who hold another view of the rapture or the millennium are looked at with suspicion. Finally, some who interpret these things seem more intent on talking about what is sensational than what is biblical. Every current event is somehow made to fit into a complex chart. In all these ways, we can miss the call to persevere in the light of Christ's coming and His purposes for the world.
CP: What kind of perspective should Christians have in regards to heaven, hell and the end of the world?
Platt: We must resolve to believe what Scripture says on these things, regardless of what is going on in our culture. Then, based on our confidence in God's Word, we must ask Him to empower us to live accordingly. These truths are sobering, and they should compel us to see all of life in the light of eternity. We can enjoy God's good gifts, but we must not live as if this world is all that there is. We live for a kingdom that is to come; therefore, in every situation, believers can be hopeful, for we know what the future holds, and it is glorious beyond compare. In the meantime, we ought to leverage our lives and our churches for the eternal good of those in our neighborhoods as well as those across the globe who have never heard the gospel.
CP: Any particular reason why this simulcast subject falls on Good Friday?
Platt: We typically try to have Secret Church around the first weekend in April and a few years ago that particular date on the calendar happened to fall on Easter weekend. We spent that Good Friday studying the Cross of Christ. It was a precious and poignant time as we gathered together to identify with our brothers and sisters around the world who were risking their very lives for the sake of the gospel and at the same time remembering and reflecting on the ultimate sacrifice for the payment of our sins, Christ's death on the Cross. Since that time, if it is possible, we have intentionally scheduled Secret Church on Good Friday. I can't think of a better way to begin our time together over the Easter weekend.
CP: How effective have the Secret Church simulcasts been since they started?
Platt: Through a partnership with LifeWay we began simulcasting a few years ago and during the last Secret Church simulcast, we had over 50,000 people gathered literally from around the world. There are stories like Cindy and her husband who attended Secret Church for the first time via the simulcast and afterward started two Bible studies in their home, re-teaching Secret Church materials. Or the church in Mexico where 10 men who attended that night decided to meet every Wednesday morning to go back through the material we covered that night, studying it in a deeper way in order to be able to reteach it. That's what we want to see happen. We want participants to come away with an insatiable hunger for God's Word and we want people, when they leave, to be equipped to share what they've learned with others. The primary goal of Secret Church is to equip brothers and sisters – here and around the world – to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, no matter what it costs.
CP: Why six hours, such an extended time of worship, prayer and teaching?
Platt: Secret Church was birthed out of my experiences with underground house church leaders in Asia. Imagine a group of people meeting in a little room, sitting on little stools or on the floor, with their Bibles open knowing that if they were caught studying God's Word they could lose their land, their jobs, be imprisoned – even lose their lives. Yet the Word is that important to them. They want to get together, to risk everything. So we began to think, how can we gather together with that kind of devotion to God's Word? How can we gather together and 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?
So we decided to come together on a particular Friday to study and pray like those underground house church leaders often do. We really weren't sure what the response would be for that first Secret Church. We kept it very simple and didn't do a whole lot to promote it. We made a few announcements to our church and put some information on the Web. That first Friday evening from 6 p.m. to midnight we gathered in our auditorium and just studied the Word. We had a little over 1,000 people in attendance, and we had no idea how much it would grow from there. People were drawn to the simplicity and gravity of the Word and to time in concentrated prayer for the persecuted church. After that first gathering, word started to spread and we quickly outgrew our seating capacity and now simulcast all over the world.
But Secret Church isn't just for that one night. Our hope is that God will use this focused time of study to enrich our knowledge of His Word as we gain understanding of the state of His Church and our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. The objective of Secret Church is for participants to pass along what they learn to others, to make disciples of Christ – both locally and globally.
CP: Secret Church is geared toward encouraging, nurturing and fellowshipping with the persecuted Church and keeping these Christians in prayer. Do you have a word for Christians in restrictive societies who will not be able to celebrate as openly the good news of Easter as their Western brothers and sisters this coming Sunday?
Platt: One, we are praying for you. There are tens of thousands of brothers and sisters who are gathering together to intercede on your behalf: for strength, sustenance, and even satisfaction amidst your suffering. And we are praying for your boldness as you proclaim the gospel at great cost to you, your family, and your church. But we are not only praying for you; we want to join with you. We don't want to remain silent in our witness, and we don't want to sit back in the safety of casual, comfortable, safe Christianity in the confines of our culture. We want to proclaim the gospel with you, alongside you, to the nations, and particularly in the places where you live. We want to mobilize the church here to spread the gospel with you over there. So know that you are not alone. And know, particularly in light of the topic of this Secret Church, that the day is coming when all suffering and persecution will give way to a weight of glory beyond compare. Let's labor together for the cause of the Great Commission with perseverance and hope until that day comes.