Secret Church spreads word of Christ worldwide

Augusta observes spring holiday with egg hunts, church services celebrating Christ's resurrection

David Platt dives right in. He has six hours to go and an audience of 50,000 trying to keep up as he rapid-fire preaches doctrines of salvation to churches not only in his native Birmingham, Ala., but also Augusta, Aiken and worldwide.


This is Secret Church, a period of intensive Bible study that began at 7 p.m. Good Friday and ran well past 1 a.m. Saturday.

Secret Church is modeled after Platt's experiences on mission trips to Asia, where Christians risk imprisonment to worship.

"You'd enter a room cloaked in darkness and you wouldn't know how soon it'll be until you can get together again, so you'd stay for hours," Lowery said.

And so Secret Church began in darkness, lit only by candles.

Hundreds gathered at three local churches -- Warren Baptist, Crossroads Fellowship and Town Creek Baptist -- for the event, which was simulcast worldwide from Platt's Southern Baptist megachurch, the Church at Brook Hills.

Robin Hall carried a 160-page study guide, written by Platt, the author of the New York Times best-seller Radical. The study guide is nearly three-quarters-of-an-inch thick. During the course of the evening, she and 300 others at Warren worked through every page, contemplating the wonder of Jesus' crucifixion, the meaning of salvation and the importance of the Resurrection.

"It's like drinking from a fire hose," said Hall, a member at Warren.

That's the point, said Lane Lowery, Warren's spiritual formation pastor.

After a few songs and prayer, Platt began teaching, stopping only for an offering for the persecuted church and a few coffee and bathroom breaks.

"People are persecuted and sometimes even killed for their faith, and we in the American church can be blind to it," said the Rev. Chuck Peters, of Crossroad Fellowship in Augusta, who is leading a group of youth through Radical.

The book is subtitled Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream and challenges Christians to anything God asks of them -- including forsaking security, money and convenience.

"We're not a large church," Peters said, "but we're passionate about this, especially our youth," who organized and promoted the Secret Church event at Crossroad, where about 100 people participated Friday night.

"There is nothing more significant to our lives than the truth that God has provided a way for the lost man to be saved," Peters said. "The fact that you'd have any percent of any church want to come out and give their time to study the Bible like this is encouraging."

At Town Creek Baptist in Aiken, where about 115 attended Secret Church, the Rev. Clint Smith has given a copy of Radical to every family in the congregation. He'll continue a sermon series on the book today for Easter.

"Jesus taught us how to live -- and that way is radical," Smith said. "This is good, deep stuff, the heart of biblical Christianity."

The response to Platt's message of radical devotion has been "tremendous," Smith said.

"We have young people downsizing, choosing to buy smaller homes to give more to missions," he said. "The joy is amplified here. God is bringing people to our church. The youth are talking. It's changing the culture of our church. We're seeing remarkable things."

It's remarkable to think that Christians as far away as South Korea, Uganda, Cambodia and Mexico were sitting down to participate in the simulcast, said Cricket Willis, a mom of four who attended the event at Warren. She is a member of the church's mission teams, having spent the past three summers in Swaziland in southern Africa.

At first, Secret Church doesn't look like much, she said. It's a simple scene with teenagers walking around in pajama pants and parents nursing cups of coffee at 11 p.m. But after hours of Bible study, they've delved into the doctrines of regeneration and conversion, justification and adoption, sanctification and glorification. They've studied the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit and God's call to global missions.

"There's no hype here," she said. "It's church at its simplest for us, but for other people around the world, this is everything. This is all they want, this message that leads us to the cross."