Certainly I must be talking about the Super Bowl, a Bon Jovi concert, or the "game of the year" between two college rivalries with a slew of die hard fans. Actually, the above scenario played out recently with people trying to get into church to study the Bible!
David Platt is pastor of a church at Brook Hills in Alabama. He has travelled all over the world, including to many places where sharing the gospel will get you killed. He has met with house churches in secret. These brave and devoted followers of Christ will gladly sit in a dark cramped room for 12 hours at a time because they are so excited to hear the Bible taught and have such a passion for God's word.
So, David Platt got an idea: what if he designated six hours on a Friday night (although he never finishes on time) from 6:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. to gather and study a portion of the Bible in depth and also pray for the persecuted church around the world? There would not be a meal served, socializing, or entertainment. It would be called "Secret Church," after the many house churches he has visited around the world. Would anybody come?
Yes! Over a thousand came that first night. Before long, Secret Church was standing room only. At one point, so many thousands of people showed up for the quarterly event that many had to be turned away. So the church resorted to giving away free tickets so everyone with a ticket would be guaranteed a spot.
The latest Secret Church was held in November 2010, and tickets "sold out" on the Internet in six minutes. The 2500 free tickets, plus several hundred for an overflow room were gone quickly. A sell-out to study the Bible on Friday night? What could possibly going on?
David Platt believes that "Biblical literacy is a precursor to Biblical transformation." He is intent on teaching the Bible in a way that is meaningful and practical and that will ultimately change people to become more like Christ. He is also passionately committed to taking the gospel to the nations and supporting the persecuted church.
It is so exciting and refreshing to hear about people being so serious and interested in prayer and Bible study. The "Secret Church" page on Facebook is replete with those saying they have extra tickets they cannot use and others trying to be the first to snatch them up. The vast majority of those with extra tickets give them away, but a few are even selling tickets to Secret Church!
I definitely believe that those who have spare tickets should not sell them, but this does bring up an almost unheard of scenario: people actually scalping tickets for a Bible study!
This is made even more remarkable by the fact that Dr. Platt's teaching is deep, hard-hitting and convicting; much of it is counter-cultural. He does not pull punches and is not afraid to offend if he feels he is truthfully speaking from the Word of God. (As my friend Karin likes to say, "sometimes I need to be offended, because otherwise, I won't ever change.")
What this tells me is that people are hungry for truth from the Bible. They do not need their ears tickled by watered down, feel-good drivel. They do not need to hear a lot of opinions from the pastor. They do not need for their pastor to apologize for the Bible because there are some passages that are difficult to accept or understand, or because they are controversial. They do not need another self-help, "10 ways to be a better person" style sermon.
The result is that more and more people are coming. Many (including me) have heard the teachings from Secret Church on the church's website. The next time Secret Church is held, there will likely be live streaming video available for those unable to attend personally.
Of course, there is a danger here. Though Dr. Platt approaches his teaching humbly and constantly aims to deflect any attention from himself and onto the Bible and Christ, there is no question that he is a gifted and anointed teacher and many people are drawn in because of him. If they ever had a "guest speaker" for Secret Church, it is unlikely the crowds would be as large or the enthusiasm so intense. Also, I'm sure his theology is not 100% perfect, because no one's is.
Still, I am heartened that he has created a lot of interest in serious study of the Bible. He and a handful of other prominent pastors in America have decided to be unafraid in their preaching. Whether 1000 people or 10 people show up, they are committed to teaching the Word unapologeticlly and with zeal. I hope this will give more pastors the courage to speak the truth, and not to base their teaching on concerns about church growth or political correctness.
In our culture, we hear a lot about celebrities who can sell tickets quickly. For example, last year Taylor Swift sold out her show at the Staples Center (20,000 seats) in ten minutes.
The venue for Secret Church (about 3,000) is small compared to the Staples center. Yet it is HUGE when you take into consideration the lackluster commitment that many Christians have to serious Bible study. Now, there is a stampede for tickets to an event where attendees spend six hours with an open Bible in their laps. Who knows, maybe someday sports and entertainment arenas will be filled with people who want to pray and learn from the Bible. That would be awesome, indeed!
For more information on Secret Church or to listen to the teaching, visit http://www.secretchurch.org/.