Hurting for Christ

For years now, every April, I have participated in Secret Church. This event was created by Dr. David Platt when he was the pastor of The Church at Brook Hills outside Birmingham, Alabama. Platt had visited house churches all over the globe in areas where following Christ was dangerous and, in some cases, deadly. He would meet in secret with leaders of house churches, and together they would study the Bible for hours as Platt taught them principles and truths that they would then take back and share with their small congregations and family units.

Seeing the value such a time, Platt began to offer his home church a similar experience. Not only does Secret Church dive deep into the topic of the evening, but there are times throughout the event where participants pray for the persecuted church around the world. I’ve had the privilege of attending in person on numerous occasions, and it never failed to amaze me when seeing the number people in attendance across all age divisions. For some, the most startling sight can be the massive number of high school and college-aged attendees (another strike against those who say that those groups cannot handle deep Biblical truth or are uninterested in learning for an extended period of time). My times at Secret Church have never failed to inspire, challenge and transform my understanding. Here at Easthaven, we have hosted a live simulcast of Secret Church for the last few years, and those who have attended have experienced an incredible time of biblical teaching and application.

Out of all the times I have been a part of Secret Church, one stands out in my memory. A few years ago, the live event was being held at a larger church in Georgia. I met up with a couple of friends from Tennessee, and we spend the evening listening, learning, praying, scribbling notes and drinking lots of coffee. The prayer focus that evening was for the persecuted church in Iran. At the end of the event, just before we were dismissed, we were told that there was a special video for us. The Iranian Christians whom we had been praying for at different moments through the night were going to pray for those of us attending the event and for the church in America.

I sat in wonder. The government there is openly hostile to Christianity. Some of these Christians had been separated from family members because of their faith. Some had lost their jobs because they followed Christ. Many of their fellow followers of Jesus were imprisoned or had been executed. There were less than 500 known Christians in Iran in 1979; now the estimate is more than 300,000. The open persecution of Christians in the country has led to more interest in what followers of Jesus truly believe. This has led to growing conversions and the creation of more house churches.

These brothers and sisters in the family of God with us prayed God’s strength, power, blessing, wisdom and mercy to be upon us. They prayed that we would experience God in a fresh way that would lead us to live boldly for Jesus. The room was silent other than the voices from the other side of the world and the soft sniffing of those who were moved to tears by the prayers. With tender and passionate prayers, these believers prayed for the church in America. The desire threaded throughout their prayers was that we would know what it means to live in utter dependence upon God alone. Earlier this week, while thinking about the effect that COVID-19 has had on our churches, I remembered the prayers of those Iranians for us. My prayer is that their prayers will be answered.

Pray that…

Followers of Christ around the world will know what it means to live in his limitless power. – Ephesians 1:18-20 Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Regardless of the difficulty, Christians will rely upon and be sustained by God’s grace, strength and wisdom. –  2 Corinthians 1:8-9 For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.

Those who persecute our fellow members of the family of Christ will be shown the love of God by those being persecuted, and God will convict the persecutors and bring them to repentance. – Luke 6:27-28 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

For some thoughts on how COVID-19 might change the consumer mindset of the American church, click here

Secret Church 20 is coming up on Friday, April 24. This year’s topic is “God, Government and the Gospel,” and the night promises to be full of biblical answers to those questions and more. It’s a deep dive into a topic made only more relevant given our current political atmosphere. (If you have never been a part of Secret Church, click here to find out what it is all about and register to watch at home.)

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