Practical Steps for Confronting
the Greatest Crisis of Our Times
An Interview with David Bryant
Ours is a generation engulfed in crises! Consider these: international terrorism; growing economic disparities; political gridlock; increasing racial and ethnic tensions; disintegration of democratic alliances; cultural and moral decomposition; health care battles; ideological tribalism; menacing environmental disruptions. The list goes on and on.
But there’s one other crisis that rises above them all. Ultimately, it impacts them all.
It is the sobering crisis inside the nation’s churches, found within every stream of the Body of Christ. More than all the others, this crisis demands immediate attention. We must find a way to effectively confront and cure it—before it’s too late.
Otherwise, there’s every reason to believe the gospel ministry of God’s people in the life of our nation will be overwhelmed and swallowed up by the convergence of the other crises upon us.
To explore the one hope of curing this crisis, David Bryant sat down with the senior editor of the TriStateVoice (TSV), the only Christian newspaper for NJ, CT, and Metro New York City. You’ll find their conversation is relevant to every single Jesus follower today.
TSV: David, you say that many serious Christians don’t know how much their hearts long for more of God’s Son. Why is this so common?
David Bryant: Well, for one reason, as Christians we simply are not talking about Jesus among ourselves very much inside our churches today.
For the past 35 years, I’ve traveled every stream of the evangelical movement, and I can report to you (and many leaders confirm this with me) that Christians seem ready to talk about everything except Jesus. Many conversations among us never even mention his name.
For example, for years at conferences, I’ve been challenging leaders to try a three-week experiment. For three weeks, I suggest, have your board of elders or deacons or other leadership teams spend Sunday mornings roaming around among the people in your congregation, listening to what they are talking about—in the parking lot, or fellowship hall, or Sunday school classes, or before worship in the sanctuary. I call it a “Listening Tour.”
TSV: What are the findings of such Listening Tours?
DB: It’s pretty shocking, to be honest. I tell pastors to do this with their leaders for three weeks, then reconvene to debrief what they’ve discovered, using two questions to help distill their findings.
(1) How often on a Sunday morning did you hear believers even mention the name of God’s Son in conversations with other believers (except maybe at the end of a prayer)? You will be amazed to find out that our Lord Jesus hardly ever comes up.
You may hear Bible topics or Bible verses mentioned. You may hear the word “God” referenced in a general way. But rarely will you hear Christians talking specifically about the One who is our whole reason for existing—the One who calls us to rejoice in him every Sunday, the One on whom rests our entire identity and destiny, the One without whom we can do nothing and without whom we become nothing!
How can that be? So often we give him, at best, only an “honorable mention.” It’s as if we regard him more like our “mascot” than our reigning “monarch.”
(2) If and when you actually did hear the name of Jesus come up in a Sunday morning conversation, did you ever witness one believer going to another believer saying something like: “Bob (or Mary), I have uncovered a wonderful new truth about the greatness and glory of God’s Son this past week that is so exciting I simply can’t keep it to myself. Could I have one minute to share with you what I found? I’m sure it will strengthen you in your walk with Christ as well.”
And yet, this is precisely what we are told to do in Colossians 3:16 whenever we’re together.
TSV: What’s the response once leaders uncover such a serious shortfall in how we talk around rather than about God’s Son?
DB: A majority of leaders who implement this three-week experiment end up stunned when they discover how rarely Jesus is ever mentioned in their churches and that their people virtually never try to build up one another’s vision of Christ and passion for him in terms of the glory of who he is right now.
And yet, Romans 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing when what is heard is the message about Christ.” That is to say: If we don’t hear from one another about the grandeur of Jesus or about what Ephesians 3 calls the “unsearchable riches” of Christ, then how can we ever successfully identify how much our hearts actually are longing to know him better? How will we ever recognize that our heart’s hunger is to learn more of Jesus in his greatness and glory and experience a deeper relationship with our reigning Lord every day?
TSV: Is this why it’s possible for Christians to have a growing longing to know more of the wonders of Christ and yet not know that’s the reason they are so restless?
DB: Precisely. As Steve Jobs put it in terms of marketing Apple products: “People don’t know what they need until someone shows them.”
In the same way, people don’t know how hungry they really are to see and savor God’s Son for ALL he is until we start talking with one another about him and expanding our view of him a whole lot more—until we start showing to one another more of his majesty and sovereignty and power and love, the vastness and fullness of life we have in him.
TSV: So then, the situation in our churches is pretty serious, isn’t it!
DB: It’s nothing less than a genuine crisis, to be frank. In fact, I suggest it is the greatest crisis we face in the Christian movement today. Call it “a crisis of Christology.” It is a serious shortfall in how we see and seek and speak about our Redeemer King in terms of who he is right now and all he is right now.
In Matthew 12, Jesus says that “out of what fills the heart the mouth speaks.” That means that today, all across the evangelical movement, there are millions of Jesus followers whose hearts must be filled with everything else except Jesus. We know this because we are talking with each other about everything else except Jesus.
This is why I keep saying that the great need of the hour is for what many call a widespread “Christ Awakening” all through the Body of Christ—a reformation of our vision of Christ and a revival of our passion for Christ, so that as he begins to fill our hearts, we cannot help but talk about him as a way of life.
TSV: But how can we be sure it is absolutely the greatest crisis of our times?
Well, think about it like this: The ultimate solution to every crisis that the human race faces—above all, the crisis of sin and our separation from God—lies in God’s triumphant, ruling, supreme Son. Therefore, it is crucial that the good news about Jesus be heard and received throughout our nation and among earth’s peoples. The Church has been tasked by the Holy Spirit to fulfill this grand mission.
So, if the Church is in a crisis of any kind, that hinders its effectiveness in spreading this message. And then, on top of that, if it’s a crisis of the weakness and smallness of our vision of the Savior whom we are called to proclaim—well, then God’s people suffer an emergency of spiritual impotency resulting in a world that remains unchanged—without God and without hope (see Ephesians 2: 12) as it faces all these other crises.
TSV: And is the fact of this “crisis of Christology,” as you call it, the reason you created The Christ Institutes Video Series?
DB: Absolutely. The Christ Institutes Video Series is designed not only to help Christians confront and cure the crisis but also to help feed and fuel “Christ Awakenings” everywhere, for individual believers as well as their congregations and ministries.
Its nine components or sessions foster a full-orbed reconstitution of how Christians encounter the Lord Jesus Christ in light of the full extent of who he is today, especially in terms of the breadth and depth of the majesty of his supremacy in all things.
In fact, the subtitle for the Institutes is Exploring and Experiencing the Spectacular Supremacy of God’s Son Today because we need to do both: explore more of who Christ really is and then experience more of what we discover about him.
This is not complicated, however. I can boil my teaching down to seven little prepositions to unpack seven dimensions of all that Scripture teaches about the glory and greatness of Jesus who is active on heaven’s throne right now.
Incidentally, there are hundreds of verses to fill this in for all seven dimensions, passages that lift Jesus up—foreshadowing him in the Old Testament and fully revealing him in the New Testament.
TSV: Tell us a little bit about those seven prepositions.
DB: Actually, I dedicate seven of the nine TCIVS sessions to them, spending over an hour on each one. Combined, they add up to what I call a “consequential Christology”—meaning a vision of God’s Son that carries immediate, practical, transforming consequences for every area of life.
Briefly, here they are:
- Who Christ is TO us (his personhood; his deity; as the picture of Scripture; by the claims of his names; as our identity and destiny; and more).
- Who Christ is FOR us (the four-fold revolution of his incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—with a special emphasis on the ascension, which may be the most neglected doctrine of the Bible in evangelical churches).
- Who Christ is OVER us (as he reigns over creation, world history, global rulers, earth’s peoples, powers of darkness, and the building of the Church).
- Who Christ is BEFORE us (going ahead of us—into the future to bring it back to us; into the heavens to bring us there with him; into God’s promises to make them ours as well; and into the world to open up the ways for us to serve him).
- Who Christ is WITHIN us (living out his victorious, ascended, reigning life in each of us individually, and most of all among all of us corporately).
- Who Christ is THROUGH us (as he unleashes his power and ministry into the world through us individually but again, most of all, as he works through us together, without limits, right to the ends of the earth).
- Who Christ is UPON us (as he comes upon us in times of renewal and awakening to accelerate and intensify and expand on all he is already doing among us and through us; and as one day he comes upon the entire universe at his glorious return to transform the whole creation into a new heaven and earth where he will reign supremely forever, to the glory of God the Father and by the saturation of God the Spirit).
What is really special about this outline is that anyone can explore this vision in depth not only through the video teachings but also through my recently published companion book, Christ Is NOW!
TSV: What are some practical implications of this larger vision of Christ for individual Christians and their churches?
DB: The implications for every dimension of discipleship are profound. One entire session of The Christ Institutes (and the final two chapters of Christ Is NOW!) focuses on how to respond to the spectacular supremacy of God’s Son.
For example, consider what it means for our prayers. Whenever Christians end a prayer with the phrase “in Jesus’ name,” what we’re really saying is this: “I’m confident before the Father that if he answers whatever I’m asking, the primary outcome will be the spreading of Jesus’ fame, the extending of Jesus’ reign, the increasing of Jesus’ gain, the ratifying of Jesus’ claim, and thus, the exalting of Jesus’ name. Therefore, I should watch expectantly to see how he will respond.”
Remember, 1 John 5 promises that if we ask anything according to the Father’s will, he will answer us. Well, these outcomes for Jesus form the apex of the Father’s will. Every prayer is ultimately all about God working to answer us for the purpose of lifting up the Son more and more and for the advancing of his kingship in our generation.
Thus, the larger our vision of Christ, the more potent our praying will become!
TSV: But now The Christ Institutes Video Series has evolved into a credit-bearing college course, right?
DB: Yes. Although we’ve had a profound impact by conducting The Christ Institutes as live events all across the country in 48-hour intensives, our goal always has been to expand the curriculum into a full-fledged, fully accredited, three-hour college and seminary elective.
Last spring, Pillar College, New Jersey’s only fully accredited Christian college, caught that same vision for TCIVS. Amazingly, they offered to do the hard work of transforming the Institutes into a one-semester course. They call it Christ Alive, consisting of over 10 hours of these content-rich video lectures, coupled with in-class discussions and even corporate prayer at planned break points in the videos. The videos and class discussions are supplemented by exciting outside reading, reflective daily journaling, and response papers.
Shortly, Christ Alive will become available to Christian institutions all across the nation—95% of which currently do not offer even one full-semester class on the person of Christ. So, this academic breakthrough is truly revolutionary!
TSV: Finally, David, you talk a lot about your abounding hope for what a Christ Awakening can do for this nation. Tell us what you are anticipating.
DB: There’s so much I could say about that! Everywhere I go, I sense the Holy Spirit is preparing for what I call a “Christ Awakening.”
Here are two ways I define this biblical phenomenon: (1) It’s when God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to reintroduce God’s people to the full extent of the supremacy of God’s Son; and (2) it’s when the whole Church becomes wholly alive to the whole vision of the whole Christ.
Everything else—worship, discipleship, evangelism, social reform—gets transformed by such fresh, personal encounters with the majesty and reigning glory of Jesus.
TSV: So, is this how we confront and cure the greatest crisis of our times?
Absolutely! Christ Awakenings are simply a fuller manifestation, individually and corporately, of what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:6 and prays for at the end of Ephesians 3:14-21. Both deserve a reading. They are backed by scores of similar passages.
TSV: Do you see any signs of such a movement emerging where you live in metro NYC?
I do. Clearly, it’s on the horizon through various regional initiatives like the Christ Alive course, Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, and Movement Day Global Cities.
I’m most encouraged by a recent endeavor that reached into all of the New York boroughs. It’s called Saturate NYC. Its motto is: “Saturate the churches with the supremacy of Christ so as to empower them to saturate the city with the gospel of Christ.” Recently, 300 churches banded together to reach over one million New Yorkers with the gospel in the first week of June (called “Jesus Week”). Currently, Saturate is taking root in other cities across America.
TSV: Thank you for your time, David. Finally, what might our readers do next?
Confront any crisis of Christology in your own life! Learn more about what the supremacy of Christ is all about and what this great hope of Christ Awakenings involves by surveying all of the FREE resources at www.ChristNow.com. When you get there, I suggest you scroll down the home page to view two brief videos—one on the crisis itself and the other that paints a fresh vision of the supremacy of Christ.
Of course, I hope you will order my latest book, Christ Is NOW!, either on Amazon.com or www.DavidBryantBooks.com. It will give you the most complete and in-depth guide into who Jesus is in his magnificent supremacy today.
(This interview is an expanded version of a previous blog post.)
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com.