The Case for a Nationwide Christ Awakening
Are Christians in America adequately prepared
for the overwhelming existential threats
converging upon us in the next ten years?
This may be the most important message I’ve delivered in nearly fifty years of ministry. That’s why I must share it with you without delay.
I delivered it recently at a national gathering of senior Christian leaders in Cincinnati, Ohio, convened to discuss collaboration to foster a Christ Awakening movement across our land. The response was explosive.
Like a lawyer’s brief, it seeks to present a case for decisive, immediate action. It appeals to God’s people to pray and prepare urgently for the unprecedented crises coming at us in the next decade. In the face of all the battles descending upon us simultaneously, it points to how we can not only survive but also thrive in glorifying Christ to advance his kingdom like never before.
My plea is intended to ignite in you an abounding hope. It is the hope about the coming nationwide Christ Awakening movement. The fact is, it must take place because we have no other hope apart from it.
So, how prepared are you for what’s coming?
Let me begin by giving you two shocking statements.
When I took a course on elocution in college, I learned that one good way to capture the attention of your audience is to make a “shocking statement” at the beginning of your talk. Well, today I have two shocking statements for you. Let’s see if they work!
Shocking Statement #1: It’s either Christ now or apostasy now.
What I mean is this: In the face of an unprecedented convergence of a multiplicity of existential threats, both national and international, within the next ten years Christians in America will experience one of two outcomes by the end of the decade: There either will be more of Christ, or there will be fewer of us.
Recall Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13 about the seed that fell on rocky soil: The seed, representing his message of the Kingdom, springs up quickly in this soil, producing what seem to be healthy plants. But the message of Christ is unable to put down roots because the soil is so rocky and shallow, which represents the condition of the hearers’ hearts. Therefore, when the searing sun comes out—which Jesus likens to “trouble and persecution” coming upon the hearers because of the word—the plants that at first seemed so full of promise quickly shrivel and fade away leaving not a trace.
Shocking Statement #2: Multitudes of Christian leaders in America are currently in danger of being sued for spiritual malpractice.
In other words, in light of what’s ahead of us during these next ten years, leaders like you and me at this convocation must go all out to reawaken and refortify God’s people with a bold, fresh, comprehensive vision of and engagement with God’s Son in the fullness of his supremacy. Otherwise, this significant falling away from Christ will be unavoidable—and ultimately, we will be held accountable.
Surely, God’s warning to Ezekiel is equally applicable to leaders in the Gospel age:
Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel; so, hear the word I speak and give them warning from me . . . I will hold you accountable for their blood. (Ezek. 3:16-17)
This sounds like a case of spiritual malpractice, wouldn’t you say? How do you think the Court of Heaven would rule?
I speak of “overwhelming existential threats”—
what do I mean?
Let me answer by listing some of the major challenges confronting us today, all unfolding at the same time and at a level that analysts agree we have not seen before now:
- Immigration demands and hordes of asylum seekers
- Trillions of dollars of ever-growing national deficits and debt
- The widening of income inequality and the enlarging gap between rich and poor
- Uncontained, undiminished urban violence across the land
- An unsustainable increase in our prison population at all levels
- Global drug trade and the opiate epidemic killing tens of thousands of Americans yearly
- International trade wars shaking economic stability
- A rise in human trafficking and slavery, nationally and worldwide
- Soaring, unsustainable health care and prescription costs
- The impending exhaustion of funding for Medicare and Social Security
- The rapid spread of pornography leading to the mass sexualization of our culture
- An intensifying battle over abortion, reminiscent of struggles during the abortion movement 200 years agore leadership should come.
- Ongoing, wholesale infrastructure decay requiring trillions of new dollars
- Threats of cyberwarfare and the vulnerable state of our cybersecurity
- The lack of education and workforce readiness for millions of Americans in the face of new technologies
- Stifling and burgeoning student and general household indebtedness
- The intensification of open grievances in the struggles for racial and gender equality
- The escalating demand for America to face the endemic, unresolved consequences rising from our “original sin”—400 years of human bondage
- The menace of global pandemics as antibiotic-resistant organisms multiply
- America’s unending wars, draining blood and treasure
- The rise of authoritarian regimes leading to dangerous international conflicts
- The reemergence of a nuclear weapons arms race with the perpetual menace of global extermination
- The proliferation of and constant threats from international terrorism
- The rapid multiplication of white supremacy and other hate groups from coast to coast
- School shootings amidst the unresolved ferocity of the gun control debate
- The widespread escalation of suicides along with the heightened concern for a national mental health emergency
- The all-consuming political, partisan warfare that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of American society permanently
Also notice: I haven’t even begun to dig into the fear of the nearly unanimous nightmare scenarios from the global scientific community of cosmic disasters possibly awaiting humanity over the next ten years because of climate disruptions. The projections reach beyond environmental upheavals. This includes anticipated catastrophic international social, economic and political revolutions by 2030 due, first of all, to the panic among developing nations of insufficient food and water.
Here’s my point of listing all of these threats: They are rapidly converging upon us while I speak—all of them holding the very real prospect of reaching a tipping point and a breaking point within the next ten years—and with all of this happening simultaneously.
Additionally, believers themselves must come to terms with the animosity that is being more frequently expressed toward the Christian faith in America, on top of which comes additional 2018 research documenting the accelerated persecution of Christians and churches in over 50 nations, much of it violent in nature. The bombings on Easter 2019 in Sri Lanka by Muslim jihadists, killing at least 250 worshipers, is only one example.
Here’s my question to all of us leaders:
Is the Church adequately prepared
to engage such an ominous future?
I ask the question for this reason: As these trends intensify, we must consider the current spiritual condition of the Church in America. Are we prepared to thrive at such a moment? In fact, are we even prepared to survive the crush of this seemingly unavoidable convergence?
Let me get us thinking about this by passing along these recent conclusions about the Church based on respected research:
Gallup reports this week that churches are disappearing across the land and that church attendance has dropped from 70% to 50% in just the past 20 years.
We see the rise of the “nones” who refuse to associate with any religion; many of them were previously Christian but are no longer. Today 27% of Americans call themselves “evangelicals” while 30% call themselves “nones.” Millennials are leading the trend—the ones from whom the church’s future leadership should come.
A significant number of those who have dropped out of church suggest that the main reason has been “burn out”—too much demanded of them, with too little feeding of them spiritually to keep them going.
Last November, Barna Associates published research that exposed how 80-90% of evangelicals admitted that in the past year they had not initiated one spiritual conversation with anyone else, believer or non-believer.
Barna reported this week on the significant drop in the number of Americans, especially evangelicals, who focus on Scripture regularly. Already, his organization had established that only 4% of evangelicals could be defined as biblically literate.
The front pages of our papers feature the unmasking of extensive clergy sexual abuse, not only among Catholic clergy but also increasingly within evangelical denominations.
One recent study found that as many as 40% of men in our congregations are struggling with addiction to pornography.
Another study discovered that around 80% of pastors say their biggest battle is with “melancholy,” a sense of hopelessness that nothing they do will really make any difference.
More and more as a whole, evangelicals are being perceived by society to be primarily about the business of preserving white identity culture while serving as a political base for the Republican party agenda.
Overlying all of the above is the grim reality that after 2000 years of the Church’s missionary endeavors, today at least two billion people remain on planet earth who have no knowledge of Christ—and no one like them to tell them. Thousands of them reside inside our US borders—and with population explosion, their numbers only increase, especially among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims.
But on top of these spiritual warning signs,
here is the truly paramount threat the Church faces today.
Let me be autobiographical with you for a moment.
Often when I speak, I tell my audiences that the most important gifts I bring to them are my two ears! That’s because for 40 years as I’ve encountered believers around the world, dipping into every stream of the Church, I’ve first of all practiced listening. I’ve wanted to hear: What is the Spirit saying to God’s people and what are they saying back?
In the late 1970s, I became increasingly aware that there was very little emphasis on world evangelization in most churches. So, I began to speak and write on what it means to be a World Christian.
By the mid-1980s, I became aware of an even larger spiritual vacuum among God’s people: the lack of prayer, especially corporate prayer. I knew that without a praying people no mission movement could be sustained. So, I began to speak and write extensively on Concerts of Prayer, helping mobilize citywide prayer movements around the world, as part of the answer.
But by the early 1990s, my ears were telling me that many of the praying people were not praying strategic prayers—the most crucial agenda being prayers for the revival of the Church, a revival for the sake of national spiritual renewal and world evangelization. So, at that point, I began to speak and write about revival and awakening, including helping to guide America’s National Prayer Committee and the National Revival Network.
By the year 2000, however, after decades of listening to the Spirit at work among God’s people all over the globe, I was finally able to identify the greatest need of all. It is the missing ingredient that ultimately explains why so many of our people have little affinity for missions, have rendered the prayer life as optional, and why widespread, transformational revival tarries.
I’m talking about what I’ve come to define as the sobering and increasing “crisis of Christology” inside the Church, especially in America. This crisis is nothing less than a pervasive, paralyzing shortfall in how God’s people see, seek, savor, and speak of God’s Son for who he really is and for all he really is today.
Thankfully, however, a growing number of credible Christian leaders are beginning to pinpoint this paramount crisis. These are a few examples:
Reformed theologian Michael Horton titled his book on the evangelical movement Christless Christianity. In it, he states that our churches are overtaken with (his phrase) “therapeutic, moralistic Deism with Christ on the fringes.” In essence, Horton believes in many ways we have become “Christless.”
J. I. Packer puts it this way: In the evangelical movement today, Jesus has become like Humpty Dumpty. He’s fallen off the wall and broken into a hundred pieces. Each of us has a piece of him, but very few are striving to put the pieces back together.
Shortly before he died, Chuck Colson wrote that in the evangelical movement today, the church has become the retail outlet, the members are the consumers, and Jesus has become the product.
In his last book before his passing in 2010, world-renowned Christian statesman John Stott nails our condition when writing in his introduction to Radical Discipleship: “We have become pigmy Christians because we have created a pigmy Christ.” That comes close to what I’ve been teaching for years—that we’ve turned God’s Son into the Church’s “mascot” rather than our monarch.
Do you need more proof? Then, over the next three Sunday mornings try this experiment along with the elders of your church:
Each of you circulate among the worshipers just listening to what people are talking about before and after the service. After three Sundays reconvene and debrief your findings using these two questions:
1. How often did we hear the name of Jesus even mentioned as Christians conversed? I guarantee you’ll be shocked—and then grieved.
2. Did we ever witness any believers passing along to other believers a fresh insight about the wonders of Jesus that they discovered the previous week, doing so in order to build up each other in their walk with Christ? Chances are you’ll not have one instance to report.
Then recall Jesus’ caution in Matthew 12: Out of the abundance of the heart—that is, out of what fills your heart—your mouth speaks. The application? If no one is talking about Jesus, even on Sunday mornings, it’s a pretty good bet the glory of Jesus is not filling their hearts throughout the week either. That’s just one more manifestation of the crisis of Christology.
So, how much of the greatness of Jesus
have many lost sight of?
In the graduate-level academic course I just finished conducting—as well as in my books and other resources—I teach that a full-orbed biblical Christology consists of at least seven dimensions that unlock the breadth of what I call “Christ’s spectacular supremacy today.” I reached such a simple schema based on 30 years of Bible study and wide-ranging research—and by using my ears as I traveled! I’ve captured the seven dimensions with seven prepositions. Here is a taste:
1. Who Christ is TO us—his personhood; his deity; as the fulfillment of God’s
prophecies and promises; as our identity and our destiny
2. Who Christ is FOR us—his inseparable four-part, irreversible revolution: the invasion of his incarnation; the mission of his crucifixion; the re-creation of his resurrection; and the coronation of his ascension
3. Who Christ is OVER us—as he reigns over creation, world history, global rulers, earth’s peoples, dark powers, and the building of his Church
4. Who Christ is BEFORE us—as right now he goes ahead of us into the future tobring it back to us; into the heavens to take us there with him; into God’s promises to make them ours as well; and into the world to open a way for us to serve him
5. Who Christ is WITHIN us—as he lives out his ascended life in us individually and corporately
6. Who Christ is THROUGH us—as he extends his reign and ministry to the world through us, individually and corporately
7. Who Christ is UPON us—as he comes upon the whole creation in the day of hisglorious, victorious, visible return; and when he comes upon us today in renewing power thataccelerates, intensifies, deepens and expands what he’s already doing in us and through us
How many believers live in the reality of any of these exciting dimensions of Christ and his supremacy?
How many are feasting on the wonders of the person and promises of our reigning Lord Jesus, Sunday after Sunday, day by day?
Whatever terminology you decide to use,
the key issue before us comes down to this:
How often do we hear believers say as Paul might put it: “For me, my entire life is wrapped up in Christ. My heart is fixed on his throne above as he advances his Kingdom. I place my entire life at the center of who he is, where he’s headed, what he is doing, and how he gets exalted”?
Or have a majority of Christians redefined Jesus to be more like a security blanket, or a “need-meeter,” or a mascot?
Based on your observations, which choice more accurately marks the majority of members of churches across America today?
One secret often overlooked:
In New Testament times many
believers were also caught
in a crisis of Christology!
The fact is that if there had not been any crises of Christology among first-century churches, we would not have a New Testament because most of the books were written to engage such battles.
For example, Paul penned words to the Corinthian church that could have been written to any of the churches he agonized over until, as he wrote to the Galatians, “Christ be formed in you again.”
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to
Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
Another example: When Paul reminded the Colossians that “in everything Christ is to have the supremacy,” he did so to confront the Christological heresies of the Judaizers as well as early forms of Gnosticism. With that context, consider this whole passage (from Colossians 1, the Message paraphrase):
We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above
everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross . . .
That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less.
That brings me back to thinking about the spiritual condition of the Christians and churches in our generation. So, let me ask again:
Spiritually-speaking, are we sufficiently fortified to face the
existential threats converging on us in the next ten years?
Of course, there’s much more you and I could unpack regarding our internal emergencies.
However, I hope you’re getting a sense of why I keep saying that the ONLY true hope Jesus followers have at such an hour as this—with countless external crises bearing down on us and with the gaping spiritual deficiencies and vulnerabilities the Church has inherited—is nothing less than a wholesale, nationwide Christ Awakening movement that floods our churches with more of Christ and then overflows like a mighty river to heal our battered nation.
What do I mean by a Christ Awakening?
Here are four definitions.
First, let me give you my three working definitions and then conclude with a fourth—one verse that reveals how a Christ Awakening, bottom line, is a miracle of sovereign grace.
1. A Christ Awakening is when God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to reintroduce God’s people to God’s Son for ALL he is in the fullness of his supremacy today.
2. A Christ Awakening is when the whole Church becomes wholly alive to the whole vision of the whole Christ.
I should pause to inject two caveats:
First: Any Christ Awakening is, from the outset, a God-given and Holy Spirit-driven miracle. None of it is of human origin. This is just as Jesus promised us in John 16:7-15—that the Spirit’s primary role in this age is to take the wonders of Christ, based on the supremacy given him by the Father, and manifest them to us. A Christ Awakening simply consists of that manifestation carried out at a deeper, more pervasive, more transformational level.
Second: For sure, all that I suggest by any of my personal definitions of a Christ Awakening are equally applicable to an individual. However, biblically and historically when God awakens his people to the larger dimensions of his Son, he most often does it in concert—within the wider Body of Christ—so that we experience it together and run with it together.
Now for my third definition:
It comes from what we’re experiencing in New York City these days. Rising out of 30 years of a Concert of Prayer movement in the Big Apple, the current thrust is called “Saturate New York.” Started about four years ago, it is the fountainhead of other Saturate efforts springing up around the country.
For the past two years, Saturate has sponsored in early June what we call JESUS WEEK, which mobilized hundreds of churches to work together by prayer-walking whole neighborhoods throughout the boroughs while distributing packets full of gospel literature and Jesus DVDs. Last year, 27 semi truckloads of materials were taken to 2.6 million homes in New York City. This coming May and June, the goal is to reach all 3.3 million households in Metro New York in five weeks.
The motto of the Saturate movement is “Saturate the churches with the supremacy of Christ so that the churches are empowered to saturate the city with the gospel of Christ.” It is this motto that provides my third definition of a Christ Awakening:
3. A Christ Awakening is when churches are so saturated with the supremacy of Christ that they become empowered to saturate their communities with the gospel of Christ.
Finally, here’s my fourth definition. I find it in a key passage that provides a biblical explanation of a Christ Awakening at any level—demonstrating how it remains profoundly a work of sovereign grace. As 2 Corinthians 4:6 states:
4. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.
Note the following FIVE elements of this biblical miracle that is just waiting to happen to God’s people anywhere in such an hour as this:
- This awakening work penetrates to the heart level.
- It comes with the full force of the original creation of the universe.
- It also comes with the full force of the Consummation just ahead, when not only hearts but the whole earth will be “covered with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
- It is all about how God’s glory is revealed and experienced through Christ—the one anointed to reign and serve today and forever as Lord in heaven and earth.
- However, we encounter this Christ and the glory of his supremacy on the most intimate of terms—like seeing our Lord Jesus face-to-face!
To sum up, the challenge I’ve come to lay before you is this:
At this critical juncture in the Church’s history, surely nothing short of such a powerful, deep, radical, profound, life-changing work of God in the hearts of millions of believers across our nation will prove sufficient to adequately reawaken and refortify the Church so we can stand firm, stand strong, stand bold—stand for Christ and his kingdom, empowered as a force for his saving mission even in the face of the overwhelming existential threats currently converging upon us.
So then, what about us as servant-leaders for Christ today?
Do we believe such a Spirit-driven Christ Awakening movement remains possible for our people today?
Could this promise be the ultimate reason the Holy Spirit has pulled together seasoned Christian leaders into this convocation? Does Jesus intend for us to have a new kind of collaboration among us that seeks to foster and serve, individually and together, a nationwide Christ Awakening movement?
Is there any cause more strategic to which any of us could give ourselves in this desperate hour, investing whatever days we have left to us?
Does our Lord Jesus deserve anything less, anything else, than such a whole-hearted endeavor?
There may be a part of us at this moment that feels like standing and shouting, “YES! YES! This Christ Awakening is our one true desire! It is our greatest hope! Let it be done! Come, Lord Jesus, and conquer us all over again. Do not delay! Saturate us with the person and power of your reigning presence so that the nations might once again see your redeeming glory!”
Or instead, we may feel compelled to go silent with our faces on the floor, crying out to the Father to forgive our lack of vision and passion for his spectacular Son, to deliver us from our complacency about what his kingdom purposes are really all about. Maybe we feel stirred to repent of all the ways we have sinned against our Savior by how we have diminished him and dismissed him.
Or perhaps it is time to simply cry out for the Spirit of God to reintroduce us to Christ for all he is, and to do so without delay, so that as leaders we might serve freshly ignited Christ Awakenings among God’s people in our churches and organizations.
Or maybe we want to express all three responses?
If so, who of us will begin—and when?
A brief afterword: For those ready to start making a difference right now, there’s good news for you! Reinforcements are on the way!
Do you know that there is one ministry that belongs to the whole Body of Christ, raised up to provide the Lord Jesus with a base of operations throughout the digital world, given exclusively to spreading a vision of his spectacular supremacy and to fostering and serving a nationwide Christ Awakening movement?
This website—along with all of its social media outlets and outreaches—is crammed full of a vast variety of resources. All of it is designed to:
- spread among believers a fresh vision and passion for Christ and his supremacy
- disciple them daily with the truths of the greatness of Jesus to guide them in their Christ Awakening journeys
- equip them to plant these powerful truths about Jesus in the hearts and minds of their fellow believers—utilizing this extraordinary variety of tools taken from many streams of the Body of Christ
All of its resources are FREE and available to any Christian or congregation, in any stream of the Church, anywhere on the planet.
I’m talking about www.ChristNow.com.
There’s nothing else quite like it today. Already, nearly half a million dollars has been invested in the site to put it in position to help prepare and fortify the Church in the coming decade to triumph for Christ in the midst of the overwhelming existential threats bearing down upon us. There is something there for you that will help you see more of the spectacular supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ and, by the moving of the Holy Spirit, draw you into his presence and power more and more.