The Hope at Hand:
The Ultimate Answer to Our Prayers Is Drawing Near
Part 1 of 2 Parts
Note: This blog post is adapted from a message I gave in late January to 300 leaders at the 30th annual, 48-hour Pastors’ Prayer Summit in New York City. However, its heart cry and its hopeful projections relate not only to God’s people in metro New York but to the Body of Christ nationwide. That means what I share here is also about YOU and your immediate future, wherever you live.
I’ve divided the blog post into two parts. Part 1 is below. Part 2 will come out in a couple of days. —David Bryant
Kairos. A time of decisive action. A moment for divine intervention. This blog post is about kairos.
The backstory: Nearly thirty years ago, I moved with my family to metro New York. I came for one reason. I was convinced that the Spirit of God was raising up an urban prayer movement here that would lead to a regionwide Christ Awakening movement. I believed that God intended for this miracle to become “a joy, a praise, and a renown before the whole earth” (Jeremiah 33:9)—for the greater glory of Christ, the revitalization of his Church, and the advancement of the Kingdom. And I was determined to join in this kairos adventure.
Over the decades, I’ve shared with leaders around the world, in many streams of the Church, that the level of Christ-ward dynamics manifested among believers in metro New York represents what may be the most spiritually significant development in any major city on the globe.
This claim is based on a wealth of evidence, such as:
- Hundreds of Concerts of Prayer events facilitated across the city and region in the past three decades
- Hosts of unified mission initiatives that have sprung up in answer to our prayers—such as various citywide evangelistic outreaches, including two Billy Graham Crusades and two Luis Palau Festivals
- The launching of Movement Day focused on urban renewal and mission, now being reproduced in hundreds of cities worldwide
- The Jesus Week phenomenon, which over the past three years has been uniting hundreds of churches to work together to directly reach over three million New Yorkers with the gospel
- Various united initiatives to serve the poor, the forgotten, the oppressed—both in the region as well as in other nations
- A visible vitality of many existing congregations, from small storefront churches to some as large as 20,000 members
- The acceleration of church plants in the various boroughs of New York City and across the region in northern Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut
- A rich diversity of denominations, ethnicities, races, and languages working together in all of these efforts (and many others)—all for the cause of Christ
This list of dynamics brings me to the main focus of my blog post: The truth is that I write this post believing it is the most important one I’ve delivered since ChristNow.com began.
I would even dare to call it “prophetic.”
Its message concerns what I’m convinced will be the ultimate answer and impact to come out of the annual prayer initiatives in New York City.
But far more, I’m writing about what’s impending in response to the larger, historic, thirty-year, national prayer movement—as throughout the Body of Christ, hundreds of thousands have sought God’s face together for the spiritual revolution our nation so desperately needs right now.
Thank you for allowing me to bare my heart to you in this two-part blog post.
Let me begin with two shocking statements.
Shocking Statement # 1: In the next ten years, either there will be a greater exalting of Christ among us, or there will be an increasing apostasy.
To say it another way, in the face of an unprecedented convergence of incredible onslaughts on our very way of life in this nation, our generation of Christians will experience one of two outcomes by the end of the next decade: Either there will be heightened focus in our churches on the greatness of Christ, or there will be a lot fewer churches.
Taking a cue from Jesus’ parable of the soils, if the current field of Jesus followers fails to extend their roots further and deeper into the person and purposes and power and kingdom of God’s Son and the wonders of his spectacular supremacy, then the crises facing our people will cause many to harden or wilt away or choke regarding the things of Christ. In other words, we will see apostasy.
In fact, this decline is already in full swing, as I’ll report in just a moment.
Shocking Statement # 2: Far too many Christian leaders today are currently in danger of being sued for spiritual malpractice.
What I mean is this: In view of the apocalyptic-type challenges confronting believers in the next ten years, Christian leaders must give top priority to refortifying their congregations and ministries with a fresh, bold, comprehensive vision of, engagement with, and passion for God’s Son in all his fullness, and for the fulfillment of his kingdom purposes for this generation.
Otherwise, overwhelmed by an avalanche of adversities, a grievous falling away from Christ will become inevitable. But we leaders will be held accountable most of all before the Throne of Heaven for this avoidable tragedy.
The warning to Israel’s ineffective shepherds in Ezekiel 3:16-19 might prove equally applicable to many of today’s Christian leaders in the gospel age. God said:
Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, “You are under the penalty of death,” but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. But I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
When you read that, it sounds like nothing short of spiritual malpractice, don’t you think?
Now, let me list a few unnerving developments
behind these two shocking statements.
The list below—not written in order of importance because all the points are important—is just a start. I have a much longer list on file.
But note this: These foreboding trends are currently descending upon us with a ferocity that analysts agree we’ve never seen before.
And note, too: Every one of these developments directly impinges upon the fulfillment of God’s purposes in Christ for his people, the impact of the gospel of Christ upon our nation and, above all, the vitality of advance of the Kingdom of Christ in this generation.
Therefore, the acceleration of these sobering trends should give all of us pause. Examples:
- Intense immigration pressures from an excessive volume of desperate asylum seekers worldwide—with more to come
- Trillions of dollars in national deficits and debt—which keep growing exponentially
- Increasing income inequality, creating an ever-widening gap between rich and poor
- Unrelenting, undiminished youth violence in many of our urban centers, as well as in suburban public squares and public schools from coast to coast
- Unsustainable increased prison populations at all levels—local, state, federal
- The opiate epidemic which annually is killing tens of thousands of Americans
- A rise in human trafficking nationally and worldwide—such as slavery and prostitution
- The rapid spread of online pornography, with our young people as the major target, exacerbating the mass sexualization of our culture
- Intensifying battles over abortion reminiscent of the abolition struggle 200 years ago that led to the American Civil War
- Ongoing, wholesale infrastructure decay, now requiring trillions of new dollars to simply restore what has been lost
- Increase in cyberwarfare seen in the vulnerable state of evolving national cybersecurity, most immediately in our electoral process
- Workforce unpreparedness to serve the multiplication of new technologies, leaving many critical jobs unfilled because of under-trained candidates
- Pervasive racism causing an increase in segregated communities along with the rise of nativism and White Nationalism
- The growing menace of worldwide pandemics in a global community, particularly as deadly antibiotic-resistant organisms flourish more and more
- America’s unending, intractable wars that continue to drain blood and treasure, bringing loss and disabilities to thousands of American homes
- The rise of a new nuclear arms race with the ever-present and growing potential of permanently wiping out whole civilizations
In addition, we must not overlook the prevailing, all-consuming, partisan political warfare—both local and national—that portends to tear apart irreversibly the very fabric of American society.
Nor can we ignore the rising fears based on nightmare scenarios from most in the scientific community regarding catastrophic disasters over the next ten years due to intensifying climate disruptions, much of it already unfolding in countries worldwide, with predictable economic and social upheavals.
But here’s the worst news of all: Like a tsunami, all of these plagues are converging upon our generation simultaneously.
Did you catch that? They are coming at us all at the same time. Leaving little time to react. Little time to catch our breath. With no place to hide.
Nothing of the magnitude of this developing draconian drama has previously played out before the human race. But here we are.
As a result, we may be reaching a tipping point that can become a breaking point—from which we may never recover.
Is the Church—is your church—adequately prepared
for the simultaneous impact of the growing crises just ahead?
As these ominous trends intensify, Christians must take stock of our situation.
What is the current moral and spiritual condition of the Church in America? How healthy is the Body of Christ in this nation? Are our people ready to survive such an hour—and, more to the point, are we sufficiently equipped to thrive for Christ in the midst of what we might call “The Coming Great Shaking”?
Be warned: The evidence is building that we may not be!
Here are a few of the red warning lights flashing, drawn from nationally respected observers:
- Gallup reported last year that churches are disappearing across the land; those that remain have had a precipitous drop in church attendance, from 70% to 50% in just the past two decades.
- Based on national surveys, we find that a significant number of people who have dropped out of the Christian orbit say the reason they did so was because of spiritual burnout—too much demanded of them in the Christian walk with too little spiritual feeding to keep them going.
- This past November, research at Barna Associates documented that 80-90% of evangelicals confessed to their fear of initiating spiritual conversations with anyone, believer or non-believer.
- Barna metrics also found a significant drop in engagement with Scripture among evangelicals. A full 96% today, it has been concluded, could properly be defined as “biblically illiterate.”
- The front pages of our papers feature the unmasking of clergy sexual abuse, not only among Catholics but also increasingly within the evangelical domain.
- Another study concluded that on any given Sunday, as many as 40% of the men sitting in our pews are struggling with addiction to pornography.
- A major analysis by the Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination, found that around 80% of pastors today say that persistent melancholy is their hardest struggle in the ministry—that is, their sense of despair that nothing they are doing is making any lasting difference.
- This parallels the discovery of Dr. Ray Bakke, a foremost evangelical urbanologist, after conducting 300 citywide convocations around the world, including many in the USA. He concluded that the greatest barrier to reaching our cities for Christ is the “spirit of hopelessness” inside our churches.
I could go on. However, I’m sure you get the idea.
But first, we must grapple with the GREATEST crisis of all.
After nearly four decades of traveling into every sector of the Body of Christ across our nation and in many other lands—listening to and learning from God’s people as my priority—I have concluded that the greatest crisis of all is none of the above. None of these global threats. None of these other spiritual deficiencies among God’s people.
Our greatest crisis is what I’ve come to call the “crisis of Christology.”
I see it among Christians everywhere I go—and too often among their leaders, as well. The magnitude of this crisis is, I suggest, the primary reason that God raised up the concerted prayer movement nationwide. He’s been calling us to confront this crisis first of all by seeking his face.
This “crisis of Christology” is a sobering, pervasive, tragic shortfall in how God’s people today see, seek, savor, and speak of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in terms of who he is, where he’s headed, what he’s doing, and what his reign is all about.
It comes down to a failure of vision—a failure to grasp the full extent of the height, width, depth, and length of the supremacy of God’s Son today—with all of its implications for every facet of Christian discipleship and community and mission.
Consider the deadly consequences if believers fail to see Jesus for all he is. What if instead, we remain more concerned about Jesus providing us comfort, prosperity, and fulfilling our dreams than we are in living our lives for the redeeming reign of the Savior, whose saving purposes often bring his followers into hardship and persecution, forcing us out of self-satisfaction and personal security.
If we’re so preoccupied with ourselves now, how will we possibly find the will or courage to stand for Christ when facing real persecution in the future?
Thankfully, I’m not alone in sounding this alarm. Others are beginning to speak up about this most deadly of all crises. Listen to a few of them:
- 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 that in many ways, we have become “Christless.”
- Biblical scholar J. I. Packer illustrates it this way: In the evangelical movement today, he says, 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 of us are striving to put all the pieces back together.
- Shortly before he died, Chuck Colson wrote that in the evangelical movement today, the church functions as the retail outlet, the members have become the consumers, and Jesus serves as the product.
- In his last book before his death in 2011, world-renowned Christian statesman John Stott nailed our condition by writing in his introduction to The Radical Disciple: “We have become puny Christians because we have created a puny Christ.” Adding: “We need above all a fresh and true vision of Jesus Christ—not the least in his absolute supremacy. Where should we be but on our faces before him?”
- Widely known Mosaic founder and effective Los Angeles church planter, Erwin McManus, writes in his book The Unstoppable Church: “The diminishing influence of the American Church on American society is not simply because fewer people are going to church. Rather, fewer people are going to church because of the diminishing influence of CHRIST on the church itself.”
Here’s one finding my own research uncovered: I’ve attended many conferences on prayer, revival, discipleship, the Christian life, and/or theological debates during which I rarely hear the name of Jesus mentioned during the main sessions of the conference, let alone in discussions at refreshment breaks—except to conclude a prayer. Too often, even the lyrics of songs used in times of worship do not lift up Jesus. This is such a regular heartbreak to me—among all streams of Christians—that I have to assume it must be virtually embedded in the evangelical DNA.
But why not do some research yourself? Circulate among the people in your church for the next three Sunday mornings, listening to what they are talking about with one another. Observe the emphasis in times of worship. Take notes during the sermon. Ask another friend or two to do the same. Next, all of you meet to compare notes. You’ll be shocked at how rarely the name of Jesus ever comes up among believers on a Sunday morning—when one would expect that Jesus would be the main topic!
Then, recall what Jesus declared in Matthew 12: The mouth reveals what already fills the heart. This should suggest that for a significant majority of God’s people, and often their leaders, the stunning truths about King Jesus simply are not FILLING our hearts—nor, therefore, our conversations.
So what can we do about this—this greatest crisis of all? How can we turn this around before it is too late—before we are overtaken by all the other crises set to envelop us in the 2020s?
This concludes Part 1 of David Bryant’s two-part blog post. In a couple of days, we’ll send you Part 2. It will supply you with lots of reasons to have hope—as it defines specifically how the answer to our prayers is drawing near and what it will look like. Be watching for Part 2.
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.
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