Confronting a Crisis of Christology: David Bryant and Pillar College Develop Unique ‘Christ Alive’ Course

 

For the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world.

The New Jersey resident has written numerous books related to prayer, awakening, and revival, and previously served as the president of Concerts of Prayer International and as chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee. Today, he provides leadership to Proclaim Hope!—a ministry that seeks to “foster and serve a nationwide Christ-awakening movement.”

Rev. Bryant recently partnered with Pillar College in Newark for its Christ Alive continuing education course. Christ Alive is based on Bryant’s nine-session video series, The Christ Institutes. The Tri-State Voice recently interviewed him about the class and what he has labeled a nationwide “Crisis of Christology.”

Tri-State Voice: 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: Simply put, we just 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 tours?

DB: It’s pretty shocking, to be candid.

I tell pastors to do this for three weeks, then reconvene as leaders to debrief what they’ve discovered, using two questions to help distill their findings:

First: 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 mentioned (in a general way). But rarely will you ever hear people talking specifically about the One who is our whole reason for existing, the One who has called 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 become nothing!

How can that be?  We give Him, at best, only an “honorable mention” from time to time.  It’s as if we regard Him more like our “mascot” than our reigning “monarch.”

Second: 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 (for example): “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.” This is 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 talk about God’s Son?

DB: The vast majority of leaders who have implemented this three-week experiment end up stunned to learn how rarely Jesus is ever mentioned in their churches and that virtually never, ever do their people try to build up one another’s vision of Christ and passion for Christ 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.” In other words, if we don’t hear about the grandeur of Jesus or about what Ephesians 3 calls the “unsearchable riches” we have in Jesus, then how can we ever successfully identify how much our hearts actually are longing to know Him and experience Him so much better?

TSV: Is this how Christians can have a Spirit-infused longing to know more of the glory 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 crisis, to be frank. I suggest it is, in fact, 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.” Which 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 wide spread “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: And this why you created The Christ Institutes?

DB: Absolutely. The Christ Institutes (TCI) is designed to confront and cure this “crisis of Christology” and to provide the focus and fuel to unleash “Christ Awakenings,” not only in TCI participants, but also in their congregations and ministries.

The nine components or sessions of The Christ Institutes tackle a full-orbed reconstitution of how Christians  see, seek, savor, serve, and share God’s Son 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 Christ Institutes is “Exploring and Experiencing the Spectacular Supremacy of God’s Son Today.” And we need both: to explore more of who Christ really is and then to experience more of what we discover about Him.

We boil the teaching down to seven little prepositions to unpack all that Scripture teaches about the glory and greatness of Jesus. And there are thousands of verses to fill this in, passages that lift Him up—foreshadowing Him in the Old Testament and fully revealing Him in the New Testament.

David Bryant

TSV: Tell us a little about those seven prepositions.

DB: We dedicate an entire TCI session to each of them, spending hours on each of them. They add up to what I call a “consequential Christology.” 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, etc.).
  • 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, 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 He will one day come upon the entire universe as His glorious return, to transform the entire creation into a new Heaven and earth where he will reign supreme forever, to the glory of God the Father and by the saturation of God the Spirit).

TSV: What are 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 focuses on “How to Respond to the Spectacular Supremacy of God’s Son.”

For example, we talk about what it means for our prayers. TCI shows us that when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” it really means we are confident before the Father that if He answers whatever we’re asking, the primary outcome will be the following: 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.

I 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, most of all, 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: How did The Christ Institutes evolve into a college course?

DB: Although we’ve conducted The Christ Institutes all across the country in 48-hour intensives, with profound impact, our goal always has been to expand the curriculum into a full-fledged, fully accredited, three-hour college and seminary course.

Last spring, Pillar College, New Jersey’s only fully accredited Christian college, bought into that same vision for TCI. Then they offered to do the hard work of transforming The Christ Institutes into a one semester course. We’re calling it Christ Alive, with over 10 hours of powerful video lectures, plus exciting outside reading, reflective journaling and papers, in-class discussion, and prayer and applications.

Our intention is that eventually the Pillar College course will be conducted in institutions all across the nation, where 98% currently do not offer one single class on the person of Christ (we will work through a consortium of hundreds of Christian Colleges). I am so grateful to Dr. Wayne Dyer and Dr. Richard Riss at Pillar College for spearheading this exciting transformation of TCI.

TSV: Finally, David, you talk a lot about your hope for what a Christ awakening can do in this nation? Tell us what you are anticipating.

DB: There’s so much I could say about that. But everywhere I go I sense the Holy Spirit is preparing for what I call a “Christ awakening.” I define it this way: “It’s when God’s Spirit uses God’s Word to reintroduce God’s people to God’s Son for ALL He is.”  Everything else flows out of that encounter.”

A Christ awakening is really a fuller manifestation of what Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 4:6 and prays for at the end of Ephesians 1. But it is highlighted by scores of other passages.

Frankly, I sense a Christ awakening movement on the horizon for this region through initiatives like the Christ Alive course, Concerts of Prayer, Movement Day Global Cities (October 25-27 in New York City), or a new outreach into all the New York boroughs called “Saturate NYC.”

To learn more, I would urge everyone to look at some of my recent blogs on a Christ awakening at www.ChristNow.com (a key resource for Christ Alive, I might add); or order my book on the topic at www.ChristIsAllBook.com 

Pillar College’s nine-week Christ Alive course begins October 1 and will also be offered in 2017. To register, call (800) 234-9305, ext. 1007 or visit www.CE.pillar.edu.

-Q and A by Tom Campisi

 

 

 

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