Power and anointing shook the halls as A.R. Bernard explained the original influence of the church.
|CN PHOTO: Jere Chong|
Delegates left on Thursday morning all challenged even as they were charged with the responsibility of restoring the church as a transformative force in society. With the True Worshippers leading praise and worship, Dr. Steve Munsey giving a dramatic offering message, and Dr. A.R. Bernard preaching an edifying word that left the air tingling, it was impossible to be left untouched.
Bernard’s spellbinding message was on restoration and transformation of the church to its former position as a transformative engine of society, Bernard urged members to have focus—both individually, as well as corporately as the body of Christ.
The Cultural Mandate, he explained, was a call for the church to transform person and place. “In the ministry of Jesus, you can see this transformation of person and place. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well and transformed her. She then went back and told all the people in the town, and they came to hear Him speak.” Hence the Cultural Mandate is to cause a person to be “ignited and filled with the desire to transform their communities.”
Bernard explained how Jesus’ ministry was meant to transform society, restoring it to the original intent and purpose of God … There was an original order, but this intention was undermined by certain forces. In his ministry of reconciliation, Jesus went back to this original order, this original perspective. I like to call it ‘cosmology,’ or worldview.”
The Church, as the body of Christ, is meant to continue this ministry of reconciliation. However, Bernard said, the church has since lost its focus. He related a conversation he had with South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, in which Tutu said to him, “During apartheid, the church knew what it was against, but now that that’s over, the church doesn’t know what it’s for. “If you don’t know your purpose, someone can then give you a purpose that’s not your purpose, and you end up wasting time and resources on distractions,” Bernard cautioned. He attributed this lack of purpose to the church as a whole losing its focus on its restorative mission.
Bernard taught, “To have focus, you need three things: one, you need a clearly articulated world view; two, a set of core values; three, a set of core purposes. This is true for a person, a business, a ministry or a church.
“As believers, we are to have a biblical worldview. This helps us to make sense of it all. The Bible is our understanding of the origin and development of this world for human purpose … Values are the things that are important to you, what you’re willing to pay for—your money, your time, your resilience. Values are important because they protect your thinking, and that’s important, because your actions stem from your thoughts.
“Purposes guide your activities. ‘Why am I here?’ guides ‘What am I doing here?’ Don’t confuse movement with progress. We can move and move, but get nowhere—it’s called ‘going in circles.’ Be clear about what your purpose is because it determines who or what you’re going to get involved with.”
Bernard explained how a biblical worldview provides a set of values for believers, which in turn informs their purpose in life, which is to transform society and restore it to God’s original intentions.
“Jesus considered the cosmos a system. Society is a system, politics is a system, and the world is a system that has enslaved humankind. When the Bible says that we are ‘of the world,’ it means that we’re enslaved by the system and its values and purposes. The gates of hell are all about protecting the system. The Bible says, ‘the truth shall make you free.’ Free from what? Free from the system.
“The condemnation of man is that there is a light, but man would rather choose the darkness. Without the light, it is possible for the darkness to cloak itself, but now that Jesus has brought the truth and the light, we can see the system for what it truly is.”
The audience showed their agreement with a chorus of “Yes” and “Amen” at each juncture.
Bernard called for the church to be restored as a force for societal change. He quoted historian Edward Gibbon, who identified five reasons for early Christianity’s influence on the Roman Empire.
Firstly, the Romans were impressed by the uncompromising zeal of the Christian conviction. “Christianity, for them, was not a preference. They strongly and deeply believed in Christ, in his life, in his death, and in the power of his resurrection.
“At that time, the church was primarily made up of Jews. The Jews were isolationists because they believed that Gentiles were unclean. However, the Christian church had the same zeal, but there was an absence of a narrow, unsocial spirit. They were willing to get involved in the community of Rome, and that impressed the Romans.”
Secondly, the church had a doctrine of present and future life, with the improvement of the human condition. “The church was willing to bring change, and address the issues and needs of the human condition.”
Thirdly, the miraculous powers experienced in the church deeply impressed the Romans. “It showed that they were not just people who talked philosophy—they had power. There were miracles, and healing from injuries, illnesses or demon-possession. It showed that this is a God who’s present, who is powerful and authoritative!”
Fourthly, the pure and austere moral and spiritual disciplines practiced by the Christians showed the Romans that they were serious about their faith. “They fasted, they engaged in disciplines of prayer, of giving, of Scripture. They had a set of moral and spiritual disciplines that impressed the Roman Empire.”
Finally, the church had a uniting presence in the Empire. “They had the power to bring people together under the banner of faith such that they became an independent force in the heart of the Empire.”
Despite successes in the early years, the church lost many of these characteristics over its two-thousand-year history. Isolation from society and from the present issues of the day caused the church to become irrelevant; a move toward intellectualism and rationalism discouraged Christians from believing in miracles, robbing the church of its power; the church became intoxicated by power and lost its values and purposes, and eventually, became more a divisive force than a unifying one.
But, the time has come for the church to be restored such that it can transform, and in turn, restore the world to God’s original purpose. Referencing the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906, Bernard said that the Holy Spirit “started with the miraculous to bring back all the other characteristics that made the early church successful.”
By the end of Bernard’s rousing sermon, the whole congregation was on its feet, agreeing as he declared, “We are the hope! Restoration begins in the Church!”
A.R. Bernard speaks again at the closing session of CGI-AC 2010 on Sunday.