Renowned Christian leader, A.R. Bernard, challenges City Harvest Church to keep its purpose on track with the Word of God.
| CN PHOTO: Gary Sim
Founder and CEO of the 33,000-strong Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, New York, A.R. Bernard is an advocate, teacher and communicator who teaches on Christ in culture and how believers can penetrate the secular world with their natural gifts, talents and abilities. Bernard is also the president of the Council of Churches in New York, a board member of the NYC Economic Development Corporation Board, NYC School Chancellor’s Advisory Cabinet and has served on U.S. Mayor Bloomberg’s Transition team.
In February 2007, he was named by a consortium of organizations in the New York Daily News as the number one religious leader in New York. An active participator in community work, Bernard founded Brooklyn Preparatory School in 2003 which provides education for early childhood years.
Sharing fresh, revelational and power-packed messages at CHC over the weekend, Bernard explored several pertinent ideas including growth and its process, change as a constant, differences between having values and a value system and the importance of resolving conflicts through sacrifice.
Mark 4:26-27 states that the kingdom of God is like a seed; how it becomes a sprout is unknown and therefore, personal, spiritual, emotional and physical growth is mysterious in nature. Bernard cautioned the congregation that most individuals are driven to attaining an end result, yet forget lessons learned during the growth and developmental process.
Encouraging one to live life by levels and achieve success in stages, Bernard challenged the congregation to stay committed to the journey rather than only pursue the end. He elaborated that believers should not lust after fleeting fame, but desire after greatness in God, seeking to glorify His name. In addition to this, each journey propels an individual onto a new plateau of better relationships, greater knowledge and deeper understanding.
“Everything has different stages of growth, but everything is designed to grow,” Bernard affirmed.
Conceptualizing growth as a long, painful process, Bernard drew an analogy between the church and pine trees growing in his backyard. “Pine trees grow upward faster than they do outward. In order to balance medial and lateral growth, one has to cause it to enter a mode of ‘shock’; most often through shortening its height. The tree will then expand outward, giving itself greater prominence.”
Bernard also discussed the issue of conflict which arises from selfish prayer; prayer motivated by personal desires, ambitions and wants. The main cause of conflict is human desire, particularly in the absence of the Holy Spirit.
The degree of closeness in a relationship between a believer and the Holy Spirit determines the condition of Man; the more time spent in prayer and communion, the greater the power at work in a believer’s life and vice versa. In light of this, Bernard urged the congregation to treasure their experiences with the Holy Spirit.
Believers should also embody three key principles: a clearly articulated moral view influenced by the Word of God to shape one’s thinking; a clearly articulated set of core values and standards to live by; and a clearly articulated set of core purposes to effectively channel one’s energy into achieving visions, dreams and goals.
“What we are in life is related to the kind of values which motivate us,” said Bernard, revealing his personal four: faith in God, family, education and community. Bernard explained that each decision made is a value judgment and therefore reflects values held within one’s heart. He gave an illustration of a man who had his arm stuck inside a boiler, and decided to amputate his arm in order to free himself rather than lose his whole life. The man’s decision reflected his personal value system and revealed how much he cherished his life more than his arm.
Bernard offered an interesting explanation why conflicts are prevalent in marriages despite both parties sharing the same values: “Conflicts do not occur because of similarities in values but rather, differences in the priority placed on each value in a values system.”
Those in the congregation were given a list of words associated with certain values in life—spirituality, integrity, health, family and career—and asked to rank them according to their values system. Bernard then asked men and women to raise their hands as he went down the list. The word having the most number of hands raised was ranked as most important; the word with the least number of hands raised was ranked least important. The ladies ranked spirituality first and career last. Men ranked spirituality first and health last. Therefore, Bernard explained that based on the differences in men and women ranking each of these values, conflicts between both parties would arise.
Bernard left the congregation with the understanding that a believer has to be flexible with prioritizing one’s values system. By humbling and sacrificing personal desires in order to meet others’ needs, most conflicts which arise from the aforementioned, can ultimately be prevented.
Churchgoer Nigel Teo, 21, said after the service that he learned that “a believer’s growth is dependent on his commitment to its process; crises we go through will strengthen us and enable personal and spiritual growth.”
Yang Yueze, 24, local graduate, shares the same conviction, “Bernard’s view on having a grounded value system has had an impact on me. I now know that a source of conflict comes from a difference in prioritization of these values rather than [on these] values [alone].”