At a meeting for CHC ministry leaders and School of Theology students, A.R. Bernard taught on crisis and self-renewal.
A.R. Bernard addressed a capacity crowd of CHC leaders and School of Theology students on Tuesday, June 29. His message was one of encouragement and edification, urging the crowd to constantly renew themselves.
Preaching from Isaiah 43, Bernard taught that every living thing is designed to perpetuate itself. “Death occurs,” he said, “when an entity cannot renew itself from within. What is true of the individual is also true of organizations.”
Quoting Jim Collins, author of Good To Great, Bernard explained that the longevity of an organization depends on its ability to renew itself from within, and how organizations that are long-lived are structured to be so. He quoted his own mentor, the late Edwin Louis Cole, that “fame comes in a moment; greatness comes with longevity.”
In his many visits to CHC, Bernard often shared that “life is lived on levels and arrived in stages.” Citing from his own experience, Bernard has observed through 32 years of ministry that growth to the next level is often a result of going through crisis.
He encouraged the congregation that a crisis for the Christian is not a negative experience because there is hope in Christ. In fact, the Bible also states that every branch that has been fruitful is pruned in order to bear more fruit.
At this point, Bernard reiterated that each new stage demands a new level of knowledge, understanding, responsibility and authority from the individual. “Moving from level to level, individuals are only as strong as their character. In other words, our character is our inner strength,” Bernard said.
He taught that revival is never initiated by man; it is only discovered when believers manage to discern that it is God’s providential activity. Jesus Himself walked in an awareness and consciousness of God’s intentions and activities. Bernard then gave two examples from the gospels which showed Jesus’ own discernment during His earthly ministry.
In John 9, Jesus encountered a man born blind. His disciples questioned whether he or his parents had sinned, resulting in his blindness. Jesus
replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”
Many people often misinterpret this episode—they believe God put blindness on the man for Jesus to heal him. Jesus identified that God did not make the man blind, but rather, sent Jesus to bring the healing to him.
In Matthew 26, a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. Even as His disciples saw it as a waste of resources, Jesus discerned that while the woman could have been moved by love, the anointing was God’s way of telling Him that He was fast approaching the time of His death and sacrifice.
In John 5:17 (NLT), Jesus said “My Father is always working, and so am I.” God is constantly at work, doing things all the time that are often indiscernible. With this verse, Bernard then shared that his constant prayer is for God to teach him to discern His activity, His hand, His presence and His providential activity all around him.
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Referring to Isaiah 43:19, Bernard explained that God first initiates revival and then draws attention to it. As Christians go through life, God prepares things for His children before they even know they need it because He loves them. Even if believers make bad choices and end up in the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Ps. 23), believers need not fear anything as He is with them. Oftentimes, “God uses His rod to hit us on the head to ask us ‘What are you doing here?’ and His staff to lead us out again,” said Bernard.
Listing the five stages of renewal that are applicable to an individual or an organization: personal renewal, relationship renewal, renewal of purpose, structural renewal and cultural renewal, he added that revival and renewal begin internally before an external revival happens.
Firstly, personal renewal comes through introspection. Through crisis, a person develops an awareness that he or she has not arrived at the next level. Secondly, this will lead one to assess the influence of the close relationships around him or her, and examine if these influences are positive. Thirdly, there will be a renewal of purpose, where a person will re-examine the value of his or her activities and make the adjustments where necessary.
Bernard acknowledged that the first three areas will then lead one to renew himself or herself structurally, which then begs the question: are these activities structured for progress or are they just empty movement? It is also important to ask oneself if the current structure which brought him or her this far, can take him or her to the next level.
This is structural renewal at work. Once the internal renewal is complete, the church or organization can then focus on making an impact in culture and in the society at large through cultural renewal.
Bernard subsequently drew reference to his home church and shared the four fundamentals of CCC, New York, around which the church is built: its core values, its core purpose, a relentless drive for progress and an emphasis on strength beyond the presence of any one individual.
Elaborating on the fourth fundamental, Bernard said, “Even if one person is incapacitated, it should not lead to a complete breakdown of the organization. It is important that we do not get our egos involved.” He warned that it was dangerous for leaders to think and act territorially.
Bernard concluded his message by talking about the secret to longevity which has to do with two things: continuity and change, whereby managing continuity means having uninterrupted succession and flow to have “business as usual”; while managing change is about moving from one level and structure to the next.
While the core values and purposes are to be kept, Bernard added that methods, systems, operating practices and business strategies could be reshaped at this point.
By the end of the session, leaders and members were greatly encouraged. Lee Jialiang, 24, a university undergraduate, was reminded to “constantly evaluate ourselves on our mission, and to be on the lookout to do things better [as] these changes make room for God to bring renewal and continued growth.”
Esther Yap, 26, a junior college teacher, felt that Bernard’s sharing “helped me to view crisis differently, seeing crisis as an indicator of the renewal process.”
Bernard’s sharing brought about great encouragement to all who were in the meeting. His timely message also served to lift the spirits of its congregation and motivate the church toward achieving greater works in time to come.