Dr AR Bernard, who preached at City Harvest Church on the weekend of May 4 and 5, talks to City News about the yoke of Jesus and how he feels about CHC after two years of being chairman of its Advisory Board.
By Theresa Tan
City News: It’s been six months since we last saw you, Dr Bernard. What have you been busy with?
AR Bernard: Institution-building. Establishing Christian Cultural Center as a dynamic institution for spiritual growth and personal mission in Christ. We are working on the environment, training the people and establishing the program. We created a gallery and it will have artifacts, artwork, multimedia presentation and we registered with department of tourism, so when people come to New York, they will be stopping by at Christian Cultural Center.
You were vocal about the Trayvon Martin case—what was the big issue behind it? (Black teenager Trayvon Martin, wearing a hoodie one rainy night was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch personnel George Zimmerman; Florida police initially did not arrest Zimmerman as he claimed self-defense. Dr Bernard appeared on television and in the newspapers to discuss the matter.)
I think that what the Trayvon Martin case does is remind America that the issue of race is very much alive, and stereotypes continue to strongly influence people’s attitudes.
As Christians, how can we change the power of such stereotypes?
[Through] social engagement, humanitarian works that demonstrate our reach beyond racial, social barriers, class barriers, political barriers.
Growing in our relationship with God—how do we know if we have stagnated?
Growth should be measurable. It should be quantifiable. Measured by how you are doing holistically. Spirit, soul and body. Is the word “successful” being applied in your whole being? If that’s not true, then the areas that are deficient need to be worked on. The seventh attribute of God is self-reflection. (For the other six attributes of God, click here) The ability to assess one’s behavior, thinking, conduct, or lack thereof. It’s similar to conscience, which is the judicial aspect of our personality. It’s built within us to give us awareness, a sense of what we need to work on.
You preached about “living worthy of one’s calling”. If someone is doing something he feels is his calling, but he is exhausted all the time?
This goes back to purpose and the three questions to ask yourself. First, what gifts do you have? Second, what’s your passion? And [third], are you fulfilling that passion in the role you occupy now? If not, what other role can you occupy that lets you give expression to that passion? We are most frustrated when we are pursuing our passion. But balance is the key to life. There is a wonderful passage in the Psalms that talks about a workaholic—he misses the beauty of life. Even in ministry, you can get so involved in ministry that life passes you by.
You talked about the yoke of Jesus at your Saturday service. Two weeks ago, Pastor Kong and Sun took us through the fruit of 10 years of the Crossover Project. But there were many times for them when the yoke must not have seemed “light” or “easy”. What do we do when we feel that way?
You have to trust what Jesus said. You can’t go by feeling. You have to go by faith. And, of course, that faith is in the Word. You have to trust His judgment, trust His knowledge of you. Not just about life but about you. How you are the person He knows you are—your abilities, your passions. Trust the Scripture that He will not have us bear more than we can bear. And then when things get heavy beyond our capacity, He will make a way of escape.
The yoke is not something He is having you do. The yoke is the relationship. You are yoked together in this relationship and He’s leading. Even if you don’t understand where He is taking you, as [He is] the senior, you follow. That’s why the image of the yoke is of two oxen moving together. If you can’t move together, then it’s going to upset whatever it is that we have responsibility for. That’s why I talk about City Harvest being yoked together, the people being yoked in relationship and moving together.
How can we do that better?
Knowledge of God. Knowledge of Scripture. Knowing brings peace. In anything in life that you have to face, if you have knowledge of it, then it’s easy. If you don’t have enough, then you struggle and you have fear.
What happens if husband and wife are not equally yoked; they’re on different spiritual levels?
Whoever is the more mature must pray for guidance on how to help the other one grow. And also understand that where a person is mature in the knowledge of God and have skills in the Word, maybe the spouse is more mature in other areas, has skills in other areas. So there must be that appreciation.
Also—without getting into a marriage seminar—there is no model for marriage. There’s no one-size-fits-all model for marriage. Every person is uniquely different. We can learn from other models what works for us as a couple. Often we try to fit every marriage relationship into that one model and it doesn’t work. If the husband is an introvert and the wife is an extrovert, the tendency is for the wife to try to fit the husband into the model—“We gotta pray together every morning at 6am, we gotta go and visit Christians!”—when all he wants to do is be home with the kids, and she thinks he’s not spiritual. That’s why it’s important that the church doesn’t give models to the church that are unrealistic. But you do give them tools. When Israel went into the Promised Land, they weren’t mature, but they had all the tools to mature. The church, we give all the tools to be successful in what they do.
How do we “yoke together” with new people coming into our church?
You need to have systems in place, programs in place, people in place. I think you have it, but it’s still growing. It’s still evolving. You’re taking in new people. You’re functioning under a peculiar set of circumstances, peculiar to City Harvest. You are showing your resilience, your tenacity, your convictions. You’ve demonstrated some of the most powerful internal fortitude because of the conditions under which you as a church continue to do the work. Maybe some others would have quit by now.
As our Advisory Chairman you have been with us through these last two years. Has how you feel about City Harvest changed?
It absolutely has changed. I have a greater love and appreciation for Kong and Sun, because of what they’re doing. Everyone loves a comeback!