The leaders in City Harvest Church gathered to hear a word of affirmation from Dr. AR Bernard.
By Jonathan Teo
It was no ordinary Tuesday night leaders’ meeting on May 8. Senior pastor of City Harvest Church, Kong Hee, told the leaders gathered—the church leaders, cell group leaders, potential cell group leaders and more—that the meeting would be a defining moment for the church and will propel her to the next level.
Indeed, the message brought by Dr. AR Bernard, the founder and CEO of the 33,000-member Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in Brooklyn, New York, who also serves as CHC’s Advisory Chairman, gave much clarity and encouragement to the leadership of the church, preparing the way for a new chapter.
“There must be clarity of identity,” said Bernard, as he opened the meeting. “City Harvest is Evangelical and Pentecostal in experience. That is to say we believe the Holy Spirit is dynamically present in the lives of the believer. We believe the Holy Spirit has gifted the church with certain spiritual gifts (charismata), gifts we use in effective ministry.”
With that, he established the four ways in which “Evangelical” is expressed: Conversionism, which means there must be a personal conversionary experience with Christ; Biblicism, which holds the scriptures of the Bible as the divinely inspired authoritative Word of God and a guide to the Christian walk; Crucicentrism, which is the belief of the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross; and finally, Social Engagement, also known as the Cultural Mandate, which is the responsibility of engaging the culture in order to preserve the God’s original intention for the world. These four elements are encapsulated in the identity of City Harvest Church.
Building An Effective Ministry
Having established that, Bernard went on to share some common objectives of churches and the qualities he looks for in leaders, before arriving at his main point: the ingredients needed for building an effective ministry.
He drew from the Book of Acts in Chapter 17, sharing how Paul was provoked in the spirit by what he saw in the city of Athens–a place filled with statues and architecture that are representatives of the city and the diversification of her beliefs.
In this story, Paul showed the two things needed for an individual to have an effective ministry. Firstly, a burden for people; Bernard explained that this burden will lead the individual to feel the deep sense of responsibility to act upon what he believes in.
“Paul believed that he had the message they need,” Bernard explained. “Only when he had that belief could he be provoked and feel that he needed to act upon it.”
Secondly, a strategy to reach the people. The burden provides inspiration but the strategy will guide the action. “There must be a systematic plan for action, order and organization, or people will be running around doing things they think are right and that will create chaos,” said Bernard.
Paul’s strategy was to reason with the people in the marketplace. That meant he needed to take time to understand them, engage them in their thinking and slowly walk them through his beliefs. The only reason why anyone would do that is because he is convinced that his audience needs to hear what he has to say.
“His objective was not only to give them information, but more importantly, to give them understanding,” said Bernard. “And to convince others about the message, you must first be moved by it yourself.”
The Gospel is the most powerful message on the earth, said Bernard. When Christians take time to study and understand the message for themselves, they will be able to pull out treasures from their bag of knowledge when the need arises.
“Successful men and women of any profession apply themselves continually to the acquirement of accurate knowledge, covering every phase of their calling,” declared Bernard. “That is why we must become serious students of the Word and live a life demonstrating the lifestyle we preach.
“Paul challenged [the Athenians’] world-view and how they lived their lives when he reasoned with them. He truly believed that his message had the power of God to transform lives. We need to believe that the message we have is the answer that people have been searching for.”
The Power Of An Image
Bringing the message back to the subject of identity, Bernard told the room that this is a season to clearly identify who City Harvest is. He brought them to the Book of Daniel, where King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sought to galvanize all the different nations to worship one powerful source. To reach his purpose, He created an image.
“One of the most powerful things you can do in life is to create an image, because this image can become a stereotype that categorizes whole groups of people,” he explained.
Bernard explained this using American singer Lady Gaga as example. She was once an outcast in high school and her teachers told her that she will not amount to anything big. But she created an image for herself and today, the name “Lady Gaga” is well-known in many parts of the world. That is the power of an image, in today’s context, the “brand identity.”
It is similar to what God did in Genesis 1:26 when He “make man in Our image.” Everyone has their individual brand identity: how they carry themselves, the things they do and say. But there is something, however, more powerful than creating an image–it is to destroy an image. When a person lives a lifestyle that goes against the image they created for the public, they run the risk of destroying their image.
Fortunately, there is something else that is even more powerful than destroying an image—to redeem an image.
“And in the redemption is the incorruptible seed, which means the redeemed can never be destroyed again! That is what City Harvest is able to do,” Bernard said. “City Harvest has created a brand identity and now it has come under attack. But when it’s redeemed, nothing can destroy it again. You went through fire and did not get burn, so you will never be afraid of the fire again.” A spontaneous eruption of cheers sounded out in the room.
As CHC move into their season of spring, their Advisory Chairman’s message was a word in season, an affirmation that the church will soon move into greater things for the Lord.