Over two weekends—and a meeting for CHC’s leaders—Dr AR Bernard, senior pastor of Christian Cultural Center in New York, and CHC’s advisory chairman spoke a series of messages that, though seemingly disparate, strengthened the congregation in a time of trial.
You told the congregation “As long as I’m alive, I will be here for you.” Why did you say that?
I am committed. I place a high premium on loyalty. And I believe I am called to Asia, and to City Harvest Church. Only God can end the calling. Not me and not circumstances.
When two Christians disagree, how does either one know if he is really doing the will of God?
You test the spirit of it. It’s very important. The Spirit gives us the criteria of attitude for anyone who has an offence in any way.
If this person doesn’t meet the criteria, should we communicate this to him?
Absolutely. You should say, “I can’t judge your heart but it doesn’t appear to me that you’ve come in the spirit of reconciliation. Because the spirit of reconciliation is not judgmental; it’s not critical. It acknowledges that there are differences. It acknowledges that there’s an offence. And we begin the process of reasoning, to talk about it.
I give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I continue to listen. When I have information that comes to me that indicates that things are contrary to how they’ve been presented, then it’s suspect. You lose the benefit, and there’s nothing left but the doubt.
In Matthew (18:15), it says, “If your brother hears you, then you’ve won your brother.” So the spirit of it is to win, to preserve the relationship, not to accuse and condemn and destroy.
(At Sunday’s service on Sep 22) you said we should embrace a leader’s spirituality and also his humanity.
It’s one package. It comes together. God knew everything about that leader when He called him. No surprises. And yet God used imperfect vessels to accomplish a perfect plan. Which means, you cannot do it without His help. One of my favorite verses is found in John 1: “And there was a man sent from God whose name was John”. That’s powerful. “There was a man”. Now there are a lot of implications that come with that statement; that means, when God sent him, he had all the issues of what made him who he was in the first place. And God didn’t have an issue.
How do we help those who doubt?
You can only pray for them. People are who they are, they have different levels of maturity, understanding. You know, some people are easily influenced, others aren’t. The only authority we have over all these affairs is the Scripture. That’s our guide. If people don’t want to submit to the Scripture, what can we do? Jesus never tried to un-doubt the doubters; un-perplex the perplexed. He just continued to go towards those who believed. He continued to work with those who believed.
How do we protect ourselves from falling into deep offense?
We are human and we have to go through the process. We are to forgive others as God, for Christ’s sake, has forgiven us. So immediately, we take a look at ourselves. The fact that God has forgiven us, that’s where we begin when it comes to forgiving others. And if God can forgive us with all our baggage, who are we not to forgive? If we fail to forgive someone else, after considering how God has forgiven us, we make ourselves greater than God.
Okay, I am very convicted now.
(laughs) The word of God is convicting, isn’t it? It’s powerful. It doesn’t condemn. It convicts, and there’s a difference. Conviction leads to repentance. Condemnation leads to despair. And only the Holy Spirit can convict the world, nobody else. Not you, not I. And that’s Scripture. He that is the Spirit of truth has come to convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness. (John 16:8)
At the leaders’ meeting (on Tuesday Sep 17), why did you teach them about decision-making and relationships?
I gave a decision-making model and decisions are often made in the context of some relationships. So managing relationships includes making right decisions within the context of relationship, whatever those relationships may be. Because in the midst of something like this going on, people are faced with making decisions: who they’re going to trust; who they’re going to believe; whether they should stay; whether they should leave. So I want them to have a solid mind when going through the process of making decisions that are critical. But I didn’t have to tell them that. (Smiles) They got it.
At Saturday’s service (Sep 21) you talked about the four sacrifices of the priesthood. Why?
Yes, the four sacrifices of the New Testament priesthood: the sacrifice of our bodies, the sacrifice of our praise, the sacrifice of our substance and the sacrifice of our service. And as priests, our greatest privilege is the privilege of access to God. Which relates to our responsibility and role as intercessors on behalf of those who don’t have that access.
I had prepared something else. But as I sat in service and I listened to the song about offering, the Holy Spirit spoke to me, He said “I want you to minister this word, about scriptural priesthood.” It’s unfortunate that too many believers have left their priesthood and have become something other than what the New Testament intended them to be in relationship to God and in the context of the local church. So we’ve become spiritual consumers.
That’s a very bold message!
Yes! We need bold, don’t we? Part of being a leader is being bold and strong. People respect strong leadership, even if they disagree. Now the artistry comes when you take all these responses and craft it into an incredible article that will simply intrigue your readers!
The trial may stretch into the middle of the next year. People are saying it’s going on too long. How do we prepare our people for the long haul?
That’s why Pastor Kong keeps speaking of perseverance, persistence. Look, faith and patience obtain the promises. It's true, even in this. Whatever promises we hold with regard to this trial, faith and patience obtain them. And even with regard to the influence of people negatively towards the church, (towards) Pastor Kong and Sun, patience protects you from deception. And persistence outlasts persecution.
We’ve got to make banners of all these sayings.