When City Harvest Church’s advisory chairman came to Singapore in February this year, he brought the church three messages: one, based on the story of the Good Samaritan, was about the lens through which we see the world, the second was about patterns and principles, and the third, which was to the leaders in the church, was about the messages Paul sent the Philippians versus the Colossians. We asked him how to put messages to practice.
You taught us about the lens with which we see the world. How do we identify when we need a new lens?
Our lens is continually adjusting as we grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding. Someone who is angry may see the world as tainted; it begins in his own heart. What we see is colored by the condition of our heart, so the lens is affected by our own fears, prejudices. That’s what the whole story of the Samaritan is about, it’s about different lenses. To the expert of the law, the centerpiece—who is the wounded man—was an object for discussion. What people see with their eyes and hear with their ears is colored by the condition of their heart. So as you go through a change of heart, you experience a change in lens. And a change of heart comes about through growing in wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
That’s why reconciliation today in the 21st century has to be spiritual, philosophical, empathetic, architectural, experiential. We’re putting ourselves in the place of someone who is wounded.
You also talked about the 30-60-100-fold people—different people have different levels of ability and commitment to the church. Is there a chance of making a 30-fold person a 100-fold person?
It’s not going to happen. If they become a 100-fold person, it’s because that’s what they really are.
How do we shepherd them?
You give them guidance and you manage your expectations. We live life on levels and in stages, and people are on different levels and in different stages of experiencing spiritual maturity and spiritual formation. That’s why Jesus said, “I have many things to say to you but you can’t bear them now.” The disciples didn’t have the capacity needed for the information they were looking for or that He wanted to give them.
So you still continue to love the ones that are 30-fold and 60-fold?
Absolutely! Why do you have to choose between them? The victory in understanding them. “Oh! You’re a 30-fold person! I won’t expect you get this…” (laughs)
You said the way to read the Bible is to look for the patterns and understand the principles. How do you do that?
Through developing skill and experience. When I give you a passage of Scripture then I begin to show you the principles and patterns in there, you learn to look for it. And the more you study the Scripture with that lens, the more you see it; you start discovering it.
Say you read a passage and you see the “wrong” pattern—how do you correct yourself?
[You’ll see the wrong pattern] if you extract it from the context; you’re in violation of the principles of interpretation, so you’re going to come to a wrong conclusion. It’s like if you take a parable by itself, without understanding that it’s related to some question and situation, you extract the parable out of its context and give meaning to it that is erroneous.
How do we know it’s erroneous?
Context protects you. That’s why when newspapers report something someone said, what does that person say? “They took it out of context!”
You mentioned you’re working on a “Christ In Culture” book. Tell us about that.
I’ve gone through an experience with publishers. And nowadays, publishers just lend you their name but you have to do most of the work to get the book out there. And once the book takes off then they’ll want to give you a distribution deal. So, if you have your own network, which I do globally, I may self-publish, sell 100,000 copies, then present it. So you really have to strategize. Take Amazon, they monitor daily the sales activities. When a book comes out and there are 5,000 copies sold on Amazon, then they take it as a bestseller. So you have to understand the system.
The first book that my agent and writers want to put out—and I agree with them—is Four Things That Women Want From Men. We know what the publishers want because we know the publishing cycles and we know the kind of book that would sell. So you get a book out there that would sell, then the next book will be anticipated. [For this book] we’re interviewing a cross-section of women across the country from different cultures, different economic educational levels; we know what the answers are already, but we want to hear from them. So that’s going to be incorporated into the book. If we can get everything done by the end of April, we should be able to get it into the cycle to come out in the Fall.
Let’s talk about your message at the Leaders’ Meeting on Feb 3. You preached about the different letters that Paul wrote to the Philippians and the Colossians. Each had a very different lens, which you suggested should merge. How do we do that?
You practice both: you practice the presence of God in the individual, and you also practice the presence of God in the marketplace. It begins with the revelation that there is no conflict between the two models.
It’s an interesting message to bring to our leaders, seeing that the Cultural Mandate is something we haven’t talked about since the trial.
I taught this during leader’s meeting on May 9, 2013, and [back then] I gave basically an understanding of those two lenses. But tonight I chose to focus on Paul’s prayers, because they reveal a lot about each church—where they are spiritually and what their focus is.
So the prayer that I would pray for this church is not the same as the prayer I would pray for some other church.
All messages are contextual. If I’m pastoring a church with very wealthy people, I would preach to them about their responsibility to share with others. If I were pastoring a church with poor people, I would preach to them about lifting themselves up in God’s promise of abundance, wholeness. So it’s contextual.
That’s why you can’t just build a church on a message. You need a framework.
You told the leaders at the Leaders’ Meeting that we are in the home stretch. Why did you say that?
That’s what I believe, that’s what I feel, that’s what I’m seeing and sensing in the Spirit. And that’s why I talked about living in awareness of another reality influencing this reality. So whatever conclusions are going to be come to, we’re at the finish line.
And funny how the people responded without explanation, they responded to it right away. It’s the law of sympathetic resonance. Those words resonated with all the people.
You reflect on the previous messages you’ve preached to us?
Yes, because I said I was going to speak apostolically and prophetically. The apostle is a builder, so I’m building layer upon layer, brick upon brick. So I want to understand what I’ve built so far into the structure, and I can tell by the messages I’ve ministered over the past two years. I take what I do seriously! There are some people that just look for a hot message and that’s it! They even forget what they’ve preached.
You keep records of everything you’ve preached?
Yes. Every message.
Do you keep track of what we do with it?
Are you happy with what we’ve done?
We use our tools according to the level of knowledge we have. As we increase in knowledge and experience, we use our tools differently, more creatively.
From your perspective, what lessons from this journey we’re going through do you hope we have learned as a church?
That the kind of ministry that you’re engaged in requires a better structure and better systems in place to support the ministry.
Dr Bernard returns to preach at CHC on the weekend of May 23-24, 2015.