Last weekend, in a new spin on City Radio’s talkshow Coffee With Kong, Pastor Kong Hee took the seat of the interviewer, speaking with his guest Pastor Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, on what to do in this “new norm” of the pandemic.
By Bernice Wong
City Harvest Church’s online service this past weekend (Jul 25 and 26) was a breath of fresh air. In place of the preaching by CHC’s pastors, the congregation was treated to an interview session, with the church’s senior pastor, Kong Hee posing questions to the senior leader of Bethel Church, Pastor Bill Johnson.
Coffee With Kong is a radio program on City Radio, available on The CHC App. City Radio’s deejay Bernard Loh regularly presents Pastor Kong with questions submitted by listeners.
This weekend edition of Coffee With Kong was done via a video call. Pastor Kong and Pastor Bill began by chatting about Bethel Church and how Pastor Bill began ministry, being a fifth-generation pastor in his family line.
WISDOM FOR THE CHURCH DURING COVID
Pastor Bill shared his view that, although churches are closed due to COVID, the strength of the church is in the two or three that gather in Jesus’ name. And so that is what Bethel Church has been encouraging its members to do.
He saw it as a gift to be able to slow down; the staff at Bethel Church have been seeking takeaways from the pandemic and making it their new normal. In this period, Pastor Bill explained, it is important to learn the wisdom of the Lord, and the leadership and staff at Bethel Church feel like God is resetting the pace at which they do life.
“Since we can’t change it [the pandemic],” he said, “we must pray that the burden of this affliction would be lifted off of our nations… We must pray Psalm 91; we must really go to war on our knees concerning this.”
Pastor Bill used the example of Isaac in Genesis 26 to illustrate people planting into their own future. In this passage, Isaac sowed seeds during a famine and it reaped a hundredfold. He was planting a crop for his own future, Pastor Bill pointed out, encouraging the church to do the same.
“What we need to be doing right now is to plant for our own future,” he said, citing methods of self-improvement such as picking up new skills like painting or cooking, and reading.
When Pastor Kong asked him about his takeaway from these past six months, and what “the new normal” was that he wanted to carry into the future, Pastor Bill shared the three things: the real strength of the church–the governmental role of bringing heaven to earth–is in the gathering of two or three in Jesus’ name. “Jesus said He will be there if two or three gather in His name,” he reminded. “‘Anything that you ask for will be done for you.'”
Secondly, Pastor Bill’s prayer is that the church comes out of this with a slower pace for life, and learn the wisdom of this season.
Thirdly, the value of relationships. “The Lord would rather us value another person than achieve something noble,” the pastor said. Despite being in a very achievement-oriented culture, sometimes people need to take enough time to strengthen someone else. It is the value of individuals that God’s looking for.
Pastor Bill also expressed hope that the increased depth in prayer that is happening this season will carry on in the church beyond COVID. Finally, Pastor Kong invited him to pray over City Harvest Church.
WHAT THEY LEARNED FROM THE INTERVIEW
Terry Lim, 20, a guitar teacher, said that his greatest takeaway from the CWK session was to “contribute to your own future; read up, learn, and grow in every area of your life in good stewardship of all that God has given to us. We have to do that even in the hardest of times because it will pay off the most in the following seasons.”
He also shared that the most important part of the message for him was hope. “We fill our hearts and minds with all that He is—that is where hope comes from. It is our responsibility to prayerfully meditate, confess, encourage people with the Word of God to maintain strength, and there we can maintain hope. This is so important we need hope to live another day.”
Pastor Bill’s words had an impact on student Melissa Lim, 21. “How can I receive the blessings of His Kingdom if I’m living by the rules of another?” she reiterated, adding that it brought to mind Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount.
“Matthew 5 is known as the Beatitudes which also means ‘The Blessings’. The chapter goes to set the nature and the aspirations of citizens of His Kingdom. (Matt 25:34) I thank God that the blessing of His Kingdom is not of monetary value but of His graciousness and mercy. Although we are in the midst of a pandemic and our daily lives have been affected, we can trust in His nature—He is a Shepherd who takes care of His sheep (Ps23:1) and we should prepare ourselves for the greater purpose that God has graciously instructed us, which is to fix our eyes on the eternal things,” she added, citing 2 Cor 4:18.
For Melissa, “the most important part of the message was when Pastor Bill encouraged the church to pray more, read the Word and stay united. Looking on the bright side of this pandemic, we have more time to study the Word and thank God for technology which gives us an abundance of resources to help us understand the Word. The beautiful truth is nothing can stop God’s sovereign will from coming to pass. The gospel will still be proclaimed and lives will still be saved. I’m encouraged to put my trust in a God whose nature doesn’t change with circumstances and earnestly desire to partner with Him in this journey.”
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COFFEE WITH KONG – WEEKEND EDITION, FEATURING PASTOR BILL JOHNSON
In case you missed it, watch Pastor Kong’s interview with Pastor Bill on The CHC App and read the interview here.
Pastor Kong: I’m just so glad that we’re able to connect like this, you know? How’s things in your neck of the woods? How’s things over there?
Pastor Bill: Well, we’re doing good. We still can’t meet together in large groups. And we have a good relationship with the county, with the city and the government leaders and we’re just trying to navigate with them what would be appropriate for us. But we’re ready, we’re ready. It’s been four months, and we’re trying to get back together. And the church is doing amazingly good; that’s been an encouragement to us.
PK: But you know, even during this time, your ministry is impacting the world in such a big way. For example, because we’re all at home, right? So all day long, Bethel Music is in the background. This morning, on the way here, I’m listening to “Raise A Hallelujah” (by) Bethel Music.
BJ: That’s wonderful.
PK: And I’m sure that it must be so exciting for you to know that your ministry, more than ever before, has gone from glory to glory, especially during this pandemic. It’s amazing.
BJ: Yeah, it is amazing. Only Jesus can help us to advance in challenging times like this. He does it so well. It’s a moment we were born for. We were just designed to be people with answers, solutions and courage, and all of that stuff during difficulty. So this is our moment.
PK: When you started off in the ministry, did you ever have this inkling that Bethel was going to be so huge and so big; and your impact is all around the world—in music, in preaching, in your books, in your tapes—in everything. Have you had this inkling that out of Redding is going to come forth a mighty revival that is impacting the entire world?
BJ: No, no, not really. I mean, we always carried the hope that God was going to do something significant—and He likes to use small, out of the way places and small, out of the way people. You know, He used John the Baptist in the wilderness. So we’ve had the conviction that God could do something in us and through us; but we never thought about the size that is, or the level of impact. No, it’s much bigger, much bigger. Very sobering actually. Fearfully exciting, is how I’d like to put it.
PK: Fearfully exciting. How long have you been in ministry now?
BJ: 47 years. 47 years next month.
PK: But aren’t you married to Pastor Beni for 47 years too?
BJ: Yeah, we got married in April and we were still going to a school, a training center. And then that August—the end of July, first of August—we went right into ministry. And ran a ministry here in Redding, on the streets of Redding, with the hippies and the drug addicts, and all that. Those were the people that we were with.
PK: But obviously you were not a hippie, right? Because your Dad was a pastor and you came from a family of pastors.
BJ: My Dad was a pastor, my grandparents, my great grandparents—it goes back five generations for me; then my children [are] the sixth generation.
PK: Wow, what a great heritage. Pastor, let me ask you, how’s the situation in your city, with your church, with this COVID-19 pandemic? How has it impacted your members and your ministry?
BJ: I heard this week there are five people with COVID-19 right now in our city. So Redding just hasn’t had a lot of it; some businesses never closed down, others closed. All the churches are closed; they’re starting to reopen the smaller ones, which we’re encouraging. The church needs to get together again. But the church has done well—we encourage our people to meet in homes. And so, the strength of the church is the two or three that gather in His name. That’s really the backbone of the church. And Jesus said I’ll be there, so His presence marks a gathering of even two or three people. So we’ve turned our attention towards that and have encouraged people to meet in homes and so they’re scattered all over the city in homes on Sunday when we have our meeting. And then we re-broadcast the service many times throughout the day on Sunday so that people can meet at different times of the day. It’s worked out really well. It’s really been healthy.
PK: Pastor, has this entire pandemic, how has it affected you personally in your life and your ministry? How has it affected your own walk with the Lord?
BJ: The pastoral staff at Bethel, of course myself included, have been unusually busy in a time when everybody was supposed to slow down. Because we’ve had so many conferences, Zoom conferences, and so many things. I mean I’ve traveled all over the world from my living room, you know? I’ve had the privilege of being involved in different ministries all over the world, so it’s a great honor. But we’ve been pretty busy. And I wrote a book, in fact, at the beginning of this pandemic, called A Hope In Any Crisis, just to bring hope to those who are really suffering with this. So as a church, and as a staff for me personally, the last few weeks have taken some vacation time so I’ve gotten some really good rest. I really like the slower pace because I travel so much, and you know what that’s like. And I haven’t traveled for four months. And being at home, I love being at home so much. I get to be with my wife and my children, my grandchildren—they are all here in Redding. And we have our 11th grandchild who was just adopted here a few weeks ago—Brian and Jenn adopted another child. So we do have extra time to be with family; that is such a highlight for us. The prayer times have been much deeper. I’m very thankful, I’m thankful that we’ve had a slowdown. We’ve been busy but we’ve still been home, so we’ve been able to really capitalize and develop some of just the personal things with the Lord. We’ve been able to develop much deeper. So I’m very thankful. As a whole staff, we’ve been trying to learn what do we take from this pandemic, and we make it our norm. Because Bethel is just too busy, we just have so many things happening, and it’s all good stuff, you know? So we’re just trying to learn the wisdom of the Lord. We feel like He is resetting the pace at which we do life. So we’re trying to learn, we’re trying to really pay attention as a staff, we talk together and try to figure out what do we learn from this. This could be a gift from God and that’s the way we’re approaching it. It’s a gift to be able to slow down.
PK: You know Pastor, when I came back and rejoined my family and rejoined my church, one of the most obvious things that has changed in the last three to four years is that they go around carrying or reading the TPT—The Passion Translation. So when I went home the first week, I took up my wife’s TPT and I opened up the foreword and you wrote the foreword. And I saw a statement that you made that really impacted me—I like it so much. You said that “Busy-ness is a killer of revival”. And you know, I think that like so many preachers, I was so busy, I traveled all the time. And the last four years have been like an enforced Sabbath for me. I obviously couldn’t get anywhere, so I just spent all my time studying the Bible and praying. And it has been one of the most amazing spiritual experiences for me. But you know, as we navigate through this pandemic, I do not know if that’s your situation in America, but in Singapore, people are getting a little tired staying at home and they just can’t wait to get out; and people get bored. There’s a sense of loneliness, a sense of isolation. How do we enrich ourselves during this time?
BJ: Since we can’t change it, I mean we obviously must pray that the burden of this affliction would be lifted off of our nations. We must pray that. We must pray Psalm 91, we must really go to war on our knees concerning this. And one of the things that happened with Isaac; there was a famine in the land. You know the story, Gen 26. And he sowed seeds during a famine and it reaped a hundredfold. Now as pastors, we love to use that, rightfully so, to illustrate giving. Because giving is portrayed as planting seeds. But technically, that’s not what Isaac was doing. Isaac was planting a crop for his own future. And what we need to be doing right now is planting for our own future. Read a book in an area that interests you. Maybe it’s in investments, maybe it’s in counselling, maybe it’s in prayer. We have exposure to so much on the Internet that’s bad, but we also have exposure to stuff that’s good. You can receive training. And we need to take responsibility and plant seeds in the most difficult time. Because when we plant in the most difficult time, it’s when the Lord gives us the greatest return. So we’ve got to plant into our own future. So I would tell people, I’ve told our own people, listen, you’ve always wanted to take that online course, maybe it’s a cooking course online, MasterChef or something, do that. Contribute to your own future. That’s just wisdom, it’s wisdom to grab the moment that we have and do something with it. To sit around and just be bored is unnecessary because almost everyone that’s listening to this interview has the ability to at least turn on YouTube and watch an instructional video on painting, on programming your computer, whatever it might be. There’s so much instruction out there. And for us not to take advantage of it is just not wise. So I feel that we’re supposed to plant seeds for our own future. I feel like that’s actually a word from the Lord for us right now.
PK: Wow, Pastor that is so good. Pastor, let me ask you this. I’m sure it’s the same in the west as it is in Asia. Many people have died because of this COVID-19. In fact, some of my pastor friends in Indonesia, probably some people you know too, they’ve passed away. Many have lost jobs, (they’re) unemployed, (the) future looks very bleak, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, you know. What encouragement can you bring to the people? You’re writing a book on hope; so how can we have hope in the midst of these dark times?
BJ: God has unlimited resource; unlimited ability. And to step into the realm of supernatural release, I have to obey the laws of His kingdom. I can’t get the blessing of His kingdom if I live by the rules of another kingdom. In other words, I have to use the principles of His Word—of praying and meditating on His Word. Hearing from God, what is He saying to me about my present situation. What decrees do I need to make? When John the Baptist was going to be born, the Lord shut Zechariah’s mouth so he wouldn’t be able to interfere with the miracle. Sometimes our own words interfere with the miracle that God has planned. But conversely, our own words can help to fuel or to inspire the miracle that God has for us. So we have to maintain hope, but hope can only be maintained by reading, meditating on the promises of God. You know Psalm 127 is… I’ve been reading Psalm 127 and Psalm 128 every day for the last couple of years and praying them over my family. And there’s one phrase in Psalm 127, it says it’s vain for you to rise up early and retire late, eating the bread of painful labors. And here’s the reason why. Because God gives to His beloved while they sleep. God provides while we sleep. So I’m supposed to be faithful in my work, but my work is supposed to be worship. And I realize that some have lost their jobs so that’s a different issue. The point is, is everything I do is to be an expression of worship and sacrifice to the Lord? Because the fire of God falls on sacrifice. So if I’m repairing a car and I give that to Him as an offering, He is attracted to blessing that part of my labor. If it’s my prayer life, if it’s that I take this verse out of Psalm 127 and I begin to pray, “God, You said You provide even while we sleep. So tonight as I rest, I go to sleep tonight in full trust that You are my Supplier, You are the One who provides for me. You are not restricted by man’s resources, You are the God of unlimited supply.” And we fill our heart and mind with the awareness of who He is. That’s where hope comes from. Hope comes from His nature, His covenant. He didn’t make promises to us and then say, “You know, I’m going to provide for you except when there’s a pandemic. Then I’m sorry but you’re on your own, you’ll have to figure it out.” That’s not Him. He’s the loving Father that looks to heal our land. So it’s our responsibility—He’s given us the book—it’s our responsibility to pore through this book and ask God to speak to us. And when He breathes on this page of Scripture and I can see what God is speaking to me, it’s now my responsibility to prayerfully meditate, to pray it, to confess it, decree it, to encourage other people with it. Everything I can do to maintain strength, I must do. And if I find that I’m faltering, then I need to get next to somebody who’s stronger than me, that has been stable in a difficult season. Because we’re members of a body; we’re members of one another. We don’t succeed by ourselves; we succeed together. So I want to be strong when you’re weak. I want you to be strong when I’m weak, so that we can stand together. My wife is sometimes so stable and strong—by the way, she sends her love—so strong and stable when I’m spinning, you know? And the opposite is also true. We work so hard to maintain hope so that we can be a strength for each other. And that’s the body of Christ, that’s who we are. So my encouragement is: pray in tongues a lot, read the Word, meditate, find out what God is saying. Believe it; just simply believe it. And let’s trust Him to see how He can turn this around. Because I have a feeling we’re already seeing it here in Redding. We have people that have experienced devastating loss from this pandemic. And they are already better off than before the pandemic. God has already turned it around—impossible situations. Businesses that should have closed down are now having their best months in the time of the pandemic, which is illogical. It’s illogical. But it is the Lord. It is the Lord.
PK: Wow, that’s so good, Pastor, that’s encouraging. It’s time to pray, time to speak in tongues, meditate on the Word, get into the Bible, understand the mind of God, asking God to speak to us. Pastor, you talked about standing with people who are more stable and stronger than you. But we are encouraged to stay at home. How are we going to connect with one another when we can’t even meet together?
BJ: Phone. Telephone. We’re doing it right here. I’ll have a FaceTime call with a friend. I’ll call my son, I’ll call my wife. We meet with our staff on Zoom. We have opportunity. Technology makes it … anybody who has an iPhone or a comparable phone can get on FaceTime and have a conversation with a brother or sister and pray together. It helps me just to see their face; it helps me just to see your face. I mean, it would work on the telephone, but I’m so much more encouraged to see your countenance, your hope, your faith, your joy—it feeds me. And we have that technology right now. I can call somebody on the other side of the world as we are right now. And we can be a strength and encouragement to each other. So there is no end of resources right now for anybody who wants hope.
PK: Wow, that is so good Pastor. That is so good Let me ask you a question. What do you think is a takeaway from this pandemic, from this season? First of all, I want to ask you, do you have any sense, like, how long this pandemic is going to last? You think it’s going to last six more months or another one to two years? And what are some of the takeaways? What are the new normal that you want to carry into the future with you?
BJ: One would be that the real strength of the church is the gathering of two or three in His name. That’s a takeaway. We love the large corporate gathering—that’s where the prophetic direction is set for the church. But the strength of the church, the government of God, if you will, rests upon the two or three that gather in His name. That’s what Jesus actually said. He said, “If two or three of you gather in My name, I’m there; I’ll be there.” He also said, “If two or three of you gather, touching anything in prayer, I will answer.” He said, “Anything that you ask for will be done for you.” So that government or role of bringing heaven to earth is in the two or three. So that’s one takeaway. Secondly, I pray that will come out of this—which I don’t think will be much longer—is a slower pace of life, that we can really learn the wisdom of this season. The third thing would be the value of relationships. We are very achievement-oriented culture, and sometimes the Lord would rather have us value a person than to accomplish something noble. And sometimes it’s just taking enough time just to be a strength to another brother or sister. Sometimes it’s just the value of individuals that He’s looking for. So I hope that we can take that out of this. I hope that the increased depth in prayer will go with us out of this season. That we’ll really have that sense for the individual prayer time will come out of it. With that, I feel like the Lord’s trying to teach us His mindset. There’s three different famines in the Bible, in fact, I wrote about it in this book on hope. But three different famines where the people of God responded differently. The first one was Isaac, it was a business decision, he sowed into his own future. The second one is Nehemiah 5: during the famine there, they were selling children into slavery and all kinds of crazy things during this famine because they couldn’t pay their bills. And they were selling their inheritance and Nehemiah rebuked them, brought them to repentance. And the repentance was a value, a restructuring of the value of relationships. It was rebuilding a sense of community. And I pray that we will come out of this with that. And the third strange response to a famine is in Acts 11 where Agabus prophesied that a famine would touch the whole world and the first thing they did was take an offering. So what we’ve done is when we had to cancel our conferences and had to cancel (having) a guest speaker come in to speak in our school, all this stuff. So we wrote him an honorarium check, even though he couldn’t come. And we’ve been sending gifts out to people whose livelihood depends on their traveling and ministry. And we just sent them honorarium checks as though they were here. Our staff, even when they can’t come into work, we’re still paying their salaries. We’re doing everything that we can do to live the lifestyle of generosity, regardless of what this pandemic looks like. Because you can’t get the resource of His kingdom by living with the mindset of the earthly kingdom. So those are some of the things that I hope we take out of this with even greater authority.
PK: Pastor, I want to ask you one last question on this section of the COVID-19 pandemic. Obviously, Bethel is a very prophetic ministry, you’re a very prophetic pastor; how do you see the future? How will the church look like, say two years from now, three years from now?
BJ: Well, what I sense is there’s still more shaking that’s happening. And it’s helping the church to rediscover priorities. And because we want to be standing on solid ground. If there’s shaking, I want to be on something solid. I don’t want to be on something that’s going to collapse. And so the things we’ve seen in recent months have caused people to reevaluate the priorities of their lives. And if we continue to respond to this, I believe there’s a mighty, mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will bring in tremendous numbers of salvations. You know the one billion soul harvest that many of us have been declaring for a number of years, that has already started. We’re seeing more and more people just saved online. It’s the most unusual thing. Other people would watch a broadcast, and they would come to Christ. And so I believe that the churches who respond in a Kingdom fashion during this crisis, there’s going to be just a tremendous number of people that would be coming to our door asking for help, asking to know Jesus, asking to be delivered of addictions and various lifestyles that have captive them in prison. I really believe that that is our near future. It’s happening in measure right now but I feel like it’s going to explode. But it’s not a frivolous thing, it’s not like, “Oh boy, there’s more people coming!” It’s not that. It’s that the fear of God is hitting our nations. So people are waking up to the reality of the gospel and it’s just our time to shine. We cannot be silent; we must, we must speak. And then the last thing I would mention is I feel like this is a great opportunity for us to increase in demonstrations of power. To learn what it is in the quiet place to cry out to God for the greater anointing for miracles. I may be driving in my car, I might be in the middle of a meeting, but anytime I see the clock that says 10.38, I stop and give thanks to the Lord. Because Acts 10:38 says that He went about doing good, healing all who were oppressed of the devil, for God was with Him. So Beni and I, we’ll just take a moment, we’ll say, “God, we just ask, do it again.” If she sees it and I don’t, she’ll say, “Honey, it’s 10.38.” I go, “Oh God, we just ask that you would do it again. You would anoint us with the Holy Spirit and the tormented people will be set free.” We need reminders like this throughout our life to just turn our heart towards the Lord. That’s why we’re here. This gospel must be displayed with power. It is not an option. It is not an option. Paul said it’s not in your word, it is in power. And so our preaching, you know, we want to be good at it, do a good job and of course be accurate, but there’s got to be a display of His power.
PK: Hallelujah! Pastor, that is so good. One of the questions that my leaders want me to ask you is this: we keep praying and believing God for a miracle, and to what extent do we just say, “Okay that’s it; maybe it’s not going to happen.” A good example would be someone that is terminally ill, on heavy medication. To what extent do we keep praying and believing for a miracle or we come to a place where we say ok we’re going to prepare for death?
BJ: Well, I have on two or three occasions, the Lord spoke to me before the person died that He was going to take them home. And so I couldn’t pray for their healing anymore. Because He had … One needed to be actually released in prayer. She was the mother of a secretary of mine. She had been in a very bad shape for a long time. And I went in to pray for her, and when I went to pray for her, I felt I was supposed to release her. And she wasn’t going to be healed. So you just obey God. So here’s the way I approach it. Every sickness needs to be healed, unless He says otherwise. I don’t need His direction to pray for the sick. I need His direction to not pray. And then, secondly, we pray until they die. And then we pray for them to be raised.
PK: Okay, amen!
BJ: And we have prayed. We prayed for five days over a little girl that died. And we stayed together, we prayed, we met night after night after night as a church. Hours and hours on end, praying and interceding for her resurrection. She didn’t raise. So we celebrated her life and we stopped praying when we buried her. But we knew in our heart that we had done everything that we could do. And because of that, it wasn’t a depressing thing. We knew that we didn’t fall short of what God was looking for. We did everything we knew to do for that child to be raised from the dead; and she wasn’t. So we give her to Jesus, and we move on with life. But that’s our approach. Our approach is we pray till they die, and if they die, we pray for resurrection. And if the family wants us to continue praying, we will continue praying. If they say we’re going to bury them, we’ll say fine, then we will celebrate their life with you. Honestly, we take our lead from the family, from the individual.
PK: Right. Pastor, let me ask you this. Someone that is diagnosed with a terminal illness, and been given the news, “You have six months, less than a year, the disease has spread, there’s no more medical help possible for you.” What would you say to someone like this? How would you encourage a Christian with a report like this to stay in faith?
BJ: Well, I’d tell them first to come to Redding (laughs). Come hang out here, please. Let’s pray together. They just need to be in an environment … Honestly, to be really practical, if I have a friend that calls me—we just buried a friend of mine this last week who died of a terminal disease. So this is our cycle in life, as we see great miracles, and we see people go home… God is God and we celebrate everything He does. But Jesus showed us His standard, everybody that He prayed for was healed. Everyone who came to Him was healed. So I can’t create another standard, even though I may never do it well, I don’t have the privilege of changing the standard from what He did. And so, what I tell folks, I say, “Listen, you’re in a very dangerous situation. You need to surround yourself with people of great faith. Do not be with negative people—you can’t afford it. You can’t afford it. Things are so fragile in your heart right now. You’ve got such a battle going on in your mind, that’s where the enemy attacks the most is in our thinking. And if he can get our thinking to be wrong, he can impact our emotions and there’s just this breakdown of the spiritual condition of a person. And it’s not necessary. It’s completely not necessary. And I tell folks, “Listen, put yourself in a place of great faith, do your best.” I’ll tell some people, I’ve told people before, “Listen, you don’t have to have great faith. I’ll have it for you. You just make sure that you maintain hope. You just make sure that you maintain hope. Do your best to be with people that are positive, that are encouraging. And then you do your part. If you’re too sick to read, listen to the Bible on a CD or something. But do something to reinforce your faith.” That’s what we tell them, “Listen, get prayer every time you get a chance. Until you know it’s been accomplished. Pray; get prayer.” And so we’ll pray for them and they say, “I’m not feeling any change.” “Well, you examine it during the week and if it’s not better by next week, come back, let us pray again.” We’re not in this to pray a couple more times and feel good about ourselves then move on. No. We’re with people that need a miracle. And sometimes it’s a Lazarus condition where Jesus heard Lazarus was very sick and didn’t go see him. He waited till he died and then He raised him up. And sometimes that’s the situation that we’re in: is, the Lord waits for an appropriate moment. I don’t want to be found not praying at that appropriate moment. I’ve also told people, I’ve said, “Listen, if you’re tired of being prayed for, you know what, you don’t ever have to allow anybody to pray for you in person. If that’s too exhausting for you, we’ll protect you. We’ll make sure that if it’s just emotionally draining for you, we’re here for you.” And we’ll just tell them, I’d say, “Listen, come back next week, and if you want us to pray for you next week, that’s what we’ll do.” But we’ll just try to keep it in a place where they don’t feel the pressure to perform; they don’t feel the pressure to somehow have great faith. I want them to have great faith, but if their strength … see, Jesus, Jesus never turned away anyone who had weak faith. He addressed the weak faith but He never turned them away and withheld a miracle. He would point to their small faith and then do the miracle, which gave them access to greater faith. Once they saw the touch of Jesus on their life, then that small faith of theirs suddenly became great faith because they saw Jesus at work. So Jesus doesn’t address small faith to shame us, He just wants us to be aware that as He moves, it’s our opportunity to grow in faith.
PK: We are talking about being in a positive environment, being in an atmosphere of faith, of miracles, of science and wonders, of the Holy Spirit. Back to this COVID-19 pandemic: how do you keep the spiritual hunger for God, for His presence? How do you fan that flame? How do you keep the spiritual hunger strong in this entire season? And obviously, as you know, in our church—thankfully, I’m very grateful for that—you talk about people meeting in twos and threes; we have cell groups. So we have hundreds of cell groups all around the city. But how do we keep that fervency, that spiritual hunger strong?
BJ: Well, you know, in the natural, if you don’t eat, you get hungry. But in the kingdom of God, you get hungry by eating.
PK: That’s good!
BJ: You do. You get hungry by eating. You want to maintain hunger for what God is about to do? Then read the right book, it will stir up hunger. Be with the right people, their testimonies will provoke you to hunger for more. Be in the right gatherings where you’ll see God move in ways that you wish He would use you in that way. What’s happening is you’re ingesting all these spiritual nutrients and it’s making you hungry for more of God. We’re the most dangerous when we’re not hungry. And we’re not hungry when we become spiritually lazy and we no longer are absorbing the things that God has said and done. His Word is filled with promises; are we seeing all of them happen? No, we’re not. Are we seeing some of it? Yes. And so we expose ourselves to what He said. He said, for example, in Joel 2: “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.” Are we seeing that happen? All flesh. All. We’re seeing some; but He said all. So at some point, we have to go for His version of the Scripture instead of ours. And believe for the all. “God, I want everyone in my city to be touched by Your presence and by Your power.” We start seeing the possibilities of Scripture, the standard that Jesus gave for praying for the sick. That He went about doing good; healing all who were oppressed of the devil for God was with Him—every person who came to Him. And so you see these standards, you prayerfully meditate on them and it creates hunger in you. Read the testimonies. You know I’ve got Smith Wigglesworth here. Read about Wigglesworth’s life. Read about some of the other heroes of faith. For me, John G Lake was my number one hero of his miracle approach to life. His understanding of the Kingdom is just beyond anybody I’ve ever read. So I will read that, and it provokes me. It just brings me to a place of absolute heartfelt cry to God, “Please, do it in my lifetime, God!” And I review. I have many many, many prophetic words over my life that I have recorded and I have in print. And I review them day after day after day. I can’t afford to think about me in a way that He doesn’t think about me. So review His promises; this is what He said He would do. I have to hear it. One particular word is 70 minutes long, it’s over 70 minutes long. I’ve probably listened to it somewhere between 50 and 100 times. Since I got it one year ago. Because it’s had that much impact on my heart. Several years ago, I had a real physical problem. I had a growth that wasn’t cancer, but I had a growth in an intestine. And I was unable to eat, and I ended up in the hospital. And of course, we prayed and did all we knew to do. And I just laid there, I laid there in bed just reading prophecies, reading Scriptures, praying what God had promised. I read Psalm 23 every day, I’d read it over and over again. Different places in the Scripture where the Lord had spoken, where I have history with God. I’d review those words because there’s a battle over my mind, over my thinking. And I could not afford to give a place to the enemy to insert his lies into my thinking. So I fought literally, I fought on my back in the hospital room or in our recliner at our home. And just read over and over and over again. And prayed these verses, prayed these Scriptures. Because no one will do it for me. I must do it myself. So that’s how you stay hungry.
PK: Pastor, this is gold. This is what we need to hear. This is what we need as a church. And I just love it, you know. In the Kingdom of God, the more you eat, the hungrier you are. That’s amazing. Pastor, just one or two more questions and we are done. This is one question just to take it off the topic of signs and wonders and miracles. Your relationship with Pastor Beni, let me ask you: 47 years, three more years to your golden anniversary. What is the secret to having longevity in your marriage, and to stay in love, and to stay united in a common vision. How do you do that?
BJ: We honor each other. I have great value for who she is. We don’t always think alike but that’s the beauty of it. I need somebody who sees and thinks differently than me. And she’s a gift from God to me. She is a daughter of God and I have a responsibility to treat her the same way I would Jesus. And if I mistreat her, He takes it personal. I don’t want to give an account to Him and find out that I treated His daughter … you know Jesus said when you’ve done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me. And He’s referring to the least, somebody far away. And if I treat them that way, how much more does He take it personal to somebody that’s so dear to me and dear to Him. So He takes this personal. So I have a responsibility to honor her. And she’s honorable. When I read Philippians 4—whatever’s lovely, whatever’s of good report, whatever’s honorable, you know, whatever’s worthy of praise, think of these things—I’ve told our church, I said, when I come to that verse, the best description I know of that verse is my wife. I just have to think about her. And she fits all those things. And so I just consider her. I’m thankful. None of us are perfect but we’re perfect for each other. And so I’m just thankful, I’m thankful that the Lord gave me a wonderful wife. We don’t raise our voices or treat each other with dishonor or disrespect. It’s just not necessary, it’s a waste of time; you just do it when you have insecurity. Insecurity is wrong security exposed. So anytime we act out of insecurity, the Lord’s just exposing a wrong security that’s in our hearts. We just have to be careful. So that’s how we choose to do life. And we’re still learning after, you know, 47 years. It’s been wonderful the last four months. I’ve been traveling, so I’m home all the time and I would rather be with her than with anybody.
PK: Amen. I think that’s the story of many of our lives. We’d rather be with our family, with our wives than to run around the world.
BJ: Exactly, exactly.
PK: Pastor, one last question. When are you coming to Singapore? Let me narrow down that question. When are you coming, not just to Singapore, when are you coming to City Harvest Church? We love you, we honor you. You have impacted us so much in every strata of our church, especially in the last four years, three to four years. Especially in that season when I wasn’t around. So I’m eternally grateful to you and for your ministry. And our members are crying out for you. When are you going to come?
BJ: Oh, I would love to as soon as they’ll allow us to travel. We can meet in small groups, I would make it a priority, I really would. I would make it a real priority, anything that I could do to get there, I would jump at the occasion. I really would.
PK: Thank you so much. We thank God for technology. Like people would say, man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. So you know, if it’s not for this COVID-19, we probably wouldn’t have been able to have this Zoom interview in that sense.
BJ: That’s true.
PK: Hey Sun, you want to come and say some last words? Where’s my wife?
Sun: Hello Pastor! I was listening in and I was so blessed. I kept doing this. It’s like, preach it, pastor! But seriously, Pastor, you’ve been so kind. So kind to me, the team, you know, the church members. Every single church member that has been to Bethel and came back and said that if they get a chance to go to the front and tell you they’re from City Harvest Church, you always give them that time, pray for them. Like Kong said, we’re eternally grateful. Thank you for loving our church this way. It means a lot to us.
PK: And Sun was sharing with me, when I wasn’t around, that she was going through a very dark time, a very difficult season. And a friend kind of dragged her to Redding, and it was in your service, she had a touch from God.
Sun: Yes, I did.
PK: And then she broke forth in holy laughter and was really touched by the Lord. And that became a breakthrough for her. And this was like, how many months? Maybe four months after I wasn’t around.
Sun: Pastor, I was so down. I have to say, I was so depressed I couldn’t laugh. And the song leader, she was actually serving in the Children’s Church. She was leading that night. And she just kept calling forth, and said, “I just feel like somebody has to do something that you feel like you cannot do.” I just stood there and she wouldn’t relent. And she kept going. And I’m like, “This lady is speaking to me!” And I told God, “God, if there’s one thing I can’t do now, I can’t laugh.” Then I started sobbing. But before I knew it, I heard somebody laughing. And it was me! It caught me by surprise. And when I did that—laughing and crying at the same time—I just felt this liquid fire, deposited right from above, down into my being. It was burning in my belly. And not only was I healed in my soul … Because my knees were in so much pain that I couldn’t kneel down to worship God for the longest time. And that night, I knelt in your sanctuary and worshipped God for the first time after many many months. So the Lord healed me in my soul and He healed me physically too. It was just wonderful.
BJ: That is so beautiful. Thanks for sharing that.
PK: Pastor, when I came back, that first weekend I stepped into the church, I kind of felt … It was to me, the most glorious service I have ever attended in my entire life. That first weekend when I came back … I felt like, there was no change in our DNA, but there was a strengthening. There was like an additional… like an armor has been put on it. And I was so glad. I was so glad. And Sun turned to me. She was kind of like, worried. She’s like, “This is our church now. Do you like this?” I said, “I love it! I wouldn’t want to change a thing! I wouldn’t want to change a thing.” So I just want to say that your ministry has blessed us so much. I think only eternity would tell how much you’ve impacted us.
Sun: Pastor, I just want to say, the two biggest takeaways from your ministry … First, you talk about honoring. [At Bethel] You came down to look for me. Before that you told me, during the break, to come to the Green Room. I’ve heard that a lot, Pastor, as a pastor’s wife. You know, and it’s not like I didn’t believe you, but I thought, “Pastors say that, right?” So I was just with my team and I saw you coming down and looking around. And I thought, “No, no. He couldn’t be coming to look for me And then you came down again and found me, and we went up to the Green Room. I was so touched and I felt that, like you said, you just honor people. It doesn’t matter who they are, you treat them as a child of God. And that was one of my biggest takeaways, that we have to treat every single individual with great honor. And that was demonstrated in the way people worshipped too. I think the second biggest takeaway was the freedom of worship that I experienced in Bethel. Worship is not a certain structure, a certain form. Every one of us is wired and being formed by God to worship Him our way, and it’s from our hearts. So it doesn’t matter if you are prostrated on the floor, or if you are sitting on your seat, or you’re writing in your journal. As long as your whole posture is one that is of worship to the Lord, it is acceptable to the Lord. And if it is acceptable to the Lord, it must be acceptable to the pastor and everyone that’s around. And we are nobody to judge. So that’s what I brought back to the church, to really encourage them to worship the Lord the way they feel the Lord wants them to worship. Just have that freedom in His presence and not be boxed in or restricted by manmade ways, I guess.
PK: Pastor, before we go, could you just say a prayer for our church? Especially for our members and many are going through a challenging time. Would you just say a prayer?
BJ: Yes, I would love to. Father, first of all, we come, two or three gathered in Your name, and we are in complete agreement. We ask now, that today would be a turning point for all of Singapore in this pandemic. And that You would fully vindicate everything that the righteous have lost in this season. Vindicate. Let there be a restoration of jobs, let there be promotions to better jobs. Let there be great courage by business owners that would know what to do in a difficult time. And that You would honor them with increase and growth. Father, I pray for City Harvest Church, that You would cause them to prosper inside and out. That the manifest presence of Jesus would come upon household after household, that the encounters or your glory would increase all across the land. I thank you Father for Kong and for Sun, that their encounters with You would be deeper and deeper. That the glory of the Lord would be seen upon them, and that they would become servants of a nation at a level that they’ve never known before. Let there be a release of power for healing, power for deliverance, that this would be the hour of Singapore’s greatest celebration. That celebration would take place in the houses of faith all across this nation. Celebration and joy, healing, deliverance—all these things would take place for the honor of the name Jesus. All we want is for You to be glorified and to receive Your harvest. That’s our heart. So we pray these things in Jesus, Jesus’ might name. Amen.
PK: Pastor, thank you so much.
Sun: Thank you so much, Pastor. Thank you for your time.
PK: Thank you for your time. We’ll catch up again.
BJ: I look forward to it. You just tell me when. I would love to.
PK: And please send my love to all at home, to your beautiful wife, and to your entire church.
BJ: Thank you so much. Bless you. I love you.
Sun: Have a great night pastor.
PK: Have a great night. God bless.
All: Bye bye.