Pastor A.R. Bernard, founder of New York City’s largest evangelical congregation, the Christian Cultural Center, says teaching the poor about God’s prosperity and abundance “makes a lot of sense.”
“I believe, from 38 years of ministry, that ministry is contextual. It depends on the context you’re in. So if I’m ministering in a context of those who are poor and struggling in life, I’m going to teach them of God’s abundance, I’m going to teach them of God’s prosperity in their life, and I’m going to teach them how to discipline their lives and believe God for a better quality of life. This was a part of the promise,” Bernard said last Thursday at the Movement Day Global Cities conference held at the Jacob Javits Center.
“I do not subscribe to the notion that somehow wealth and spirituality are tied together. Because if that was true, then someone like Donald Trump would be considered very spiritual,” Bernard told New York’s Power 105.1 morning radio program in May. “That’s a falsity and yet there are my colleagues in ministry, especially over the last 45 years … [who] have pushed this notion that to be wealthy is to be spiritual, they’re synonymous. That’s not true because it sells a pipe dream to people, most of them struggling to be where that preacher is.”
In an address to a global audience representing 95 countries at the closing ceremony of the Movement Day Global Cities conference, Bernard was unapologetic about teaching God’s prosperity to the poor in his comments about how the Church needs to contextualize ministry to respond to culture.
“If my context is in a community of those who are wealthy and powerful, I’m going to teach them and preach to them about their responsibility for their brother and being their brother’s keeper, for those who are less fortunate, and that makes a lot of sense,” he added.
Culture, Bernard said, is “the greatest and most powerful influence and challenge” for the Church in doing ministry. In the last 40 years, he explained, the Church has seen the most rapid change in culture “take place right before our eyes and it is prophetic.” This rapid change, he explained, is most evident in cities.
“No matter where we are in the world, the context is changing so rapidly that it’s no longer one or the other but is becoming a blended experience,” he said of the various contexts in which people live. “Multiculturalism, blended families, multiracial context, multiple ethnicities are now converging.”
The New York City preacher whose congregation stands at 37,000, hinged his message on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew which he used to remind the audience of the church’s role in society — to be salt and light.
“He [Jesus] begins to present in very simple form and language, the role of His people in the world. At that time, He was speaking to the Jewish people, but He was also speaking to the future in the role that the Church and Christianity would have [in] society. Simple terms — salt and light,” said Bernard. “He said you are the salt of the earth, relating to the soil, and he said you are the light of the world, cosmos, relating to the social order — socially, politically economically, educationally in all aspects on social institutions.”
Bernard charged that in order to be effective and relevant, the Church needs to be aware of the culture in which it operates.
“Our empowerment by the Holy Spirit enables to discern the day, the time in which we live, and the movement of culture and the rapid changes that we see happening before us because these things impact the very people and societies we have been called to reach. And it’s important that we live and walk and do ministry with a prophetic awareness of what’s happening before our eyes,” said Bernard.
He then described the reaction of society and the Church to the rapid cultural changes as “future shock,” a term coined by futurist Alvin Toffler who wrote a book of the same name. Toffler died in his sleep at the age of 87, earlier this summer.
“In 1970, there was a futurist by the name of Toffler who looked at what it means when societies begin to experience rapid change, faster than we are able to wrap our head around. He talked about our movement from an agrarian society to a post-industrial society that he called super industrial society. Movement from manufacturing to an information world and an information society where information is driving and shaping what we do and how we do it,” Bernard said.
“Toffler said, very prophetically in his analysis of what was going to happen in the future of American societies, that there would be a disorientation and anxiety that would characterize people’s response to what they see happening in front of their eyes, he called it ‘future shock,’ a term that he also coined and [it is] continued to be used to this day. It essentially is fear of the future,” he explained.
SOURCE: The Christian Post – Leonardo Blair