By 1010 WINS’ Larry Mullins

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Those who follow the Word of God are oft to say, “God can use anything and anybody to get your attention when he’s trying to get a message to you.” I met Pastor A.R. Bernard at his megachurch (Christian Cultural Center) in Brooklyn. And while on the one hand I was shocked when he told me who introduced him to Christ, on the other hand I thought, “Well, if God can use a snake, a donkey, a whale and so many other biblical elements, why not a gang member?”

Pastor Bernard says it was Nikki Cruz, the former leader of the Mau-Mau Gang in Brooklyn. I hear those were some bad dudes! But Pastor Bernard says he heard a story, which set him off on an odyssey to start his own church. The humble beginnings included about 20 folding chairs, first in his kitchen and then an old storefront in Williamsburg. I won’t spoil the middle of his story for you (you’ll need to visit the church), but let’s just say it is one of the biggest, loveliest and warmest churches I’ve attended in New York in the 10 years that I’ve been here. Wow. Pastor Bernard  explained why Christian Culture Center is so warm and friendly: customer service. He actually took members of the church to the Walt Disney World institute to learn how to interact with large groups of people. He also got the customer service playbook from AMEX for the same purpose. And they’re implementing some of those programs.

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I have to share one secret with you though (spoiler alert): Pastor Bernard used to be an operations executive for a major New York City bank. So he had a corporate state of mind when he started this church and sort of runs it that way. He calls himself a “born again banker.”

But never mind all that. I truly felt like I was talking to a man who has chosen to serve God with every ounce of his being — no frills, no bling, no “prosperity promise if you give your last dime to the church,” just plain truth and hope that there is a God and he is listening. The church has nearly 40,000 members, who wrap around the block (every Sunday) to hear this man — albeit a soft-spoken gentleman who looks like he belongs more on the cover of a GQ magazine, as opposed to the typically older and “greyer” ministers I’m used to seeing in the pulpit. But his message is powerful and steeped in that Word! Gosh I haven’t even begun to tell you about the church, sitting on 11 acres in a Brooklyn neighborhood. I’ll just say this: You’ll think you’re in a museum. It’s just cavernous and kept immaculate.

They say once in a while, we all come across “angels unaware,” so we should be nice to everybody, because you never know when. I feel like I got one over on God today; I am absolutely certain that I met one of his best. Love you my brother, Pastor B. I’ll be at church Sunday sir, L.

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