Phil Pringle, who preached last weekend at City Harvest Church, chats with City News about how to use faith in practical ways, what makes him laugh and what he thinks of the church.
By Theresa Tan
You preached on faith the last two times you’ve been at CHC. Why?
Well, I think whenever we are facing trials, we need strong faith. It’s not a time to be weak in faith when you’ve got a lot of pressure and when you’re facing seemingly impossible circumstances. Somebody needs to be imparting faith and that’s one of the things I know the Lord has called me to do. And so, that’s what I feel that my contribution here can also be, partly in that world of bringing faith into people’s hearts.
What kinds of reaction did you get to your last faith message?
People definitely said back to me that they felt very blessed and encouraged after hearing the (last) message. Because faith runs out on us, and we need to recover and rebuild faith in our lives. I said it last time. I was here that faith is like a battery. It needs recharging. When you hear a message like that it recharges your faith, and you think “Yes” and you remind yourself.
How does someone “stay in the love of Christ”?
By speaking the Scriptures that relate to that matter. So, instead of reading the Scriptures that don’t apply, read the ones that are needed when you face a trial. Those are the ones that boost your faith and keep you in the love of Christ, when you’re looking for mercy, when you’re looking for goodness. Scriptures like “If God is for us, who can be against us?” … there’s thousands of them. But some people get blind to them when they’re filled with negativity.
How do we help that?
By listening to messages like this again and again. I listen to messages like this by preachers many times. I read books that I’ve read before. Just because we have heard faith once, doesn’t mean we don’t need to hear it again.
You talked in your service about people who come to church but are not saved. How do we identify these people and how do we help them?
I think if we show enough grace to allow them to travel the journey without prematurely forcing them to make a decision that actually has the effect of inoculating them against further conviction, and I think there comes a day (they will). I’ve had people come to church for a year and sat through altar call after altar call, and we’ve given them every opportunity, but at the same time kept accepting them and treating them as a friend, not judging them on the fact that they haven’t received Christ, but loving them. And there are people that I’ve known who are addicted to things, who are living lifestyles that are wrong, people who are living in bad relationships that they shouldn’t be. I think you’ve got to have a church that’s not judgmental and where people feel accepted as a human being, regardless of what’s going on in their life.
When Adam and Eve sinned, [the Bible] says in the cool of the evening, they heard God walking in the garden. It’s not like the minute they sinned, God jumped up on the spot and said, “Hey! What have you done?!” He waited a whole day, till it was the evening. And that was the faith of the entire human race, it was a big moment, yet He doesn’t seem to rush in and try to fix everything up immediately. He is patient with us, very patient. Makes you glad we’re not God.
You’ve stood with City Harvest since we first heard news of the case. What do you sense is the mood of the church now?
When it first happened, the whole church was in shock, certainly the leadership team. It came so out of the blue, the shock was immense. The feeling of public embarrassment was very high. I think as time has passed, though, the church has gotten more used to that fact, got to live with that, ‘cause you’ve been in the papers now many times, and it just is not so shocking for the church, though it might be still shock people out there. I know it weighs heavily on Pastor Kong and Sun, it weighs heavily for the leadership, because they care so much for the sheep. They don’t want them to feel this pressure or shame or embarrassment in the marketplace, and they’re concerned the church will grow weary. But I would think that exactly the opposite is happening. The church is not getting weaker, it’s getting stronger. If I can pass any comment from the temperature of the meetings, it’s certainly not dull or dead or lacking in passion or fire. Every altar call is filled with people getting saved, which means people are still reaching out. It’s not like the church has died and gone under cover. I fully salute this church, I think it’s incredible.
You taught at service that it’s vital to declare the Word over your life. If someone who is sick does, but is not healed, how do we help them keep their faith?
Faith functions in two zones. One is to bring the power of God and a miracle into our lives. But in the absence of that happening, faith helps us live above the circumstance. You’ll find throughout Scripture that some people got delivered from the fire and from the mouth of the lion, but there are others who got burned and others who got eaten. And the family that got left behind had to live above their circumstance.
We like all the miracles happening, certainly we should expect them, but God’s gotta mean more to us than the answer to our prayer. And if, for some reason, our prayer isn’t answered, Jesus is still enough for us. And we can live above that circumstance and value Him more than our own comfort. Which by the way, takes faith.
If the person is not a believer, I think acts of kindness are equally as powerful as miracles. Because acts of kindness open people’s hearts to God. That love can melt their heart.
What should a Christian woman do if her husband won’t go to church if she doesn’t, and won’t go to cell group if she doesn’t? She wants him to be the spiritual head of the household.
I don’t think cajoling him will help, or telling him he’s the spiritual head, trying to make him something he’s unwilling to be right now. Following Christ is a journey, getting a person saved, getting him baptized in the Spirit, getting him tithing, getting him along to church, into a cell group—each one of those parts has a threshold, and getting people over those thresholds is a job of good pasturing, good leadership. A woman’s primary role is to pray. Telling the husband “You’re the spiritual head”—a male ego will react badly to that. He’ll say, “Well I’m just not going to.” But if she can gently exhibit her strength in a gentle way, and loving and gracious and patient way, that will open his heart.
How can the leader help? Should he have a man-to-man talk with him?
That’s not a bad idea. But I don’t think it’s about speaking to him, it’s about creating a relationship. “Let’s go and have coffee and chat.” If it came up, we’ll address it. If it didn’t, I’d wait till about the third time and I’d say, “How’s it going with your family life?” You just gotta patiently woo a man into that right zone and if he’s feeling like he’s getting some understanding and some help from this other guy, it can help. That’s why it’s called the work of the ministry. I wish it just happened like that. I’ve sometimes taken a year with guys like that.
Now, a few questions from the curious City News team. What is your favorite movie?
Inception in recent years. Very good actors, great script. The music was incredible.
What makes you laugh?
Lots of things. I like seeing the funny side of most anything. There’s generally a funny side to things. My daughter is funny. My son, Daniel, is hilarious. We laugh together all the time. Laughter is very important, it’s like emotional communion.
What kind of grandfather are you?
I’m a learning grandfather. My two grandchildren are still young – 6 and 4. I’m away a lot, which doesn’t make it easy, but when I am around I try to read stories and build Lego houses and play driving car games on the iPad.
Final question: Are there going to be any new Phil Pringle podcasts? Because we’ve been listening to the old ones over and over…
I know! Forgive me! I just became aware of that the other day and they’re going to fix them right up!
Phil Pringle’s new interactive e-book app You The Leader is available on iTunes. 2012 podcasts at Phil Pringle Podcast are also now available on iTunes.