Phil Pringle, City Harvest Church’s advisory pastor shares his wishes for the church in its 25th year and his prayer in this time of trial.
You’ve been a friend of CHC for such a long time, do you have a message for the congregation in its 25th year?
I certainly congratulate every member on being faithful to bring the church to this point where its legacy, even at this stage, far exceeds what anybody could expect of a local church. I think you’ve had thousands of School of Theology graduates and 300 recently returned to celebrate. So, literally there are thousands and thousands of men and women who have gone from this place, serving God all around the world and doing magnificent things for God. So it’s not just Singapore that has been affected, but all around the world, CHC is having such a powerful impact. So, literally there are hundreds of thousands of people who have been saved, brought out of darkness. It’s because of a faithful congregation. Not all churches can keep going, especially under pressure, like this congregation. I love CHC and I love what they do for God—and the fact that they have had such success in China too, it’s amazing.
Sometimes we forget there is impact around the world.
Pastor Kong takes the stand the next few weeks—from what we have seen, there will be many tough questions asked of him.
I think moment by moment the Holy Spirit will be available to Pastor Kong and will guide him with wisdom. Throughout Scripture, anybody who under the pressure of examination found themselves with answers from the Holy Spirit, able to bring great answers that delivered them from all sorts of problems. Whether it was Daniel with the kings, Belteshazzar and others, whether it was Joseph with his jailors, whether it was Paul with kings or judges or high priests—all these people found in their moment of need, the Holy Spirit was there. Pastor Kong is a very diligent, faithful man and he has prepared himself the best he can. Between that and the Holy Spirit, he will find himself navigating this moment. The Lord will be in that courtroom, guiding everything that happens.
Honestly, there are moments during the case when things look not pretty. Or someone says something on the stand that makes you sit up…
It’s very different being in the armchair than out in the field playing the game. It’s easy when you’re watching a tennis game or football game— “Aw, you shoulda done that!”—but when you’re on the field, doing what you’re doing, it’s not always easy to guard your action. You’ve got to give grace to everybody and allow them breadth of expression. And you know, sometimes we may think the person hasn’t done the right thing but you know you might be surprised: it might be to your advantage as things go on. Plenty of times things look bad, but actually, it’s the best thing that could have happened.
You taught us in your sermon that anger is a barrier to happiness. But, realistically, how do we not be angry when people set out to harm us or our family?
It’s a fair enough question. I’m not sure we’re not meant to be. “Be angry and sin not”, the Bible says (Ephesians 4:26) There is an anger you can hold and still be happy. I think a selfish anger is a wrong anger, but maybe not an anger that is on behalf of others or on behalf of justice. I mean, I’m angry at some people but doesn’t stop me being a happy person. And I don’t nurse that anger and rehearse that anger and constantly have it on my mind.
There are different varieties of anger, but the one that is selfish—you’re angry because you’ve been slighted—is the one that will bring depression. But the anger that is on behalf of justice, as long as it doesn’t fester into bitterness. When I have that sort of anger, I am in control of my spirit, it’s not in control of me. That’s one of the worst conversations I’ve had with people, especially when I’m in control of my emotions. And I’ve done that plenty of times, sit a person down and tell them “What you’ve done here is really, really upsetting. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am in your behavior.” How they react to that—they may break down and cry or they may harden up and say “I think I’m right.” But I think it is right to have an opinion about a person who betrays you. It’s when anger turns to hatred that’s when it becomes wrong. There is a wrong and a right in life and both attract emotions.
But forgiveness is not an option?
Everyday I forgive people. But forgiveness does not mean you trust the person. Jesus never said “Trust everybody.” The Bible says “Prove all things.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Jesus committed himself to no man—not that He didn’t trust anybody, but He wasn’t prepared to rest His life on humans who He knew were too frail to entrust one’s life to. So He entrusted it to God. So, I can forgive people if they harm me, but I need to learn. My wisdom will tell me in the future, don’t trust them. Get some evidence or proof of their trustworthiness.
That’s one of the greats difficulties in church life, because you have unscrupulous people who say, “Trust me, I’m a Christian, gimme $100,000, I’ll invest it for you.” So the person gives him $100,000 and he doesn’t invest the money but does something else with it, and then he comes back and says, “I’m sorry, I’ve lost it.” And those people get very hurt and leave the church. As pastors, we say to people, “Whenever you’re doing business together, make sure you’ve got contracts signed.” Don’t just say “He’s a Christian, I’ll trust him.” Some people have no shame. How can you take so much money and lose it, and say you’ll fight the person you owe?
You taught us on the weekend as well about Elijah gaining strength by “eating and drinking”—essentially, going to a quiet place to be with the Lord and read the Word and listen to God. But sometimes, it’s hard to pray. What then?
I think there are times just to get isolated and let solitude and silence be your friend. Sometimes getting more intense doesn’t help the situation. Actually relaxing with friends does. But there are definitely seasons you travel through that are painful and depressing. There’s no quick way out of them. Elijah went through that, I’d say it was about a seven-week process. So many people go through so many difficult things that are actually dark times, but in those dark times, Isaiah says you’ll discover the treasures of darkness (Isaiah 45:3). And it would be trite to say we should always be happy, laughing and joking—life isn’t always going to be like that. But there’s a basic happiness where you’re not what’s called “a miserable person”, “a joyless person”.
How do we balance want with being content?
Being content with what you have—that’s a two-sided message. I usually only give one side coz if you keep qualifying yourself, you’ll never say anything! (laughs) So there is another side. But because there’s so much preaching about “dream the dream, live the life, have a goal, have a vision, you’re going get the new house, new car”, that we’re in danger of creating frustration in people. They didn’t get the house, they didn’t get the car, they didn’t get married, they lost their marriage, their job. And things didn’t work out for them. Then they’re unhappy with God and with their life. We need to be taught to be happy all the time, in whatever state we find ourselves. Whether we’re going up or whether we’re going down; whether we’re winning or losing, that we are okay with that. There’s a contentment in our lives.
Definitely, we should have visions and goals, but we should also be content with what we have. So that tension, even though it may seem hard to synchronize, I’ve always found spiritual truth synchronized between two opposites. To synchronize humility and confidence—that’s challenging. On the one hand we don’t become arrogant, on the other we don’t become servile. But to synthesize confidence and humility in our hearts, to synthesize wisdom and faith. Because wisdom will tell you not to get out of the boat, to get insurance. But faith says, “Get out of the boat, walk on water.”
So to synthesize opposites is a challenging, life-long process; exercising contentment and desire is one of those areas. But it can be done and it should be done. I’d like to think I never want anything. I think there’s a big difference between wanting—the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want—and desiring. The Bible talks about wantonness. But I think there’s a difference between that and “delight yourself in the Lord and He’ll give you the desires of your heart”. Not the wants, but the desires. They’re a cleaner, purer, less selfish area.
What is your prayer for Pastor Kong and the leaders and the church in this period?
My prayer is the same as what Paul asked people to pray for him and for how the early church prayed: always for deliverance and redemption, and that the Gospel and Jesus Christ will be testified of and the witness would remain solid. My prayer is for God’s great vindication, God’s blessing, God’s truth that everybody will learn through the experience. I also pray for the will of God and the purpose of God to come to pass in the life of the church. That Pastor Kong will find himself refreshed and blessed as trial draws to a close. I pray for fearlessness in the church, wisdom and boldness to fill the team, to believe God for a great victory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.