City Harvest Church’s advisory pastor chats with City News about his new art offerings and the finer points of his message on unforgiveness.
Last weekend (Oct 18-19, 2014) at CHC, Phil Pringle delivered a message on the perils of unforgiveness, part of a series of sermons he is preaching called “Soul Detox”. He also brought beautiful pieces of a new collection of art he has been working on, including “3D crosses” and “splats”, together with some of his more familiar works. Many pieces sold quickly in Singapore last weekend, and the collection has moved to Kuala Lumpur this week. In this interview we talk to Pringle about his “artist” side.
I’ve been painting crosses. Honestly, I feel that of all the subjects to paint, that has been the one that I’ve felt is the most important. Because it’s a conversation starter, it helps people talk about Christ. It’s like having a cross hanging upon your wall. And the crosses are so colorful, not like a traditional plain-looking wood or something, I think it opens the doorway to talking about the cross in a different way, in a brighter way, a more colorful manner.
I love sculpture. And I began to think, how can I do a cross that looks like a painting? So I just basically did that: I did a sculpture cross, and then employed the same method that I used to paint a cross. And then I decided to lacquer it with a really high-gloss lacquer. We experimented with it —it took us a really long time before we got it right. And I wanted it to look like it was wet and dripping—it gives life to the cross, it looks like it’s alive. I let it just drip and dry; it looks runny. People want to lick it, or touch it. I like that, that people want to reach out and touch the cross, not just leave it alone as a religiously untouchable thing. The cross should be touched, embraced.
The splats? We call them splats because that’s the style. I like those because it always feels like creation, like God creating the universe. That’s pretty much what I’m trying to say. I could go further with that and say it’s also like when a couple come together and create… it’s got colorful, zesty life about it. I really enjoy doing that. We also put a high-gloss on those so that adds that wet, drippy life to it.
I guess I want to do anything that encourages marriage and traditional values and family life. And again, if they’re done in a beautiful way with bright colors and a nice look, I think it enhances the idea of a couple coming together. When it’s a painting, a lot is left to the imagination. Especially in my kind of paintings, where I hint at realities. I don’t actually paint realities. If I was going to be a realist painter, I would prefer to take photos. I can sit for a week and painstakingly work at a realistic painting, but I think “Why do that? Just take a photo.” But what I want to do is splash my impression on a canvas. I am in some ways an “impressionist”. So a lot is left to a person’s imagination. I haven’t filled in all the blanks. And they can see themselves in that painting.
Tell us about Soul Detox—what’s that about?
I’m doing this series in our church, it’s a four-week series. At the beginning of the year, we sit down and think of the themes we want to bring to our church. And at what time we want to bring them. At this time of the year, around October, November, people are a little weary, looking forward to Christmas, they can see a finish line. And I just think it’s a good moment to talk about laying aside every weight. Let’s run the race. “You’ve been collecting a bit of junk over the year, now’s a good time to let it go, to finish the race.”
This particular sermon is about overcoming forgiveness—receiving it and giving it. And realizing that if you don’t do that, you provide the devil a place in your life of accusation. And so my intent is to equip the saints with the weapons and the knowledge to overcome unforgiveness and guilt. And I think that’s one of the worst toxins in a spiritual life. It’s a poison. One way to get into a person: swallow him up with depression. A lot of depression is through unforgiveness. People get stuck in a moment in their past that leads to depression, they want to kill themselves.
And I also think a lot of believers try to get forgiven in all sorts of ways, and get the feeling of being forgiven rather than just believing the Scripture. So they repent and repent but still don’t get the feeling of being forgiven. So they think “I can’t be forgiven.” But you gotta believe the word that says you are forgiven. Even if you’re not feeling it, you keep believing it, and eventually your feelings will conform to your faith.
Speak it. Confession is our application process, every which way. In the entire new testament, appropriation begins through confession. Our mouth. It’s how God created the world, it’s how we get saved, it’s how Jesus ruled in life.
Some people still struggle with feelings of guilt—there is no other way to help them?
None that I know of. There are substitutes. The most common would be therapy and medication or psychology.
But the worst is redefining sin. “Why are you feeling guilty? There’s nothing wrong with that.” To try and escape guilt, people have redefined sin. So, “You’re sleeping around with women even though you’re married, what’s wrong with that? It’s normal, it’s human life.” Or else we decriminalize things that were once forbidden and wrong, and now we say, “No, they’re good.” In fact, we reverse it so much that now we say it’s illegal to pass judgment on people doing that.
But even though the government might pass laws, society might lift the ban, still within the person, they feel guilty. Because you can’t escape the image of God inside yourself. If a thing is wrong, it’s wrong. People know that lying is wrong, they know that stealing is wrong, they know that adultery is wrong. No matter how much you try to redefine it.
The last one is to diagnose it wrongly. “You have an anger issue because of the way your father treated you when you were young.” That’s diagnosing it wrongly. Anger is a work of the flesh. Everybody has anger issues. Everybody is angry about things. Do you have to call everything a disorder or dysfunction? So people excuse bad behavior by their victim mindset. If you diagnose it like this then you’re saying people can’t help themselves. It’s like saying “The devil made me do it.” It excuses people.
You also talked about Christians judging Christians—there’s also churches judging churches…
I hear a fair bit of ministerial gossip. Not that I’m looking for it, I’m not asking people, but people will tell you things: “Oh did you hear about this guy?” My response always is “The poor guy, I feel so sad for him.” Some guys have great joy when somebody else fails. I get no joy from it. I just want to hang up the phone. I do know quite a lot of things about people, but I don’t tell anybody. Only if a person really needs to know, will I divulge anything that darkens another person’s reputation. Why would I want to do that? If it has no usefulness, why would you do that? When I say “Oh, the poor guy.” It always stops the conversation. Because the person always wants to get into the “Oh, I always knew there was something wrong with that guy.”
You also talked about spiritual warfare. When we’re not aware, we fight things in the flesh. What’s the importance of knowing about the principalities and powers yet not get drawn into the whole mindset of devil-consciousness?
I actually missed a point today that I should have made, which is that in the charismatic world, we have lived in extremes sometimes. And in the extreme in this area is that everything is of the devil. Like, “I burned my lip on a hot cup of coffee! The devil attacked me!” You know, that’s not the devil. “I hit my head on the car boot”, “I tripped over.” Sometimes we blame the devil for everything and that’s the extreme.
But on the other hand, we don’t want to go the other way and not be aware that he is responsible for some things in our life like I said in that story, the blockage against getting approval (for C3 Church to build a church building). So I really think that, somewhere in the middle there is truth, and we need to be discerning, as well as common sense. Paul sometimes makes some strange statements, like “I tried to go up there but the devil stopped me.” Or, “You’ll soon crush the devil under your feet.” I’d like to crush him today, what do you mean soon? Is that like two weeks? A month? But he understood this warfare thing. And you’ve got to respect that intelligence. Because that gives you a strategy by which you can work.
How can you tell if it’s demonic?
That’s when you ask for discerning. If you’re spiritually alive, you’ll get a feeling, a taste, a smell even. But I’ve found that it’s not always easy to tell but sometimes there is a devil involved. People who are under the influence of a demon hate to admit it. If you walk in the light, that keeps the devil at bay. Discerning of spirits is one of the gifts, so that we do know.
And a lot of Paul’s writings serve to enlighten the heroes. “Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Romans 6:3) “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren” (1 Thess 4:13) Bible also says to forgive “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” (2 Cor 2:11)