When City Harvest Church’s advisory pastor Phil Pringle was here in April, he shared his honest thoughts about where the church is and how it should move forward.
City News: What would you say is the spiritual level of our church right now?
Phil Pringle: Out of 10? About 11. (laughs)
You’re so encouraging.
I think you’re very strong, powerful. Your church is so responsive—if I say pray, BOOM! They pray! They’re very alive. Being tired is not unspiritual. Being spiritual, you can still be tired. Even some of the greatest apostles were sick and tired while they were writing the Scriptures. John was in exile after they tried to kill him and couldn’t, so they sent him to Patmos. He would have been lonely and tired, but he was very spiritual and wrote the book of Revelation.
You brought us another Holy Spirit message — it’s your second in a year. Why?
It’s a season I am in, and so I feel that that’s what the Lord wants me to bring, not just teaching but a move of God. So, I feel like in that move of God, people will be baptized with fresh energy, and miracles will happen. People will be healed and get a fresh touch from God—all at the same time. No matter how great the environment is that we are in, we always need a fresh encounter with God, and that always brings a fresh vision. People without vision perish. As long as the Holy Spirit comes, vision will come.
Right now it’s a very good day for C3 church. But there’s always challenges, it’s always like the best of times, the worst of times. It’s like a seesaw—I like it when the seesaw is up on the best of times. There’s always some problem happening.
You taught us that the devil can block the life of the church. Is that’s what he’s trying to do here?
Whenever the church is persecuted it grows, and the devil never figures that out. (laughs) The only time the church dies is when it’s grown corrupt from within. Internal problems destroy the church—not external ones. External problems make it grow, make it stronger. It happened in the Old Testament. As soon as Pharaoh tried to kill off the male children, the women just had more! Israel just grew! City Harvest has had amazing altar call numbers! I doubt any church in the world has had as many salvations at Easter as you had. Astonishing.
You said during your sermon that, “When we speak to the mountain, we must cauterize the doubts.” How do we do that?
That’s a very important part of faith that isn’t often talked about. Sometimes we think that just dealing with th positive is going to fix up all the negatives. But actually, it doesn’t. Sometimes you have to confront your fears. So what I do is when a negative thought tries to attach itself to my thinking, I refuse to think about it. And that’s hard to do. A lot of people think it’s impossible but it’s not—you can control your thoughts. Jesus said, “Worry not”, “Fear not”. So that means people have fears, have doubts, have worries, but don’t let them think through your brain or feel through your emotions. When I feel nervous about a situation, I speak the Scripture: “Be bold!” “Be strong!” “Fear not, for I am with you” and I find that dissolves the fear. The word of God is the best cauterizing agent there is. So, when I find a fearful, guilty, condemning thought tries to dominate my mind, I simply refuse my mind from thinking it.
This can be very hard, because the thought can come as though it’s from God, because it’s a religious thought, it’s a guilty thought. And we tend to think a conscience thought is a thought God is giving us, but it’s not true. And if we allow ourselves to live like that, we’ll fall back under law, because we’ll start pleasing God by what we do or don’t do, rather than by knowing Christ is in our lives. For me, the biggest journey in terms of personal victory has been overcoming condemnation and discouragement and guilt. Often over nothing. Sometimes I think we just feel guilty and we don’t even know why. Sometimes we feel worried and we don’t even know why but our worry finds a reason. So when Paul says “Be anxious for nothing” that’s a decision you’ve got to make: “I’m not going to be anxious about that situation.” And it applies in so many areas—when your father’s coming to see you, when the school headmaster wants to see you, when the bank calls… so many situations.
I think of “Remember not” and “Forget not”, two mental exercises we have to do. “Forget the former things” — put them out of your mind and “Remember them not” — they keep trying to come back, so cauterize them, press the delete button, the erase button, and reboot the system. Be free from that thought. And remember that we are justified. As long as we are remembering our guilty things, we forget we are justified. That’s why [my book] The Born Identity is such an important book, reminding us who we are and what we have. This is one of the most important messages I’ve got—there aren’t too many people preaching it. I feel called of God to carry this message to the church, the “in Christ” message, to center people on Jesus.
We are at the stage where the trial is coming to a close. Everybody is looking forward to the rebuilding process. What are the things we need to address moving forward?
I think you need to think, “Whatever happens, this is what we’ve got to do.” Then, in the light of what we obviously hope will happen, I think we would want to be humble in victory, and conciliatory. I think we should pause and reflect and ask ourselves what we have learned. I would clear away any rubble, things that would complicate moving forward. In the rebuilding of the temple, it took 14 years to clear the rubble and people got discouraged. The prophets came to encourage them (Zechariah, Haggai, Zerubbabel) they said, “Don’t be discouraged, the glory of the latter house will be greater than the former.” I think prophesying into discouragement is very important. While people deal with the negative, the rubble, the leftovers, if there are people who have shown themselves to be disloyal, we just need to move on and not be bothered. I think we need to identify fresh, young, new, loyal, faithful people and build on them. Above all, I would say, we have to set vision, goals, strategy and team for the future. That’s the job of every leadership team.
One thing raised is that some of the trust has been corroded by what some people have said. How do we rebuild that trust?
Time. That’s all it takes. It becomes a war of words, “What he says it not true” “What is true?” There may be some things that need clear explanation, but honestly, everything can be put one way or another. The best thing is just to keep going. And time will prove what is right and what is wrong—another year, two years. I’ve always found that vindication comes from the Lord. If we’re accused of things we shouldn’t try to vindicate ourselves. Let the Lord do that. He’s very good at it. My vindication will come from the Lord, not from my own hand.
As our advisory pastor, what are the lessons out of this time that we must learn as a church?
One: The church is a lot stronger and tougher than we think it is. It survives the worst of attacks.
Two: God is always greater. Most trials of this kind would have collapsed the leader and the church, but it hasn’t. The church has only thrived and continued to thrive.
Three: That we should not be surprised when good people do bad things. It’s happened throughout history. Good people have become bad people. Even the archangel Lucifer became the devil. This is a mystery but God tests hearts. We can’t control what happens to us but we can control our response to what happens to us.
Four: That God is the Head of the church and the King of His kingdom. And He sifts through His kingdom to purge and to purify as He prepares a church without spot or wrinkle. All of us will travel through times of purifying.
Five: A trial is a compliment from God. He will not give us this trial if He was not confident we would remain true to Him through it all. And when we come through the trial, we wil be given the crown of life, Bible says.
Six: There is a price to pay for every great vision God gives us. We always pay the price for the fulfillment of the vision. We can’t buy now, pay later. The future of CHC is absolutely enormous.