Thursday, April 27, 2006

New Wine in Old Wineskins

This picture was taken on a 7 hour layover in Vienna, Austria on my way to Albania. It was on a Sunday afternoon while the cathedral was having worship. Notice the scaffolding. They are trying to revive, renovate this ancient church building. Notice, also, the people milling around the square oblivious to the renovation on the outside and the spiritual renovation on the inside. Can the church reach them?

Rick Warren, minister for the Saddleback Church in Orange County and author of the Purpose Driven Life, said this about the resignation of a national leader and the state of the church in America:

"You can't put new wine in old wineskins. When you try to do that, the skin bursts, and somebody gets blamed. The sad symptoms we see in so many Christian organizations, churches, and denominations today are caused by a number of theological, cultural, and structural problems that are deeper than just personality issues. The causes are both systemic and endemic, and should surprise no one who has been watching the past 25 years. We will either have another genuine Reformation, or the American church will eventually go the way of Europe. Nothing less will solve the problem, so I'm praying and working as hard as I can for the first option."

As a minister of 20 years, college instructor, and now a future church planter; I have wrestled with the following question. "Are our resources best used to plant new churches to reach new people or to revive declining congregations (many which resist change)?" While I understand that the answer to this is yes and yes I am still drawn to have conversation about what is working. While I understand that one life is worth saving, I wonder how many lives are lost (or could be won) because we are trying to convince that one person to do what they should already be doing? Is the Great Commission a suggestion or a command?

What Think Ye?


M J Veilleux said...

I think God will continue 'His' Restoration movement with or without us. I believe that is what we are seeing across our land and other places. Somehow we have lost sight of what is important and get caught up in the 'urgent' things that bombard us every day. Is it important to use our time up over someone singing with or without a microphone, or raising and clapping our hands, or getting the message to the lost?

Michele said...

I am beginning to see that sometimes we want to clean up what's on the outside, or the structure of the way in which we "do church." Just like the scaffolding constructed outside the cathedral, we construct ways to try to improve our RM churches only to find that which we built to improve, became barriers instead.

We couldn't see those people milling about outside the cathedral, or perhaps those who wander in to see, for often our focus is on what we are doing on the scaffolding.

It's time we tear down the barriers, even if what we see may not reflect what we think is of most importance in worshipping and honoring God. So we might need some paint, people might raise holy hands and women might ask some questions. The question is, are we reflecting Jesus?

KMiV said...

Amen to Michele and MJ, although I was also challenging us to think about evangelism. How do we feel about the type of wineskins we see in the church?

Michele said...


I guess I thought more about the imagery you were constructing about the question, rather than the specific point instead. I'll try again!

"Are our resources best used to plant new churches to reach new people or to revive declining congregations (many which resist change)?"

I wish I knew the answer to that. Each congregation and situtation is unique. A quick response would be that I would use all possible resources to help revive a declining congregation, and I don't mean just financial. I mean get in the ditch and deal with difficult issues to conflict management and move on. If there came a point where all the doors were closed, then it would be best, IMO, to plant a new church.

That's my take on it, at the moment. Even as one who may be part of a new church plant.

Anonymous said...

It's real simple in all accounts. Just get back to teaching The Word of God, The Bible, Not just from the Bible but as Paul say's "The Whole Counsel of God".

The whole reformation thing was because a man started looking exclusively at the Bible and what it says, not the wisdom of man. See Luke 5:37-39 on wineskins. This is how we restrict any new work of the Lord and his Holy Spirit!!!!
The Bible say " We make the Word of no effect" by traditions of men. Wow is that what is happening, look at this church in Austia and all over the World. It's ALWAYS the same thing, not depending on the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Just Teach the Word exclusively and obey what it says and watch the LORD add the increase(thought not always numbers), it could be a spiritual increase to make us more mature(complete).
What is the purpose of the Church???? I believe it is outlined on Acts 2:42.... Read it.. Simple (see the emphasis is teaching)

I pray that we would just depend on His word and the Holy Spirit to lead His church!!!