By Neil Anderson
New wine must be put into fresh wineskins
Jesus taught that the forms of our Christian practice must change. In His parable of the garment and the wineskin in Luke 5:36-39, the garment and the wineskin are the external dress and the container, not the substance of our faith. They represent the religious customs, practices and traditions in which the substance of our faith is packaged. Jesus is stating a fact–the garment needs mending and the old wineskin is old! What worked before isn’t working anymore. Times change, cultures change, and what worked 20 years ago may not work today. But what doesn’t change is the object of our faith.
“Time-honored faith” and “long-established practice” blend together and become indistinguishable to the status quo. When someone advocates another form of practice, it becomes apparent that the security of the old wineskins rests in the long-established practice instead of the time-honored faith.
The reasoning behind the resistance is logical: “I came to Christ singing that song,” or “It worked for me. I don’t see why it won’t work for my children.” We have to ask, “Is it relevant? Does it relate?”
The older generation is the stable force in our churches. They are faithful and mature, and they represent the financial stability that every church needs. They also make up the boards and committees that determine the style of ministry, but they have a tendency to perpetuate long-established practices that are meaningful to them.
This problem is more sociological than spiritual. Why is it that a good, Bible-believing church which faithfully carries out its ministry struggles to hold onto its young people, when down the street a contemporary ministry rents a store building and has four times more young people in a matter of months? Because the contemporary ministry relates to the young and their style of music. It caters to their desire for expression and participation.
If we fail to provide new wineskins, we will be ill-equipped to serve the “new wine”–the next generation of believers.
Prayer: Lord, help me never to cling to the old ways just because they make me feel comfortable.