One day some people said to Jesus, “John the Baptist’s disciples fast and pray regularly, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees. Why are your disciples always eating and drinking?”Jesus responded, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” Luke 5: 33-39.
Jesus was a radical. When he came onto the scene, he made everything new. He came with a new message, a new approach, a new way of worship, new spiritual language, new illustrations and new radical methods. The story of the gospels is the clashing of the old way and the new way. The old way was represented by the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, the rabbinic law, the temple and the structured formality of religion and religious practice. The new way was personified in Jesus Christ himself. He had a new message of grace. He brought new methods in order to reach people. He ate with the sinners, he would speak to the Lepers, he would acknowledge the faith of a Roman officer while at the same time publicly accost the religious leaders. He taught in a new way using parables and illustrations. He discouraged religious acts and encourage holy living. He was resented by the traditionalists of his day.
In Luke 5, Jesus is being confronted by the Pharisees and teachers of religious law on the way his disciples shun the old way of doing things. The practice in question was fasting. They demanded legalistic ritual, Jesus desired loving devotion. He gave them an illustration to explain his view on the new way of doing things. The old wine skins represent the legalism of the Jews and Pharisees, the new wine represents the new covenant that Jesus came to secure with man. His new wine was the message of salvation. He would later tell his disciples, “This wine is the token of God’s new covenant to save you, an agreement sealed with the blood I will pour out for you.” Luke 22:20. Notice what Jesus said was the claim of the Pharisees, “the old is better.” Most pastors have heard that phrase from well-meaning church members.
Not since the protestant reformation has the church faced a more crucial time that right now. Speaking in his book of the condition of the church Reggie McNeal of the Leadership Network says, “The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money, and energy of previous generations from a previous world order. The plug will be pulled either when the money runs out or when the remaining three fourths of the older generation dies off.” He says that 80% of money given to congregations comes from people fifty-five or older. It is estimated that more than 350,000 SBC churches are in need of revitalization.
The church is not doing a good job of reaching younger generations. 52% of people born before 1946 report of regular church attendance. Contrast that by the generation born between 1961-1981 which shows only 36%. The number of households who reveal “no religious preference” continues to rise. George Barna reports that the unchurched population has grown from 24-34% in just one decade. Dawson McCalister, national youth ministry specialist, says that 90% of kids active in high school youth ministries do not attend church by the time they are Sophomores in college.
It is my belief that too many churches are allowing the wine to be wasted through outdated methodologies and inflexible structures. The result is predictable, we are not effectively reaching the next generation. Too many churches are putting the gospel message in worn out wine skins. Old Wineskine Baptist Church will continue to do the same things year after year with little to no effect, merely patching are patching up old garments. V.36.
Do you attend Old Wineskin Baptist Church? You could be an agent of change to turn your church around! A couple of thoughts on the current condition of many churches:
1. The ministry approach (methods) must be relevant to cultural changes. By methods I am referring to the type of wine skin that is holding the wine. Are the methods of ministry in your church merely worn out wineskins? Are they effective? Does your church do an effective job of reaching your culture and community? Is your church trying to win souls or does it spend most of its time keeping the saints happy? Does your church have a healthy mix of young and old?
Jesus used new methods to reach his culture. If it took feeding five thousand he would do it. If he needed to break up a good funeral, he would do it. If it took eating with tax collectors and prostitutes to reach them, he would do it. If it took feasting instead of fasting, going to the well instead of going to worship, he would do it. The world Jesus entered was crying out for something new. They had tired of the old way of doing things and were hungry for the new bread he offered.
Old Wineskin Baptist continues to use the same methods and asks the culture to come and be a part of it. That rarely happens. Effective churches do a great job answering the question, “what will most effectively reach this new generation, this community, this culture?”
2. Our culture is desperate for the Gospel. Many churches are not effectively sharing the message. In Luke 5, Jesus was very descriptive about the importance of the new wine. He knew that the people around him desperately needed a drink of that wine. They needed to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” Today’s culture is thirsty for truth. They are hearing messages like, “All religions are good, you just need to find the one that fits you. Just try to be the best person you can be and everything will be fine.” These philosophies are dead ends. Americans are more spiritual than ever and more disconnected from the church than ever. The sad truth is that People are leaving the church in order to find spirituality.
America is confused on what being a Christian means. Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Resources, led a study on the beliefs of people who claimed to be “born again Christians”. In the study he asked two questions, Do you know for certain that if you died today you would go to heaven? And he asked, If you were to die today, what would you say to God if he asked you why should I let you into my kingdom? 5,200 people were interviewed.
Only 65% of people born before 1964 responded with the correct biblical answer.
Baby boomer generation (born before 1964) 35% gave the correct biblical response.
Baby buster generation (born before 1976) 15% gave the correct biblical response.
And sadly of the Baby Bridgers generation (born before 1994) only 4%.
These are people who claim to be Christians and don’t even have a good theology on salvation. How much more confused are the unchurched in our culture? People are desperate for the message of the gospel. Yet, yearly more than 25% of SBC churches baptize zero people within the church year.
The Christian church in America is in trouble. Where will the church be in fifty years? In twenty years? We had better be open to the idea that new wineskins are necessary. Our methods must change, our message must not. What worked in the 1950’s doesn’t work today. Stepping into Old Wineskin Baptist Church is like stepping through a time warp taking people back 50 years or more. How much wasted wine has been spilt simply because churches have refused to change the wine skin?
Are you one of those who says, “The old is better?” Even if the old is not effective anymore? Will your attitude hold the church back or encourage the church to move forward in reaching this generation? Are you willing to be an agent of change? Old Wineskin Baptist will soon burst, who will be there to pick up the spilled wine?