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All churches need wineskins

Yesterday’s blog about prayer times as wineskins got me thinking about the church. In writing my thoughts, my intent is to encourage you, even if doing so may feel a little like I’m meddling. What is a church but a group of people gathered around Jesus and his agenda? It is not a buildi…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Yesterday’s blog about prayer times as wineskins got me thinking about the church. In writing my thoughts, my intent is to encourage you, even if doing so may feel a little like I’m meddling.
What is a church but a group of people gathered around Jesus and his agenda? It is not a building, a time on Sunday, or a set of bylaws. Because we need buildings, times and guidelines, it’s easy to begin to mistake these things for church itself. Of course to do so is to miss the point of church.
 
Any good architect will tell you “form follows function.” We believers need to get together to encourage one another in our faith and live out the social part of our spiritual walk. We have to synchronize our agendas in a predetermined place in order to meet together. This the “form” that must follow the function of our fellowship.
 
Jesus uses the illustration of a wineskin to help us understand this issue of form and function (Matt. 9:17). Without a wineskin, you won’t have a church.
 
Everything wonderful that breathes life needs structure. Art needs a frame, genetic material needs a double helix, dramatic productions need a stage, and haiku poetry needs iambic pentameter. Structure is the form – the setting in which creativity and life can express itself. It does no good to rail against structure itself, but when the structure overshadows the thing it contains, we probably need to make adjustments.
 
We believers as we meet together are the wine, we are the church. The building in which we meet, the times when we meet and so forth, are the wineskin. When we encourage one another to love and good deeds (according to Hebrews 10:24-25), we’re functioning as a church. If the place and time facilitate that, then form follows function.
 
The trouble arises when we begin to elevate the form to in any way crowd out the function. Wineskins should take maybe 10% of our time and resources. The people should take the rest of our attention. Your megachurch may need a large parking lot, but if it takes as much time getting in and out of it as it does to hear the sermon, then you need to take a fresh look at the church’s wineskin.
 
Or, if you’re going to the building that contains your church on Sunday mornings, but you’re not coming away encouraged and stirred up to love and good deeds, then the form has superseded function. The wineskin has become too prominent. You’ve probably moved from the realm of true religion (that involves
connecting with people in need like widows and orphans) to something
that is just religious.
 
You don’t need much of a wineskin in America to meet together as a body. That’s one reason that the house church movement is exploding. We have buildings everywhere. What if we were to adjust our focus so 10% of our time and money went to wineskins and 90% when to Jesus’ agenda for us?
 
Some questions to ask:
What are the spiritual wineskins in my life?
Do they help me draw near the Father?
Am I weekly encouraged to love and good deeds?
In what way might new wineskins help?
If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, here’s a good book.

Comments (6)

  • Thansk for this. I’m probably a bit cynical of “church” right now and needed to read this. I need to readjust my focus and remember what the church really is. Nice post.

  • Seth,
    This is the most fitting explanation of “wineskin” that I’ve heard in regards to faith, form, and function. And I so appreciate hearing it today.

    Peace.

  • Hey Seth,
    Thanks for another great post of understanding and refocus. I have always wondered why these “church” buildings aren’t full and overflowing with people so excited about Jesus agenda..they can’t wait to get in..get some tools and excited to head out again. On the home front: combine got pretty stuck last night. So a new day of new challenges..but God is still God.

  • I agree Seth, that is a good book. Jesus must look on and wonder when people will stop sleeping in the light. I’m sure He is hoping we really read the truth in the scripture so as to see the freedom and life (abundant) that he purchased for us to live in.

    Good work…

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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