Stellar, Seth. Your life has been a living expression of “new wineskins” with the shedding too of leathered, reptilian skins of tradition. I’m grateful God’s promised to finish the work He started in each of us. Love you dear brother.
Don’t Get Stuck Using an Old Wineskin
Photo by Geda Žyvatkauskaitė
The Bible is full of illustrations and lessons that involve wine. It’s the blood of Jesus; it’s medicine for your stomach; it’s a key part of celebrations; it’s the focus of Jesus’ first miracle.
They didn’t use wine bottles in Jesus’ day. Instead they stored wine in urns and poured the wine from there into a goat leather pouch called “a wineskin.” You could use and re-use a wineskin so many times and then you had to get a new one.
Wineskins are important only insofar as they fulfill their function. They shouldn’t be confused with the wine they contain.
People vs Buildings
Church buildings are wineskins. Denominations are wineskins. Even church services are wineskins. The people inside the buildings are the wine. We mustn’t confuse the one with the other.
Just because a building contains the people who compose a church doesn’t make it the church. They could meet out in a field and they would still be the church.
The Greek word for church, “ecclesia” was a political term before it took on religious connotations. It meant a gathering of people. The place they gathered had another name. Jesus talked about two or three “gathered in my name.” When we are gathered together, we are known as the “body of Christ.”
The problem is that we humans tend to confuse the wineskin with the wine. We tend to prefer the concrete to the abstract. When we think of First Methodist Church of Columbia, we don’t think of a group of people, we think of a building.
It doesn’t help that we build elaborate buildings and that we put pictures of those buildings on our bulletins.
It doesn’t help that often congregations don’t interact in a coordinated way like a body does.
Young people leaving “church”
Young people are leaving the church. Why? A key issue in the debate is the confusion between church as “wineskin” versus the wine that goes in it.
The confusion has given the word “church” a bad name with many people. They may find Jesus himself winsome, but they are repelled by the idea of church.
If something represents itself as an all-inclusive community, but really is more like an exclusive club, people may be repelled.
And that’s why young people are leaving church by the millions. They intuitively understand this distinction between wine and wineskins better than many older Christians.
Seeing the importance of both wine and wineskins can set you free from the issue you may have with church. You can belong to the local body of Christ as well as a larger body wherever it gets together.
Recently I met a group of Christ-followers I know out on the Gainesville square. We talked and encouraged one another. We were the church gathered.
Yet we need more than those kinds of random meetings. We need to gather regularly with a group where we are known and can interact in a more coordinated way.
Wine needs wineskins
And so we, who are wine, need wineskins. Without them, we operate solo and don’t get the connection we’re built for.
It’s easy to get jaded about wineskins, especially if they seem tired and old, or if they’ve gotten confused with wine. But we are social creatures built by God to gather, belong, and be known. We have to find a tribe and a place where that tribe gathers.
Wine needs wineskin. You may need to find a new one, but you’ve still got to find one.
Are you tired of the church? Is it the wine that exhausts you, or is it the wineskin? Wouldn’t it be great to be part of a group who knew you and loved you for who you are?
Thanks for your friendship over the years, Butch.
Lily and I just had a talk the other day about this. She said, “Mom, I will probably never go back to church, at least the way it’s done today. I want to do life with people, I want connection, I want authenticity. I don’t want to just sit on my butt beside others and call it connection. I don’t want to listen to someone else doing all the intellectual work and call it growth. I’m interested in more than simply showing up to a social event and calling that authentic life. It just doesn’t feel enough like Jesus to me.”
Just like we’ve always believed Seth, these youngin’s are going to teach us a thing or two about Jesus.
p.s. Lily just turned 18 this week!!
Wow! Lily is 18 – dang! Time flies. What is she doing? We just built WR 3.0 for people like Lily – getting ready to recruit our first class. Here it is https://launchu.life/ – if she’d be interested, I would make sure it was a homerun for her.
I think one of the reasons Jesus carried the 1 back to the 99 is because he needed a wineskin. The Race helped show me this. Thanks Seth
You’re welcome, Jack.
Finding our “tribe” is part of becoming good wine.