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We are becoming old wineskins

I just turned 49. Somewhere in my 40’s, I looked in the mirror and an aging man with thinning hair and crow’s feet peered back at me. Somewhere along the line, my generation became the establishment. At some point, my world popped inside out and I became one of …
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

I just turned 49.
Somewhere in my 40’s, I looked in the mirror and an aging man with
thinning hair and crow’s feet peered back at me.

Somewhere along the line, my generation became the
establishment. At some point, my world
popped inside out and I became one of the stewards of what

is instead of
some hooligan on the outside looking in with nothing to lose.

Now tattoos are a way of communicating the gospel, a
permanent tract declaring truth as unalterable, emblazoned on flesh to a
generation that says perception is reality.

Somewhere far down-river, grandparents are fighting a
rearguard action against the encroachment of praise music in churches where the
addition of guitars and drums to the “contemporary service” is seen as a risky
concession to the young people in the congregation.

And those, who like me, have looked in the mirror and
wrinkled their noses at the sad fact of time and change, are left to ponder
this issue of wineskins.

Hudson Taylor’s missionary precept had to do with
wineskins. It was, basically don’t let
the packaging get in the way of the present.
How you dress a thing up doesn’t impact the reality of the thing itself.

The Emergent
Church has figured out
that the argument about wineskins is petty and self-centered. It’s two mice complaining, “Who moved my
cheese?” The Emergent Church
has looked in the mirror.

Let’s get it through our heads: It’s not about the wineskins, the trappings
of the faith that people mistake for the truth.
Hey, wake up – we’ve become the status quo we fought against! So here’s an idea: Let’s give it away! Let’s join the loyal opposition that’s
railing against the hypocritical flaws they see.

There are hills worth dying on, doctrines worth defending,
new wine that requires new wineskins.
It’s a fact of life, a glorious cycle of birth and death. I’m not going to be one of those who get “old
man’s disease” – so married to the status quo that I confuse the packaging with
the present.

Comments (6)

  • Question is – What did the Emergent Church see when they looked in the mirror? Another “new move” or Jesus? Not arguing Seth, but as one who is in their fifties I’ve seen alot of moves and people come and go – Jesus remains the same. I totally agree with you that it the heart that needs to be revealed – not the packaging. IMHO we should be known one to another by the Spirit – even as we are known by Him. And of course -that’s the ideal – in reality, I too often see through the old flesh glasses and I am moved by the wrappings.

  • Not to sound arrogant, but this is great humility coming from someone your age. I gave up the fight for more “contemporary” services in church awhile back, not out of defeat, but because I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter how you worship; depending on where you’re from and what you know, the form may be different. I think most agree on that.

    I have, however, started questioning some pretty big “whys” in the modern, evangelical church, like why do we spend so much on buildings? Why is the most prominent model for evangelism to bring people into the church to hear a great sermon so that the pastor can get them saved? Why does most of the church budget (85% or more) go to building maintenance and staff, instead of the poor?

    Bringing up some of these ideas (that I thought were pretty biblical) has won me a lot of criticism, and I’m wondering how dangerous tradition can be, once our theology begins to stray from the Bible.

    Nonetheless, my point is that when I see people who have been part of the church for decades, their ability to adapt and change isn’t always that great. I can understand this, but it’s a great work of revival and awakening that’s happening in many young believers today, and some of their greatest opponents are middle-aged Christians.

  • Jeff…responding to your comment. If it’s any encouragment to you, my husband and I are in our 50s, but we are totally tracking with you. The church culture has so entertwined their procedures with their VIEW on obedience to Scripture that they cannot see that their procedures have hindered them from obeying Jesus. To bring their forms and procedures into question will at best bring on the deer-in the-headlights-look, or at worst, the same hard, haughty Pharisaical response that Jesus got. Many are in between, sometimes agreeing, but fearful of breaking out of the mold – losing control, or losing “career” and salary. This is very much a matter of warfare prayer and perseverance. Don’t stop asking “the middle-aged” those questions. Some of them, also, have the heart to be a part of the “great work of revival and awakenting that’s happening in many young believers today.”

  • Happy Birthday, Seth!! I really like that reference to Hudson Taylorits not the packaging :-). -Diana

  • Hey old man, this philosophy is why I joined up with you. Thanx for that. Anyway you don’t look a day older than sixty!

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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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