SPAN the Nineties II: The Issue of Wine Skins

No one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.

Every institution needs renewal. Families need renewal. People need renewal. Life comes in changing chapters. There is a surge of newness and excitement; then there is a steady effort of glad perseverance; and then there is the danger of coasting. The forming of ruts. The deadness of routine. You may have experienced it with a new job, a new toy, a new house, a new church. One reason so many people experiment with new marriages is that the old one has lost its zip; and fewer and fewer people believe in the beauty of commitment and possibility of renewal.

Have you thought much about the renewal of institutional church life? The easiest way for a church to get the feeling of renewal is to switch pastors. And the easiest way for a pastor to feel renewed at midlife is to “take a new challenge.” A new pastor brings with him to a new church a lot of hope and excitement for the future. The “new blood” heightens expectations. The future is open again. New things might happen. Dreamers dream. The possibilities expand in people’s minds. The small pleasures of security give way to the big pleasures of adventure.

But can renewal happen another way? Can dreamers dream, and expectations be heightened, and hope kindled, and vision awakened another way? Can seasoned charioteers fill their own ruts? Can veterans win new recruits? Can a familiar trumpet give a new blast for new conquests?

Span the Nineties II represents the belief and the hope that renewal and fresh vision for the nineties is possible at Bethlehem. It represents more prayer and earnest seeking of God’s will for our church life than we as a staff have ever engaged in together. We are on the edge of our seat to see what God will do in the nineties. We want to be the agents of renewal not its retardants.

As best we can judge with our ear to the Word of God and to the world around us Span the Nineties II represents the changes that need to be made. “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old” (Matthew 13:52). We are holding fast to far more than what we are changing. For the truth is in Jesus and he never changes.

But he often brings change. The key question before us now is whether our time in history, our cultural setting, our special stresses and challenges are such that God wants us to make some changes. Not for the sake of change, but for new paths of God’s power among the people.

What do you want from your church? Would you be satisfied if it fit you like a glove and saved few sinners? Would you be satisfied if it met all your needs and left hundreds of members unaccounted for? Would you be satisfied if you felt comfortable with its programs while the community impact was small? Would you be content if you were coming alive to God and hundreds were coasting?

Try to put yourself in the position of a pastor at Bethlehem seeing overwhelming needs going unmet inside and outside the church. What would you do?

Your servant with the other pastors,

Pastor John

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