NEW WINE SKINS FOR THE SECULAR AGE

Christ in The Global Village of 2003

 

Matthew 9.17 “Do not put new wine in old wineskins.”

The “I am” verses in John -- 6.35; 8.12; 9.5; 10.7,9; 10.17; 11.25; 14.6; 15.15

 

In 2003 we are standing on the threshold: “The unmotivated are notoriously invulnerable to insight.” (Edwin H. Friedman) We are in the most challenging period in world history, which has precipitated a cultural, global crisis. In Chinese the word “crisis” has two characters, meaning danger and opportunity!

 

I. Two Identities: (1) Christ in the Secular City--which Christ? He was either joking, lying, insane, misunderstood -- or the true Son of God!

(2) Secular City--the shaping ideas of the Secular City:

 

a. Secularism                 b. Pluralism

c. Humanism                 d. Relativism

 

How shall the Church (We) respond to the great challenge in the history of The Church? Read the book by G. Hunter, How To Reach Secular People (Abingdon Press) and A. Roxburgh’s Reaching A New Generation (Inter Varsity Press)

 

II. Two Stories About Our Challenge/Opportunity:

 

A. The Man of La Mancha as a caricature of our present challenge.

 

1. Don Quixote was a dreamer of “impossible dreams.” He loved those unlovable, he was unable to return this love, and he dared to go where even the brave dared not go.

2. Poor Sancho Panza was an eternal survivor, a faithful follower who never dared to dream or initiate on behalf of something better. Which spirit represents us?

 

Dream to Revitalize The Church from maintenance to a growth mode.

Desire more than mere surviving.

Have a passion to go face the challenge of The Secular City.

Be willing to tilt at any windmill that blows and perhaps close to the “impossible dream.”

Who will win -- Don Quixote, Sancho Panza or you?

 

 

B. Once a woman owned a fine winery. For more than two centuries her family had made the finest wines. She had the finest grapes and vats in the culture. One day the wine developed a bitter taste. No one could explain why. Winery experts visited from all over the world to discover the reason for the wine’s sudden bitter taste. After prolonged study, each expert reached the same diagnosis--the vats had outlived their usefulness. There was no way to clean and restore the old vats. The consultants concluded that the woman’s only option was to replace the old vats. How was she to respond? After all the vats had been in the family for centuries. As the days and weeks passed, customers continued to diminish until one day no one came to taste or buy the wine. The only remaining customers were the faithful family members for whom the family traditions were more important than making wine. The owner had the information she needed to restore her winery to its former glory. But she lacked the courage of “The Dream” to make the necessary changes to produce New Wine.

 

The Wineskin is The Church. Today many churches have become irrelevant to a hurting un-churched world and are unable to offer New Wine to a New Generation (Baby Boomers, Generation X (those people born between 1946 and 1964, and from 1965 to 1994). If we are to effectively witness to Christ in The Secular City we must do so with New Wine Skins!

 

Ideas to filter through New Wine Skins: (See L. Schaller’s article in Newsweek Magazine, “21 Bridges to the 21st Century” (January 3, 1994)

 

1. North America is a new mission field.

 

2. Secular Society will grow increasingly hostile toward Christianity in the 21st century.

 

3. Distinction between clergy and laity will disappear.

 

4. Churches that only improve what they are doing will die.

 

5. The best way to fail today is to improve yesterday’s successes.

 

6. Bureaucracies and traditional practices are the major causes of the doctrine of most denominations in North America.

 

7.  Traditional churches that thrive in the 21st century will initiate radical change by 2001.

 

8. God exists and creates everything (Isaiah 6, the recovery of “awe” in worship.)

 

9. Jesus Christ is the center of all human life.

 

10. The Bible is the source of faith and practice (cf. The Restoration Principle).

 

11. The Purpose of The Church is to evangelize all the ethnics of the world.

 

12. The way must be found to avoid world conflict, ecological and economic disasters.

 

There must be a positive response or we will continue to dance with dinosaurs! (See the book by W. Easum, Dancing with Dinosaurs (Abingdon Press) and William Bennett, Leading Cultural Indicators.

 

Dr. James Strauss, Professor Emeritus