Home » Christ vs. Church, On Transitioning Church » The New Wine has Burst the Wineskin

The New Wine has Burst the Wineskin

“Pour new wine in old wineskins and the skins will burst.” – Jesus Christ

The skins have burst. 

It’s not going to happen. It has happened.

No, not for everyone. Perhaps not even for the majority of you reading this blog. But for most people, it has.

There is Wineskina “new wine” that we are serving. I, for one, am one of the people that have been willing to try to serve it in the old wineskin. It has not been without some success, I can admit. But the success has come in the form of converting current church goers that the new wine is truer & better than the old. And this has been good.

But if success is partially measured (and it is) by how powerfully and effectively we are serving up this new wine to people in our world (outside the church, that is), then we are failing miserably.

The good news is that the church people I run with have at least agreed with (and been energized and freed by) the quality of the new wine.

And it tastes better. It makes more human sense without compromising it’s holiness. It’s not that the old wine isn’t accurate, really. It’s that the old wine isn’t enough. Here’s my best attempt at a simple summary of the old wine vs. the new:





Baptism for salvation

Discipleship for Kingdom Identity


Develop Programs to get people to church with Christians

Develop Missionaries to give people relationships with Christians


Live Morally

Live Christlike


The Bible



Present the gospel to an audience

Live out the gospel with a community


While this new wine (our message) has been delivered to our church through the old wineskin (Sunday morning services), our leadership has decided (after much, much trial, patience, and prayer) that the old wineskin (Sunday morning services) is just not capable of containing and delivering this new wine (our message) to the world we live in that desperately needs it.

So… we are changing the wineskin. We will deliver our new message through a new means.

I’ll tell you what we are doing…but for now, what is your reaction to my summary of the new goal, strategy, teaching, authority, and meeting? Is this accurate? Does the new seem to be truer, as I claim?

Christ vs. Church, On Transitioning Church

9 Comments to “The New Wine has Burst the Wineskin”

  1. Brian,

    I’m not sure if you are looking for opinions outside your community, but I thought I would post anyway. I hope you don’t mind.

    I agree with you 100% on strategy, teaching and meeting. I agree with you on goal in so far as baptism for salvation is a part of discipleship.

    On authority, I just am not sure what you mean. Jesus obviously is our Lord and savior and has been given all authority. Jesus in turn called on us to obey the apostles’ teaching, which is found in the Bible. I am not sure we can separate the two.

    I think however the Jesus teachings on wineskins has more to do with the new covenant of grace as opposed to the old covenant based on laws. Basically, the Old Testament is the old wineskin with its old wine of the law. The New Testament is the new wineskin filled with the new wine of grace. I don’t think it has much to do with methods or wording or old traditions of the church versus new modern traditions. For me it is much more fundamental. Law versus Grace. Rules versus relationship.

    I know from my brother and the other posts you have written, which have all been very thought provoking, that you desire relationship with God for yourself and others. And this is a worthy goal.

    May God bless your efforts.

    • Hey Randy: I’ll give a hearty “amen” to Barry’s comments to you about this and add my two cents:

      Indeed, you and I were raised to see no distinction between Jesus and the Bible. That was wrong, of course, there is a distinction (or there would be no need for both). While I can say, “Jesus is the point, the Bible is the pointer” with confidence, I cannot say, “The Bible is the point, Jesus is the pointer.”

      Another example: While I can say, “The Bible says that Jesus saves you,” I cannot say, “Jesus says that the Bible saves you.”

      Time contemplating John 5:39-40 has really helped me make this distinction that Jesus himself makes here.

      An example from your post: You said that “Jesus in turn called us to obey the apostles teaching.” Two observatiosn:

      (1) As far as I know, this is not true. The Bible says that the first church community “devoted themselves to the apostles teaching” (Acts 2:42), but Jesus never told anyone to do that. Because you don’t make a distinction between Jesus and the Bible, you didn’t catch what you were saying as Biblically inaccurate. This matters (and why is the subject of a whole other blog), because what Jesus said was, “If you hold to MY teaching, you are really my disciples.”

      (2) As to that reference about that first church’s devotion to the apostle’s teaching, we must ask, what were the apostle’s teaching? They were teaching Christ and his teachings. They weren’t studying the written New Testament, as of yet, because it hadn’t been written yet.

      I’m not saying that the apostle’s teachings that are preserved for us in the Bible do not carry authority. I’m saying that the authority they carry has to do with getting us to the ultimate Authority who governs and judges and give us our life – Jesus Christ.

      The Bible is not a flat document. I don’t believe all verses written are equal. I get this idea from Jesus when he is asked if there is one command that is more important than all the others in Matt 22:36. Indeed, he answered. Not all scripture was equal. Valuable, yes. Inspired, certainly. I believe each verse is useful for attaining the Christ-like, righteous, life-giving life (2 Tim 3:16), but they are not equal.

      I try to interpret all of the apostles teachings in light of, and as servants to, Jesus’ teachings. I get this idea from Jesus, too, when after answering the above question with the Greatest Command, he said all the other laws and writings of the prophets were understandable through it’s lense (Mt. 22:40)

      When folks don’t do this, they take some application that Paul is making with Jesus’ teachings to a specific group of people about some unique, partially-known local issue, and they let it rise to the same level of importance as the original teaching of Christ itself. The difficulty of trying to do this has resulted in legions of interpretations of those apostle’s teachings and have justified caused hundreds if not thousands of dis-unity movements among Christians and churches.

      Ironic, since one of Jesus’ top 10 teachings to the apostles was on the unity of all believers.

      I have found that trying to attain unity based on a common understanding of what the Bible says impossible, void of the fruits of the Spirit, and a stench in the nostils of non-Christians.

      On the other hand, once I made the distinction, I have found that unity based on a common followership of Jesus, a common desire to imitate the heart, character, mission, and priorities that he embodied, freeing, producing the fruits of the Spirit, and a light in the eyes of non-Christians living in a dark world.

  2. Interesting article. Perhaps the “new wine” isn’t really new, but simply less contaminated. I would like to believe that Discipleship, living Christ-like lives, and developing relationships is simply “better wine” no matter the age. I agree that the old wineskins have lost some effectiveness over the last 30-40 years, but perhaps the contents weren’t all that palatable from the beginning. In other words, it’s less about the wineskins than the wine itself.

  3. Brian,

    As I read through the chart, I think I see that you’re calling people to live faith rather than to “just” know faith. To address Randy’s comments, it’s a paradigm shift. There are those who have been able to live vibrant faith-lives, but in trying to communicate how to do that have used phrases that helped them but communicated something slightly different to the rest of us. It may be hard to discern how this happens, but when we keep telling people to go back to Scripture, many in turn simply think that Bible-knowledge is the goal, not so much living out the message found in Scripture. In saying that you’re wanting to use Jesus as the authority of your life, you’re going to the source of the Scriptures, forcing us not to look at lifeless print on paper but at a living, breathing Savior who, after all, gave even the apostles their message. Setting Jesus up as the “authority” by which we govern our lives doesn’t supercede the Scriptures, it validates and empowers them.

    It is indeed Law versus Grace, rules versus relationship. But let’s be honest, if using the same words, phrases, even methodology would communicate that emphasis to EVERYONE, then why hasn’t it? Sometimes, it takes rewording your teaching to carry the point across to those learning. Sometimes, it takes using another method, venue, etc. If we look at the church and we see an absence of grace and love and we know that grace and love has been taught, isn’t it our responsibility then to ask why they haven’t been caught?

    Brian, I like your chart. It puts the things I’ve been struggling with into an understandable expression that I can handle :-) But I’m wondering how you will be changing your “meetings” into a “community experience.”

  4. Fantastic thinking. Eventually all of this gets “systematized” in some way, or perhaps “operationalized” is the better word…meaning it translates into actual choices about what we do and how we do it. I’ll be interested to see and hear how what y’all decide to do differs from the rather superficial changes that we see being tried around the Restoration Movement…and, for that matter, how it differs from the awfully strident “emergent” strain in the broader evangelical circles.

  5. Brian

    Have you ever heard of Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle? He began Mars Hill in 1996 with 12 folks and I believe they have attendance around 5K with three campuses now. This in the church desert that is the Northwest, and maybe over half of his church is 20 and 30 year olds. He’s a little edgy, making many of the Builder and Boomer generation often uncomfortable, but he’s probably as conservative theologically as anyone we’re used to. No Emergent Church stuff there. An interesting story at least. This one’s from 2003, so a bit old.


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