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Vantage point

New wineskins

“Even if you’re on the right track,” Will Rogers once said, “you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

A lot of churches are definitely on the right track. Their doctrine is right. They believe in God’s Word. They teach that salvation is found in Christ alone. But they’re in danger of being run over by the barreling train that is today’s rapidly changing culture. A church that becomes self-absorbed, no matter how pious, will have difficulty fulfilling the Great Commission.

For effective outreach, it is essential to understand the complex cultures that now surround us, and be willing to adapt in ways that will bridge the massive gaps. Yes, I know that God never changes (Malachi 3:6) and that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, NIV). But it was this unchanging Savior who rebuked the religious people of His day for trying to put new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17).

Ministry is difficult when we confuse style with principles. We must hold fast to our principles, yet find new ways to reach a changing world. Churches must not rigidly cling to traditions and structures that are simply a matter of taste. To Jesus, forms were simply tools and sometimes the wineskins had to be replaced.

Bob Hostetler put it this way in Discipleship Journal: “All believers are called to share the truth of Jesus Christ with those around us. Just as foreign missionaries must strive to understand the culture in which they minister, so we would be wise to study the emerging postmodern culture, its language, and its customs.”

It will always be important to know what we believe and why we believe it. Our message will never change. But we must realize that people today are not as interested in having the truth proven as they are in having it demonstrated. They want to know if it’s relevant.

Christians hold beliefs that are both true and practical. We should be out in the world demonstrating what we believe.

It is comfortable to keep things the same. But Jesus did not call us to comfort. He called us to reach the world. And to do that, from time to time, we need new wineskins.

— Ken Horn

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