A New Wineskin

Jesus said ‘No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins’ (Mark 2:22).
What is Jesus talking about? Well, new wine has more fermenting to do so it requires a flexible container. In Jesus’ day containers were made of animal skin. Old skins were hard and brittle and would burst as the new wine expanded during fermentation. So new wine had to be put into a new skin that was soft and would expand as the wine fermented.
Spiritually speaking, God is always pouring out his new wine and that new wine always challenges our religious structures. If we are going to keep in step with God we will need to keep changing those structures to accomodate the new wine.
The Vineyard in Mombasa aims to be a new structure, a new wineskin, something more effective for what God is doing in our city at this time.

♦ The wider church in Kenya has some serious issues right now. It is showing all the signs of being an old wineskin. We have preachers contriving false miracles, we have doctrines designed to make people give money, we have platforms that resemble a stage show, and we have pastors that are more into promoting themselves then exalting Jesus, (Take a look at some church websites and you will see what I mean).
Now when the unbeliever sees all this he is disgusted. If he was thinking of turning to Christ he is immediately put off. In the church he sees a falseness – something he doesn’t want to be. Vineyard Mombasa aims to set a new example. Our slogan is ‘Real God, Real People.’ We want to do everything in our power, and God’s power, to be a good representative of authentic Christianity.
This sermon is about what our church in Mombasa is aiming to be and do, but there is something for all churches in what I will say.
For the sake of simplicity I have broken our mission down into a number of areas of church life that are badly in need of a new wineskin:
Worship
Real worship is about God and not for our entertainment.
John Wimber once shared about something he saw at a young girls birthday party. Her sister was complaining that the young girl was getting all the attention; none of the songs or presents were for her. The mother pulled her aside and explained that it was her sister’s birthday; the party was not about her.
Sometimes people complain saying “I didn’t get anything out of that worship.” But worship is not about us, it’s about God. It’s about what He gets out of it.
Now, sometimes when we look at the way worship is conducted in many churches today we have to wonder if it’s really about God. When worship looks more like a concert, with drum rolls designed to bring applause and people just standing by clapping, we have to believe that what we are seeing is really entertainment; the worship time is not for God but the crowd.
We have something similar in many traditional African churches here in Kenya. Much of the worship is just dancing and we have to question how much intimacy there is.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for dancing when the Holy Spirit leads, but when it happens as a pattern every week and intimacy is missing, we have to ask if this is more about entertainment.
We have all seen what real intimacy with God looks like. Sometimes the music stops, it’s silent, you cannot hear a pin drop, worshipers are on their knees, tears streaming down their faces because they are moved by God’s mercy. Real worship is focused on him!
Real worship is also something that is powered by the Holy Spirit and not by human hype. What do I mean? Well were you ever forced on to a dance floor when you were not in the mood to dance? Can you remember the feeling? You felt coerced, pushed, manipulated. Sometimes church worship can feel that way. The worship leader tries to stir the congregation up by telling them to clap or dance or raise their hands. But when its not inside you it feels awkward and forced.
Let’s be clear; God does not want worship that is forced;  he wants us to act from our hearts, he wants us to be stirred by the Holy Spirit within.
The job of a worship leader is to facilitate a setting in which people can connect with God; their job is not to stir people up. When they attempt to stir people up, they attempt to replace the Holy Spirit. What a beautiful thing it is when people have a connection with the Father that is real.
Fellowship
Real fellowship is free of religious pretense.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be married to Superman. It would be tough. Superman lives a double life. One moment he is Clark Kent, an ordinary news man, and the next moment he slips into his Superman outfit and becomes a completely different person. Now, many Christians are like this. During the week they are ordinary people, but on Sundays they slip into their ‘Sunday best’ and they become completely different people. Suddenly they are spiritual, they start using religious phrases like ‘amen’ or’ hallelujah,’ and their voices take on a new accent if they preach or pray. Yeah, at work when they are asked what they think about something, they say ‘I agree’ but at church in their new outfit they say ‘amen.’ It’s a double life!
Now, when a potential convert sees this double life they are repelled because they know it is false, a kind of act, and no one wants to be false. This grieves God.
We need to be who we are both in church and outside church. A real person is consistent. If you wear jeans and a t-shirt outside church, do so inside church. If you wear smart casual outside church, then do so on Sundays. Be consistent in language too. Use the language of the community. The more the community can relate to you the more relevant you will be.
Ministry
Real Christian’s minister. Every Christian is gifted, so ministry is not limited to the full-time person who is paid.
If you ever watched a football game on TV you know there is a big difference between the players on the pitch and the fans in the stand. When the camera zooms on to a player you see someone who is athletic, muscular, fit and agile. But when the camera zooms on a fan in the crowd, you often see someone who is overweight with his belly sticking out, a beer in one hand and a packet of crisps in the other. The overweight fan is screaming that this is his team, but he doesn’t look anything like the team.
This happens in churches spiritually. Often the people in the seats are very enthusiastic about their God, but they are just consuming and never exercising their gifts. In the end you have the pastor and a few people at the front that can hear God, heal the sick, cast out demons, but most of the church can’t. This is wrong!
When someone is sick in hospital they call the pastor. When someone starts a new business they want the pastor to come and pray over the building. But we shouldn’t need the pastor, don’t we know how to pray? Even weddings and funerals don’t need a pastor. A wedding just needs a registrar for the legal side and a Christian that speaks well to do a message and ceremony.
Every Christian is a minister. As John Wimber said “Everyone gets to play.” The more people are available to minister the more likely they are to discover their gifts.
The first time I walked into a Vineyard Church I was blown away by the fact that most of the people sitting in the seats knew how to lay hands on the needy and minister the Holy Spirit’s power. This should be the case in every church.
Evangelism
Real evangelism cares! Outreach should be sensitive to the individual and to the culture they are in.
I live in an upper class, modern, educated part of our city. The other day while taking an evening jog I came across a street preacher. He was declaring the faith with boldness, but his style was a major problem. He was in a smart suit while most people in our area dress casual. He spoke aggressively through an amplifier, but people here are the educated kind that like to get into dialogue. He spoke about how people vomit when demons are expelled, but this is no way to encourage someone to salvation.
If we care about people we will consider who they are. In our area it is better to wear a golf shirt and jeans, and speak to people one on one in a club or a bar, and then maybe invite them to a discussion group in your home.
Mercy
Real mercy embraces the sinner as they are, in the hope that they will become different. Jesus went to the house of Zaccheus the tax collector who was a notorious con man and won his heart. He also received and forgave a ‘sinful’ woman that wept at his feet while a religious leader just sat there pointing a critical finger.
Recently three ladies were refused entry at another church in our city because their skirts were short. They then decided to try our church and were warmly welcomed. How can we refuse people who are seeking God? Jesus was angered by the legalistic but always received the sinner.
Leadership
The great religious show really starts with the leaders. Followers just do what they are told. So this is where the clean up has to start.
Recently I went to watch a band playing in a club. They were taking song requests, so I gave one. But when their band leader announced my request she did not know how to refer to me. She knew I was a pastor but thought it would be strange to say ‘This is for Pastor Gary’ because pastors in our city don’t usually attend clubs. But she also thought it would be disrespectful to just say ‘This is for Gary.’  So she said ‘This is for Mr Gary.’
The incident was humorous at the time but it represents a bigger problem. People treat pastors and other religious leaders as if they are elite, as if they are closer to God or deserve more respect than the average person. And the pastors are quite happy to be seen that way, they like being exalted. If they didn’t they would put a stop to it;  they would try to appear average. But instead they and other religious leaders take on special titles, and wear clothes that exaggerate who they are – and I don’t just mean clerical robes; I also mean modern shiny suits. But what did Jesus say. He said
“Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23).
Oh boy do we have a problem. And you know what, some leaders will read this post and dismiss it with a wave of their hand. But there it is in the very words of Jesus.
The church is desperately needing to see leaders  who can set a new example. I am determined to play my part. Already people in the church I lead know to just call me ‘ Gary.’  I dress as they dress, in fact even more casual than most of them, and I sit in the same seats they do.
Those of you who know Kenya will know just how big the need is for the church to get real, to discard the old image and become a new wineskin.
Being a new type of church isn’t easy; it’s like the ice-breaker ship that breaks a path in the ice for the rest to follow. It is slow going, but it is exciting and has massive potential.
Our mission statement says this: “In an age where the church is being criticized for falseness we aim to be real and to reach those the religious cannot reach.”
We want less religion and more God. Let’s catch the passion, let’s spread the fire!

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