According to the Southern Baptist Convention, an average of 1,000 churches disappear from their databases each year. Research cites “unwillingness to change” as the primary reason. Charisma Magazine reported that 3,700 churches close their doors every year in the U.S. alone, but the Christian Post suggests it’s more likely 10,000. That’s a staggering number. So why are so many churches closing their doors?
In Luke 5:33-39, we find an interesting passage that gives us an understanding that before God can pour into us His new wine, a new wineskin has to prepared. That if we want to have the privilege of hosting His Presence, then we must be willing to make changes in the way we do church. So let’s get into context.
Several disciples of John had come to Jesus and asked Him, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?” Jesus replied and said that when the bridegroom is around, it’s inappropriate for the friends of the bridegroom to fast. But when the bridegroom is taken away, in those days, they’ll fast. So the issue here is not about fasting. The issue here is – why aren’t your disciples observing the traditions of the past? So the Lord takes this opportunity to deal with the issue of the new versus the old because He wanted to make it very clear to them the old was incapable of containing what God was seeking to do.
Now when we talk about the old, we need to clarify something first. God’s not against the old. In fact, He’s called the “Ancient of Days” Himself. It’s not old versus new; it’s flexibility versus rigidity. Jesus said to His disciples one time, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matthew 13:52). We’re also not talking about the Old Covenant either. The Lord never criticised the Old Covenant. He makes it very clear in the Sermon on the Mount that He came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it. But He came to strip away the false interpretation of the Pharisees so that people could see the true spirit and intent of the Law, and repent.
When the Kingdom comes, it has to be embraced with a completely new mindset. An old mindset is inadequate to handle what’s coming. At the close of his parables, Jesus puts it this way: No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “The old is better” (Matt 5:39). People just prefer the old, familiar and comfortable. For some strange reason, the new scares people. Listen, the New Wine may not be as smooth to the tongue, or finely aged and mellow as old wine. It may be a bit sharp and unrefined, but it’s alive. And you can’t contain it in old structures. This passage also reveals God’s intent, as a way of saying to us that He’s ready, He’s willing and He’s eager to pour out new wine on His people. But the problem is, and always has been, the old wineskins. God will never pour out new wine unless the wineskins are first prepared. The order has to be correct.
So this message has to do with us saying to the Lord, “What is it that needs to be changed, adjusted, realigned, and stretched in order that we might accommodate what you want to do here in Cornerstone?” New wineskins are essential. If they’re not in place when God is ready to move, we don’t get the new wine. Period. It’s as simple as that. Do we want to host the Presence of God? Do we want to see the power of God manifesting continuously? Then we must be prepared to change and get those new wineskins ready.
The consequences of not changing or adapting are massive. If we don’t change, we atrophy. If we don’t change, we miss the new wine. If we don’t change, we become irrelevant. If we don’t change, we just fade away and if we’re not careful, the lamp stand is removed without us even knowing it. Too much is at stake. And what happens is that we’ve a form of religiosity without the power of God and this is why so many churches close. The lampstand is removed and there’s just no more life.
We see churches that were great churches 20 years ago but are today just a phantom of what they were. Why? Because they failed to make the change! Cornerstone is now almost 21 years old. We started officially in 1995 and you must understand that that was a new wineskin way back then. But after 20 years, the danger is that what was new and fresh before is now little worn out and old. It’s just the process of time. 20 years ago, God had an almost blank canvas on which to work on.
The danger is that we start to fill our programmes with clutter and meetings and I’m not saying that all this is bad. Please don’t misunderstand me. But if we’re ever going to be recipients of the new wine, then we’ve got to do something about old wineskins. God wants to pour out new wine, and that’s a no-brainer. But He has to first find a church that has the kind of wineskin that can contain what He’s seeking to do. The church has to become adaptable to its environment. Now it’s not a matter of changing our values. Values are timeless, but methods aren’t and we must always be willing to change our methods and the way we think. A renewed mind is one of the great keys to revival.
As we quickly approach the end of 2016, we must take a good look at ourselves to see what needs to be changed and realigned to God’s purposes. The world’s changing so quickly and if we do not adapt, we’ll lose an entire harvest of souls.