Wine and Wineskins

“Something Just Doesn’t Feel Right”

What do you do when something just doesn’t feel right?  Especially when you tend to do “all the right things”, but you don't see the fruit. When I was twenty-one, right out of college, I headed the youth ministry at my home church, emphasizing evangelism. I did all the right things, said and taught the right things, and did the right programs, but something was missing. Something just didn’t feel right.  I thought I was doing all the right things. Not seeing fruit I desired, I started a spiritual journey that led me to face Jesus not just as my Savior, but also as my Lord.  There I was faced with the reality of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which I accepted, and it changed my life, taking me in a totally different direction that has produced fruit.

Here I am today, a Christian for almost 50 years, and I again sense in my spirit that something just doesn’t feel right.  I love the church, been raised in the church; the church has been the center of my social life and spiritual life.  I’ve raised my family in the church.  I have invested my time, efforts, focus, and money in the church, and the church has done the same for me, yet here I am fifty years after my spiritual birth in Jesus questioning the structure of the American church, the institutionalizing of the American church, the direction of the American church, even how the American church does church (whatever that means?).

Today I heard a 55 yr. old man share how he was challenged by the statement, “If money was not to play in it, what would you want to be doing with your life?” His answer was, “Not what I am doing now,” so he was willing to retire to begin his spiritual journey. It has led him to Metro Ministries in New York for four months as an “intern” helping with an inner-city busing children’s ministry.  He comes back home to our church which is about to “release” their children’s ministry staff personnel due to budget restrains even though she has been on staff longer than anyone else at the church. Somehow, I sensed that even with his “internship”, this guy seemed not to “fit” into our local church and their structure, staff, or direction.  We have had several youth go to Bible colleges, or short and long term mission’s projects, etc., yet come back home, only to feel a “misfit” into the current puzzle of our local church. Don’t get me wrong’ I am not criticizing the local church, but questioning why people serious about God who move out in faith don’t “fit in” when they return to their local congregations which they have learned to love.  Why do they feel alienated and often rejected?

I experienced the same thing forty years ago, going to Jesus Rallies in the 70’s & 80’s and early Creation Festivals, attending Conferences after Conferences for three decades, spending six weeks during the summer at a Christian Community seeking God’s direction, and going to Parksburg Presbyterian Church for Saturday evenings for spirit lead Prayer and Praise sessions, only to feel alienated when returning to my home church where I wanted so desperately to “give back”.  Something just never seemed right, never the right fit.  Even today I have “earned” a Master’s Degree in Biblical studies at the advice of a pastor so that “doors would be open form me,” yet no door has been opened for over a decade since I have not gone into “full time ministry” as a profession, but opted to remain as a public school teacher for almost forty years. Have I missed the mark?

The Church has desperately duirng the last couple decades tried to contain the “revival spirit” within its own structures, but history proves that isn’t the way it works.  “New wine will break through old wineskins; new wine needs new wineskins.”  But what does the new wineskin look like in 2010 for the next decade? When I sense that something just doesn’t feel right, that is probably my sense that God is up to something different and new.  Am I willing to stop what I am doing (which isn’t producing much fruit anyhow) and begin to stop, look, and listen to the Holy Spirit for guidance as to what is the next step personally for me and corporately for the Church?

I question my studies on the five-fold ministry as passions and points of view rather than offices because they make sense to me, but do not “fit” into today’s church structures. Apparently today’s church structures aren’t the wineskins that will be open to take in this new wine, and if they did, they would see their current structures (cast or vats) erupt and break, spilling out this new wine. So my prayer today is “Lord, show me the necessary wineskins to pour this new wine into so that it will produce fruit for your Glory and your kingdom.”