As we look around as newly returned missionaries, we see a hyper rapidly changing culture in the US. We also see a church mired in an identity crisis hoping to keep up with the culture around them. We don’t want to be stuck in the 80s or even the 90s, but definitely we want to hold onto those timeless elements from two millennia ago imparted by Jesus. We want to be fresh while never losing our ancient roots.
Yet, I find us Americans always looking to the new. In church today, one of our favorite things to quote is new wine in new wine skins. I don’t know how much this is a issue of today, but I know it is exacerbated in a culture that seems to change as quickly as a hipster changes outfits.
Church leaders want to impress among themselves how hip they are. I shake my head as I watch the trendy guys from a few years ago get stuck in their faded (and even more faded) jeans as they hold onto a fad from several years ago. Trends come and go, and we always want to call the next best trend new wine skins, or even new wine. New wine and new wine skins can’t be the cover all for anything progressive can it?
Recently, I was in a conversation with my friend Tim Clark (http://www.pastortimclark.com) as we discussed change and heritage. As a young guy, well youngish, I get the heartbeat for creativity and newness. When I do things, I want them to be fresh. But I want a fresh word from the Lord to undergird what I do.
However, I must realize that whatever I do is not in a vacuum. I am part of a larger organism. Wherever I go must be built on the shoulders of those that went ahead of me. I can see further ahead due to the sacrifice they made along the way as I sit on their shoulders and scan the horizon. They paid the price to bring our church, small group; ministry, movement or whatever venture to the place that it is today as I lead. Yet the hot new word today is reimagine. We are always looking to not only imagine, but reimagine. We want to find something brand new. No, brand, brand new. We want the new wine, and the new wineskins, but we must remember that we still pull the wine from the same vineyard. I almost get the feeling that we are looking so hard for the next best thing that we are even looking for a new vineyard. I wonder if sometimes church leaders are looking to other vineyards for their new wine. This is not to say they are looking neither outside of orthodox Christianity nor to other sources for their spiritual life. It is just that we often look outside rather than slowing down to listen to what God is saying to us within the movement, church or group that we lead.
We still have a heritage that we inherit, that is unless we plant a new church or begin a new ministry. But even within that context, we work within the framework of an ongoing tradition.
The question is how do we marry the heritage of what we are with the future God is bringing to what we lead? How do we match the story of yesterday with the story yet to be told?