No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If they did, the wineskins would burst, the wine would spill, and the wineskins would be ruined. Instead, people pour new wine into new wineskins so that both are kept safe.
- Matthew 9:17
Here are some notes from a book called, Decoding The Church:Mapping The DNA of Christ’s Body, by Howard A. Snyder with Daniel V. Runyon (2002). I will parachute in to chapter 4, ‘The DNA of Church Structure: Dead Ends’. The authors critique three ‘dead ends’, that look promising, but ultimately are not the wineskins that are needed: megachurch, microchurch, and business models.
These are my notes:
“The power of the gospel is the wine, not the wineskin.” The wineskin is the structure. Church structure is made up of form and patterns, used to carry out mission. Fundamental church structure is found in scripture. Secondary forms and patterns or structure come from outside scripture. Basic theology informs us about structural forms and patterns. Pragmatism is outside theology. We have tended to embrace secondary forms and patterns and pragmatism for structure, reading them into scripture. So, we must ask, “what is church at the most foundational level?” (pp. 61-70)
About business: “Business does not teach the church what church is, but can teach church how to function as a human organization.” (p. 71)
Chapter 5: The DNA of Church Structure, notes.
“Strangely, the church seems to have an inbred aversion to building ecclesiastical practice on scripture.” (p. 77)
“The scripture must be our primary source for church structure.” Four reasons:
- The Bible is God’s unique revelation about Jesus Christ and of his body, the church. We have been big on mining the scripture for truths, about God and Christ; but not on ecclesiology, leadership, and how the church functions.
- Ecclesiology is a primary focus of scripture. Since the reformation 1500 years ago, we have sharply focused on what the scriptures say about the plan of salvation – soteriology, while ignoring God’s plan for Christian community – ecclesiology, also found in scripture. Individualism (and consumerism) has replaced corporate community (and radical generosity). We have emphasized reconciliation to God, but neglected reconciliation to people.
- The scripture is filled with the example of what the new wineskin structure looked like and how it functioned, in the early church.
- We should go first to Scripture for guidance on church structure because Scripture uniquely combines church and mission. There is little distinction between “church” and “mission” in the NT. “The church does not have a mission, the mission has a church”, as someone has said. Biblically this is true. But, we must ask, Why is this true in the NT? What can we learn from the scriptures about the meaning of church, so that we will have no need to place the word missional before the word church? (pp. 77-80)
The next section of the book looks at Renewal Movements, as a way of seeing how new wineskins have worked in the past.