One of our biggest challenges here in the western world, especially in our ministry outreach efforts, is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results. Then when we see limited to no new impact from our same old efforts, we ponder in disappointment, “What went wrong?” Albert Einstein famously called this process the “definition of insanity.” Sometimes, when I’m doing the same routine as before, I have to tell myself, “STOP, Kent! Change your approach and your ways.” There is a parable in the Bible that clearly speaks to this issue.
Both Matthew 9:16-17 and Luke 5:36-39 record Jesus’ addressing a large crowd with the following:
36 Jesus told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”
(Luke 5:36-39, NIV)
Our Lord teaches us many things in this parable (as He does in all His parables)
Consequently, as our SIU indigenous partners often tell us after memorizing and dialoguing about this story in their small groups during Bridges trainings, “You must let go of the past and change your ways, as the new wine represents the truth of God and the good news of Christ’s redeeming work. The old wine represents the traditions of the culture that we have been born into. These traditions have produced the prejudices that we do not want to get rid of whenever the new wine comes. We are the bag holding the wine, the wineskin, and if we do not have the willingness to change when the new wine comes, then we will burst!” They are so insightful, genuine, and sincere in these heartfelt moments.
In ongoing church-planting and disciple-making efforts, it is especially relevant, that it is getting so difficult to obtain visas to travel to other countries. It is not easy to learn and understand languages and local traditions one has not been a part of. Ultimately, for one to develop relationships of trust and influence.
Therefore, that’s why I am convinced that the only way we are going to finish the task of the Great Commission is by equipping and training local, grassroots, indigenous leaders how to use the Bible’s stories of the truth of God to reach their own people in their own language, in their own families and their own communities. (as you see in the picture above, one lady is sharing the parable of the wineskins with other women as they work on the fabric) That’s why our SIU partners and our team of supporters love what we do!
We are seeing incredible local movements of replication and multiplication of disciples and oral Bible churches in hard-to-reach places all around the world.
It has taken many years of trial and error (we are now in our 30th year at SIU), with testing and retesting our methods, listening to our partners’ feedback, revising our training curriculum and developing a system of ongoing partner coaching and mentoring. And now we feel like we are offering “New Wine and New Wineskins.”