Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. Mark 3:20
Crowds gathered around Him again…Mark 10:1
A large crowd was following Him and pressing in on Him. Mark 5:24
While the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; Luke 5:1
Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:25
When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. Matthew 8:1
Pastor John has often framed a discussion about Jesus’ ministry style with this question…”Why would people crowd around Jesus, listening for hours, but when people find out they are sitting next to a pastor they will chew their own arm off to get away.” That is one of the many questions that started him on a journey to deeply explore and analyze the ministry style of Jesus.
When we say “ministry style of Jesus” I think so many images come to mind. I think many of us assume that is what we are doing. I know I did for many years of full time ministry. But have we really taken a look? Have we studied his use of what he would have considered “scripture”, his regard for women, his rebuke of religious leadership while still validating them in many ways, his management of situations as they emerged/case by case, his use of questions and his teaching style…this is not “the norm” then, and even today, in many places it is fairly radical.
Across the gospels of Matthew, Mark & Luke there is a parable Jesus shares.
“…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. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:36-39)
How do you feel when “the church” does something new/different? When services change styles? When traditions seem to fade? Do you say “the old is better”?
I love how Jesus is more focused on the new thing he is doing rather than fixated on attacking the “old thing”.
We struggle with change, especially when it comes to religious systems. Sometimes that comes from legitimate concerns for our faith being compromised or diluted from these “changes”. But sometimes, it’s just that new = unfamiliar.
I love what Jesus says in Matthew’s version of the parable…
Matthew 9:16” No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”
I have an amazing grandmother. She is a pillar of faith in our family. But we see things very differently. We talk about salvation, baptism, music, prayer, women in ministry…and in many moments I’m not sure we could get much further apart. I tease her that she probably has a coffee mug that has 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”) that she hides when her ordained pastor granddaughter shows up. We use different wineskins. (Actually, we view wine itself differently.) But I think we sharpen each other in our conversations, leaning into our disagreements.
For many people, how we do “church” at GodWhy is different, for some it is “wrong”…often because they have not taken the time to ask us our “why” for all the choices we make…but even still…that’s okay. I have often told Pastor John, “I wonder if you’ve planted GodWhy in the wrong location.”…the heart of the Bible belt may give a head-tilt to “new wine skins”, or maybe that’s part of the point. Maybe that is exactly why John felt God led him to start this adventure here in Tennessee, because there are some people that simply struggle to fit into the “community of faith” in a traditional southern context. Please know that there are deep convictions and massive amounts of study that led to the approach we use to reach people that do not know God.
Over the next several weeks let’s sort through some of those principles…