Letting the New Wine Shape the Wineskin

I can still remember the sound of my husband Bill in the church auditorium next door pounding away at the bolts that had held down our pews. They had been there since the 1920’s and definitely had to go. People were now falling in response to prayer and the pews were in the way. The Holy Spirit had begun to move after 18 years of waiting, and we wanted Him to be as comfortable as possible. What we didn’t know back then was that it was only the first of many changes the Holy Spirit would make in our lives and in our congregation to accommodate what He is doing.

Our desperation for more of His presence made us flexible, and we were in awe of the simple way He worked. The more we received prayer, the softer our hearts became, and within weeks, no one missed the pews that seemed to evaporate at the rate of one a week until they were totally replaced with stackable cushioned chairs.

Then the Holy Spirit went to work on our church program. The new wine of the Spirit began to shape it into something new, and only He knows what the end result will look like. Out went the dull Wednesday night prayer meeting. We established instead a Friday night renewal meeting that has attracted over 25,000 hungry people in the past five years. Prophetic intercession now happens on Monday night. As the years went on and people became hungry to grow in the Spirit, we started a school of ministry. Over one half of our congregation attends. The new wine is still expanding us today, six years later and we’re reaching out to the world. I wonder now what would have happened had we tried to force God into our old paradigm.

In Bible times, fresh wine was stored in new leather pouches called wineskins. As the wine fermented, it caused a volatile chemical reaction that shaped the container to fit its contents. The softer the leather, the less likely it was that the wineskin would crack. It’s the image Jesus chose to describe the conflict that would come when the Holy Spirit, God’s New Wine, touched the religious system of the scribes and Pharisees. The conflict would crack the structure and everyone who clung to it. They would eventually see what was meant to bless them as a curse.

It has been true ever since when the Holy Spirit moves. It seems that when the new wine hits rigid tradition, no matter how good it has been, the new wine spills out. Letting the new wine shape the wineskin is a key to containing the blessing of revival.

In this issue John Arnott challenges our readers with the question, “Do you need a new wineskin?” He shares from the perspective of a pastor who has watched the worldwide effects of the revival in churches of all sizes for seven years. Three pastors who have watched the new wine change their structures describe the pain and the gain of seeing revival hit their local churches, too. If you are a leader, get ready for challenge and encouragement. If you are someone who is looking for a church in revival, it will let you know what to look for in a church that is hungry enough for God’s presence to risk everything to flow in the River. For everyone in the River it will be a warning to remain flexible and humble so we won’t miss anything God does in our generation.

Originally Published March/April 2001 Editor Melinda Fish