Forms and Functions
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22 ESV
As Kingdom leaders seek to advance the gospel, they take new initiatives and seek the Lord’s guidance as they pioneer. For many, one of their greatest challenges is their own success. What? How can that be?
When we are trying something new and different, we are sensing a real need for the Lord to help us – to intervene on our behalf as we try new ways and means. And, when the Lord does answer and intervene on our behalf, we rejoice and continue seeking to ‘push’ the advance further and further forward, enjoying the Lord’s favor. But, after a period of some ‘success’ a new, more insidious challenge appears.
Our ‘success’ can cause us to focus on efficiencies and methodology. We double down on economies of scale, leverage points, and look to maximize opportunities. Now, in and of themselves these things are not wrong, but we can drift from our initial dependency upon the Lord and our focus now moves to our own abilities instead of seeking the Lord’s blessing and help.
When our tried and true ‘methods’ no longer seem to yield the same results, instead of seeking the Lord’s guidance for new ideas – new ‘wineskins’ – we simply put our heads down and try harder. We think, “Well, it worked in the past, certainly it will work now; we just have to try harder.”
What we don’t understand is that we have entered into a new reality that will require a new way of serving. It’s a new day that needs new forms for this new context. The ‘new wine’ must find new forms for connecting with our new context. Given the rapidity of change today, if we are not continually evaluating our ‘forms’ we are doomed to be marginalized and irrelevant very quickly.
Functions (truths anchored in the Scriptures) remain true, but the forms they take are constantly in need of updating, improving, or at times, being discontinued or replaced by more contextually relevant ‘wineskins.’ It’s not a matter of working harder or more efficiently. It’s just that our audience is constantly changing and needing to be reached with new ways and means.
Wise Kingdom leaders will understand this process and lead out in discerning forms from functions, continually updating the former and staying focused on the latter.