We began to understand the answer to our dilemma when a church leader shared with us the following verses from Scripture. Although these Scriptures may have other applications, we sensed the Holy Spirit was using them to teach us about new church structures.
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. Neither do men 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 (Matthew 9:16-17).
This “new wineskin,” we believed, was to be a new model of church structure, tailor-made to serve the new believers in Jesus Christ. And what better place to meet than in a home!
A wineskin is like a balloon. It needs to be flexible and pliable. Putting a new Christian (new wine) into an old structure can cause the structure to break, and the new Christian may be lost. New Christians should be placed in new structures that are flexible and able to encourage their spiritual growth.
The Lord promised to pour out His Holy Spirit “in the last days” (Acts 2:17). We believe flexible containers must be prepared for the great harvest that is on the horizon. In Second Kings 4:1-7, the widow brought all the containers she could find to prepare for the blessing God was pouring out.
Notice that the oil stopped when the containers were filled. Is it possible that the Lord is waiting for His Church to prepare the proper containers so He can pour out His Spirit again?
During the Jesus Movement in the 1970s, thousands gave their lives to Christ, but many were no longer living for the Lord a few years later. There were not enough “new containers” willing to be flexible enough to embrace these new believers, so many “fell through the cracks.”
Now is the time to prepare for the coming awakening. We cannot force new Christians into our meetings—we must prepare new containers for the new oil. Forming new structures will enhance the Lord’s commission to make disciples. We realize that many new types of containers (small groups, house churches, local congregations) are needed and must be formed.
Larry Kreider, House to House: Growing Healthy Small Groups and House Churches in the 21st Century (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 2009).