By Wayman Ming Jr., General Secretary
What a contrast! In the previous edition of The Messenger, the focus was “next gen. ministry.” In this edition, senior adult ministry! One of the greatest tensions existing in every generation is ministering to the younger generation and the older generation. And yet, Jesus brought such a simplistic answer to this generational issue when He uttered the words: “and both are preserved” (Matthew 9:17).
Of course, Jesus is speaking here about wine and wineskins. Unfortunately the contextual pitfall is to only focus on the wine and miss the attention that Jesus gives to the wineskins. The reality is that we can’t have new wine without new wineskins and old wine without old wineskins. The wineskins are necessary to preserve the wine.
We’ve got to have the new wineskins, and we’ve got to have the old wineskins. We’ve got to have the new, and we’ve got to have the old. We’ve got to have both. Both must be included. Both must have a place. Both must have a part. Both must be preserved.
The strife that exists in next gen. ministry and senior adult ministry exists because of exclusivity. The exclusive mind-set declares, “The new wine and new wineskins are better so we don’t need the old wine and the old wineskins.” Or, “The old wine and the old wineskins are better so we don’t need the new wine and the new wineskins.” In truth, Jesus is addressing that very attitude when He declares, “and both are preserved.” Nowhere do we see the implication that Jesus desires any of the wine to perish. Allow me to make two simple observations . . . .
We need the new wineskins or we will run out of wine.
Unless we have new wine and new wineskins, we run out of old wine and old wineskins. If we don’t have next gen. ministry, we run out of wine. If we don’t train our Joshuas and Elishas, we run out of wine. If we don’t include our Joshuas and Elishas in the decisionmaking processes, implementation and planning strategies, vision casting and ministries of our churches, we will miss out on the new wine. Some may say that the old wine is better, but that doesn’t change the fact that we still need the new wineskins and the new wine or we will run out.
We need the old wineskins to add value to the wine.
The older the wine skin, the more valuable the wine! Winston Churchill once said, “The farther one looks back in history, the farther one sees into the future.” Methods and programs are not longterm, but the foundational principles that created them and supported them are. The more we affirm the principles of the past, the more we build on a foundation for the future.
Continuously throughout Scripture, we are reminded of the truth that God is a generational God—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. There are lists of entire families, such as found in Genesis 5, “This is the book of the generations of Adam” (verse 1). And in 6:9: “These are the records of the generations of Noah.” Scripture obviously took the theme of generations seriously and affirmed the different nature of generations—particularly that some generations were more responsive to the gospel than others. What is more, the Bible affirmed that there is a natural succession of generations: “A generation goes and a generation comes, But the earth remains forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4, NASU). The point is: every generation has value and adds value.
Allow me to close with the brief example of television. Televisions first became available in 1939. The battery-powered television arrived in 1950. In 1956 the first portable black-and-white television set was introduced. NBC began broadcasting all programs in color in 1966. By the early 1980s, 98 percent of all homes in the United States owned at least one TV set, and some even more. Today we have HDTV (high-definition television), and some predict that we will soon have hologram televisions where three-dimensional figures acting out scenes on our living room floors. The reality is that if there had not been a 1939 television, there would not be a 2009 television.
When we connect this example to a ministry perspective, we understand that if there had not been a 1939 generation of ministry, we would not have a 2009 generation of ministry. In other words, we need the old wine and wineskins and the new wine and wineskins. Or, in the words of Jesus, we must value the importance of “and both are preserved.”