Be in a community / Shedding of Old Wineskins
Shared a private diary entry with a friend, because she played a part in what or how God was speaking to me about. A portion of it resonated with her and so I thought, perhaps more people need or want to read this and feel not so… alone.
“AS WE FACE STORMS, WE NEED FAITHFUL FRIENDS”
But there are other friends who God sends into your life for a season. While they’re there they enrich you and encourage you. But then things change, and you might never see each other again.
Helen Keller once said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
In this next season, your alignments will be more important than ever. Become intentional about investing in your significant friendships. God is also going to send new key connections into your life.Quoted from The Blueprint by Craig Cooney
Recently I had some friendship issues again. Seeing how I am having problems with different friends, then it seems like the problem lies with me. Talked to my counsellor, and the conclusion is I have to embrace myself first before I can embrace others. Reminds me of the teaching, to be loved by Jesus to love others. Only when you know what it is like to be loved (unconditionally in Jesus’ case), that you can love others.
So instead of wallowing in the grief of the loss of friendships I perceived in my mind (they might not even know/feel it/care), I should accept how things are, mourn and let it pass to focus on caring for my soul.
Bondage in Community
I have slowly come to realise how the pastors/church/Christian call for us to be in a community had become bondage for me. A burden placed on me. A condemnation pointing at me. It’s not that I don’t want to be in a community, I tried. Things just don’t work out. I keep finding places or holes I can fit in until I became wary and weary.
Condemned as a Christian because I am not in a community like other Christians. I felt like I failed (the law of not being in a community) when I don’t have friends who stick around and walk me through life instead of seasons. My friendships are always like slipping away. Even mentors distanced and lost contact with me. It made me feel that I am unlovable. People see my flaws and leave. I am not good enough to be in a community.
I always think my ministry work wouldn’t start or take off because I am not in a community of people to support or rally behind my fight against the wolves. Many times I read or heard something along this line, “You need to be in a community to step into God’s calling and do His work.”
Been thinking quite a bit about this, and in recent days realised this is another shedding time of old wineskin.
Breaking Free / Shed Old Wineskin
And sometimes we do see our dreams and desires fulfilled – but not in a way we could ever have imagined. We reach our goal. But not in the way we had planned. We make it to our destination. But the journey to get there was one we never thought we would take.
You see, the dream is free but sometimes the journey is costly.Quoted from The Blueprint by Craig Cooney
Received God’s call and thought it will be fulfilled the next day or the next week or the next month. Oh, the naivety of youth.
I have yet to see my dreams and desires fulfilled, but the journey has been indeed costly and painful.
Before I could step into new land and be filled with new wine, God needed me to shed away my old wineskin first. The breaking free / shedding process for me began a long time ago, here’s what I went through in somewhat chronological order:
- Shed the wineskin of being a Martha to be more like a Mary. Being a Mary in a Singapore church was not so easy a decade ago. As a task-oriented nation that prides itself in work and accomplishments, it’s inevitable in this culture for my identity and relationship with God to be wrapped in how much I serve God and His people.
- Takeaway: Busy serving in a ministry doesn’t equate to my relationship with God. After sitting at the feet of Jesus, Mary should have received much love from Jesus and heard the heartbeat of Jesus much clearer. Hence, this Mary would know where or who (basically which ministry) to pour this overflowing love into. So instead of serving from a place of strife, it’s more effective to serve from a place of rest in God.
Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:41-42
- Shed the wineskin of my constrained imagination(Part 1) – on what entails serving in ministry. There’s a conflict of interests – pastors have pressing needs in the church and hence would usually call for servers in church. Some people might also be guilt-tripped into serving in church, thinking this is the only way to be a faithful servant. This can become a bondage or a restriction of what people can do in the bigger kingdom community.
- The new wineskin? Serving doesn’t have to be in church but also out of the four walls. People need to be set free to serve out of church programs/ministries. And people need to judge less of those not serving in the church. Only God knows who is doing more for Him – some ministries outside are more obscure and ambiguous in their work for God than those in church. So those serving in the church might not be any holier than the ones doing work in the marketplace or outside of the church’s confines/ministries.
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.1 Peter 4:10 NIV
- Shed the wineskin of how to be part of a church. Cell group or life group is the modus operandi of how a church builds community. It works for me when I was a young adult, and then it didn’t. God assured me that it was alright not to be in a cell group or life group. Before you are quick to suggest this is a whisper from the enemy instead of God, well, hold your horses. I do know that the wolf devours the lone sheep. And it’s important to gather.
- New wineskin? However, different people do life and have friendships differently. Some prefer structured groups like a life group but introverts like myself prefer one-to-one kingdom friendships or smaller groups. Or perhaps for more task-oriented people, it is friendships that happen organically in a ministry where friends have a common goal.
- Takeaway: Different folks, different strokes.
- Disclaimer: One thing remains – every Sunday, we would go to church physically (except for when the church was closed during covid or when we were sick or on holidays). Even when there were partial restrictions in church, we would go to the church with our children. That’s where we get to gather with one another and enjoy the united presence of God and the sweet aroma of the Holy Spirit. So I still believe in the power of fellow believers coming together.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.Matthew 18:20
- Shed the wineskin of how I think a preacher is being trained. This is going to be a weak comparison, but like Paul being kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia, I felt kept away from a Bible school. I enrolled and got accepted by Fuller Seminary but didn’t feel the peace to go ahead. Then years later, I tried for a short bible course in Singapore (where they usually accept all applicants), but I was not accepted because of the overwhelming demand for the run I registered for. Weird, ain’t it? I thought a Bible studies program is the rite of passage for anyone who wants to do God’s work, regardless a preacher, missionary, or layperson.
- New wineskin? Other than Bible school, one can be equipped in the school of the Holy Spirit. Ps Joseph Prince vindicated me on this point as he didn’t go through the usual route of Bible school before becoming a preacher/pastor.
- Takeaway: God can prepare different people in different ways. Not all are suited for formal schooling, some perhaps excel better in homeschooling and self-directed learning. This is being affirmed even more so as I read up on early childhood education. Not all are suited for one type of education system.
It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.John 6:45
- Shed the wineskin of my constrained imagination (Part 2) – on what entails preaching. Someone spoke over me and said I would preach in many ways. In my mind, preaching is done from the pulpit, typically with a physical audience seated in front. And practice makes perfect they said, but I don’t have any chance to stand on a pulpit or even a stage since…almost a decade ago? So is preaching really my calling? Choices were limited (mainly to the stage) back then, so I didn’t understand what preaching in many ways meant.
- The new wineskin? Then God opened my eyes and I began to see. Preaching Jesus can be done through written words (books/blogs/websites), pictures (Instagram), podcasts (Spotify), videos (Youtube/TikTok), and perhaps even NFT/crypto space.
- Takeaway: Old wineskins have to be shed so we don’t constrain God’s work into our box. God is much more innovative in His solutions. We got to shed old ways of doing things to recognise the new wineskins. Pharisees judged Jesus and His disciples for not fasting before Jesus went on to preach about the wineskin – the old ways and the new faith cannot be patched together, it needs an overhaul of the wineskin. Quite similarly, Paul was persecuted by God’s law-abiding Jewish for preaching Jesus. Jesus was how they could be saved (their new wineskin), but their expectations kept them from seeing.
Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”Matthew 9:17
This brings me to the latest of my shedding process that began a long time ago. Back to point two above – shed the wineskin of how to be in a community in His kingdom. After many years, God is still working on this wineskin I have. Perhaps it has the strongest hold on me.
Recently there’s an article on 73 HillCrest to show how a community can blossom in other ways apart from the typical/traditional church way.
Then I was reading Acts and saw how the friends and comrades in Paul’s ministry only came together after he started his ministry. He didn’t prepare His community in advance. His friends and partners joined in the foray later as Paul faithfully did God’s work. Perhaps those who are going to be partners with us in ministries have yet to become Christians at this point. Or there could be other reasons.
And when Saul (Paul) had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple.
But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out.Acts 9:26-28
Instead of trying to plug myself into this and that community, frantically reaching out to distancing friends, or condemning myself for not trying hard enough to make new friends or maintain old friendships, perhaps I need to stop my efforts, rest and trust God.
Trust God to connect me to the right friends and mentors at the right time. Like a piece of relationship advice going around — instead of searching for the one, learn to be the whole one. When the time is right, the right people will come. I am not sure what this new wineskin of the Christian community looks like yet. Still waiting for God’s download. Perhaps I am not ready to receive this new wineskin yet.
Meanwhile, I just got to trust that God wouldn’t leave me alone for the wolf to devour. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the joy and importance of meeting together with fellow believers, but I just got to trust God to orchestrate divine meetups.
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.Hebrews 10:25
As for the rest who has a good community of people, don’t condemn the loners/the forgotten/those without a community. Open your doors, reach out to them and invite them. Pray for wisdom on how to do so. If it’s not a right fit or if they are not ready, pray for them. Instead of pushing them or placing a burden on them to be in a community, prayers work better in covering them with God’s protection. Allow them the space to heal and recuperate (if they so need it), until they are well enough to safely find their way back to their pack. Or allow space for them to hear God nudging them into the right group.
Unity: But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.
Diversity: Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.1 Corinthians 12:20, 27
Disclaimer: Joogostyle.com and/or the author shall not be held responsible for any injury, loss, expense or damage of any kind whatsoever suffered or incurred by any person who accesses or uses the information and external websites stated above. Full disclaimer here.