Luke 5:37-39 No one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, “the old is better”.
In this example shared by Jesus indicating the new thing he was doing and bringing, the primary and essential element was the new wine. The new wine represents the Good News – the Gospel – the Kingdom of God – the New Covenant. This whole transforming initiative from God, filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit, representing Jesus – the Body of Christ.
The secondary and important element of this example is the wineskin, representing the structures, the approaches, the traditions which the Body of Christ form as they engage with the world commissioned with God’s mission.
Reflecting on wineskins, what is important to notice is that they must be new! They are not eternal and therefore need to be replaced as we grow and change. The context of our world, of our cultures and of our own learning influences the form of the wineskin, as indeed the wine itself (its properties) should influence the wineskin.
As Micah reflects and seeks to further understand the Biblical perspective of the Kingdom of God through the lens of integral mission, we are challenged and inspired towards transformation, towards change. How to respond?
1) Sampler approach: many who engage with integral mission see aspects that they like and opt to try a few things out. They realise that some of the old ways of doing things are wearing out and new ways need to be developed. So they take a few ideas and try and attach them to old structures, and old ways of doing things. Jesus’s talks about this in the preceding verses (Luke 5:36f) – no one sews a new patch of material onto an old garment….! Jesus challenges us to re-think completely and inspires us to think of a whole new garment (structure).
2) Keep both: many of us will say we want the whole message of integral mission, but we want to have it alongside the old way of doing things. Perhaps we don’t want to rock the boat too much, after all, we have always done church this way, we have always run our aid/mission organisation this way, we have always operated our Bible College this way – it is tried and tested.…! The problem is that this approach makes the wineskin brittle and it will break, losing the new wine.
3) Change not needed: there are also some of us who don’t even want to consider change, preferring the safety of traditions, the established approaches. In fact they get angry and critical of anyone who challenges this. (Matthew 15:2 – Pharisees speaking to Jesus: “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?....”
Coming out of our recent Global Consultation we have been challenged to re-think how the new wine message impacts the wineskin for us today.
4) A fourth way to respond is to be open and willing to consider radical change – to be open to have a new wineskin:
• Re-thinking what church is and should be
• Re-thinking what faith and development is about
• Re-thinking how Christian aid and mission organisations should work
• Re-thinking how we do theological education
• Re-thinking mission from a personal to family to community to nation to our world.
We hope and pray that Micah will be a platform to enable us together to have the courage for change, so that new wine can be poured into new wineskins
Rev 21:5 “He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”
Please pray for the working groups being established to tackle these questions.
Please pray for each meeting we have in 2016 that we will be able to discern what God is saying and have the courage to change ourselves and our nations.
Prayers around the world
This month, we have asked some of our members to share their thoughts and reflections on 2015 - what they have learned, how they have been challenged - as well as their prayers for what will be 'new' in 2016.
Please take some time this month to stand in solidarity with fellow members and pray with and for their teams and their work, as guided by the reflections below.
We were able to encourage many local churches for integral mission.
When the local church came out from its four walls and participated in social works together with the community people, the church was accepted as a part of the society and many people came to the church and accepted Christ.
We praise the Lord that the churches with whom we have been working with are small in size and lacking in resources but have a passion for God and for serving the needy in the surrounding communities.
Learning about IM
The mission of God is to redeem the whole creation. We as His people, our mission include building the church, serving society and caring for creation. The holistic mission integrates everything else around it since the gospel is the heart and the core of God’s mission. This must be understood by the local church believers first.
Due to the border blockade between Nepal and India, Nepali people have been facing a huge scarcity of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and medicines. Pray that this problem would end very soon.
Due to the blockade, many daily wage earners are in no position to feed themselves and their families. Labourers have lost their jobs due to non-operation of industries and business houses. Pray for them.
Many earthquakes victims are still in the temporary shelters. The winter season has already started. Please pray for them, especially for small children and elderly people.
With ongoing humanitarian disasters and conflicts in our region, operational costs hits the roof and we are facing increased insecurity and tremendous pressure on our staff.
Despite the many challenges, we have experienced Gods presence and that He has seen us through. We have come to know that prayers needs to be more intentional and that prayer is our strength as we continue to plough.
Our hearts go out to the least reached people groups and to the ones suffering in some of the worlds´ most hostile environments, in the countries where God has opened doors for us.
Our prayer for 2016 is that God will continue to be our protector and our provider. Most of all we pray that Gods´ love will be known through IAS as we continue to strive for a godly transformed society.
- IAS International
Thank you for the year that is ending. The year was very difficult in our country: corruption scandals, political and economic instability and falls in fundraising in our organizations. Many poor communities are directly affected by these challenges and are left vunerable.
Yet the Lord encouraged us in different ways:
We have seen the issue of equity being adopted by partners and we are planning to work in our actions around this topic.
We learned that the Integral Mission involves a commitment to caring about the human being in its entirety; an individual who belongs to an environment, a family, a social group. We are a full-time mission. It's not something that can separate and store for later use. It is not disposable. It is a lifetime commitment, a continuous search.
We received the good news that Bola na Rede campaign resources will continue until the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
And finally, we had the joy of bringing together a number of partners in our second meeting in September, in addition to the National Meeting for the entire Brazilian church in Araçariguama (SP).
We feel your Spirit expanding our vision. Help us to continue serving you and the poorest.
RENAS (Translation from Brazilian Portuguese)
Servant Partners (International)
It was really a very good year for Servant Partners. We are now working in twelve countries and are on the verge of creating a couple of new sites. God continued to provide us with ample resources. We also honed our approaches to evangelism/ church planting as well as grass-roots projects that build capacity in individuals so that they are empowered to work for the transformation of their communities.
As an organization we have identified 8 signs of a transforming community (see here) and this year we made significant strides in building expertise in many of the signs.
Perhaps the greatest highlight for us this year was our All Staff Gathering held in California. Every four years, all our staff with their families gather from around the world to study scripture, learn from each other, pray for one another, and worship and fellowship together. We committed to a spiritual Rule of Life that reminds us that our work must always flow from our relationship with God and that we are not so much an organization as a movement led by the Spirit.
Many times in prayer we have heard God call us to sharpen ourselves both in our skills and in our relationship with Him. This continues to be the main challenge we face as a ministry.
Asociación A-Brazo (El Salvador)
We thank God, because despite the lack of economic, educational and social opportunities in the country, God has enabled A-Brazo to help create opportunities for improvement and hope.
Many women and young people have developed skills and tools to help them succeed, leading them to feel satisfied and understand that their lives have meaning. Seeing individuals, families and communities transformed is our greatest motivation.
We have learned that integral mission is possible when various Christian organizations and churches joined efforts to achieve the transformation and abundant life for people and when we also make alliances and collaborate with all stakeholders in communities without social, religious and political prejudices. The light of God shines most brightly in unity.
Our vision for 2016 is to continue empowering the most vulnerable people, bringing God's shalom.
In El Salvador, where migration and violence are some of the most acute social problems, the actors of integral mission remain largely without the tools to address those concerns. This is our prayer that we can get these tools and resources necessary for us to serve with higher quality and thus be of help in the comprehensive transformation of our communities.
- Asociacion A-Brazo (translated from Spanish)
Looking back to the year 2015 we have to testify that we have a faithful God. We can see His fidelity in our donor's financial support, which does not decrease despite all kinds of crises. We see it in the perseverance of our limited staff and we are especially thankful for Cécil Van Maelsaeke who serves already 25 years as the general manager of Tearfund Belgium. We also see it through the many volunteers that are repeatedly helping the Tearfund staff.
In the fall of 2014, four young people started Tearfund Youth. We are very happy with their initiative. This year they organised a few very successful activities engaging our youth to fight poverty and injustice in the world. The profit of these activities supported our workers in Africa.
This year, the Belgian government withdrew the recognition of all the non-governmental organisations. At the end of 2016, organisations can obtain recognition, but only after a very tough screening. It is a special prayer request for all of us that we will be successful in obtaining recognition at the end of 2016.
Monaana Word Ministries (South Africa)
The challenges of Church in a Rural Community
Doing the ministry in rural communities is a real challenge because our churches are flooded with people that are unemployed, uneducated, illiterate and who do not have current day ministry exposure.
Lack has made them believe that they are no good for anything. They are still bound by culture and tradition some of which stand against the principles of the Bible.
The understanding of the Great Commission that we must take the Gospel to all people in all nations has been lost. There are many false Christs and false prophets who perform great signs and miracles and deceive people.
• That God will open the eyes of his people that they will not be deceived by evil forces.
• God to raise people in rural communities who will preach and support the preaching of the Gospel.
• God to expose those with wrong intentions in the preaching of the Gospel.
• Unity of the body of Christ
• God to save our young generation from evil destruction.
• Restoration of men as heads of families
- Monaana International Word Ministries
Women of Hope International (West Africa)
Great Father of all mercy, for most of this year, Ebola rocked our world in ways we never imagined. This enigma virus has altered the DNA of our world in ways we never anticipated.
While many saw this as a health care crisis, for those of us working in the region, we soon came to understand that this was not a crisis of health alone – but a crisis of poverty, trust, relationships, health, economy, and faith. The whole person and the whole society was affected, and the whole person and society has need of healing.
And yet, Loving Father, as you always do, you are redeeming hard things, bringing beauty from ashes. For us at Women of Hope, we saw this in 400 women affected by disability, who previously did not have access to your life-giving Word, due to illiteracy and lack of resources, provided with their very own audio Bible in the language of their hearts. In that provision, your Holy Spirit has opened doors to their fearful, discouraged, lied-to hearts and minds, beginning your work of redemption in them.
As we begin this new year, free of the fears and questions of Ebola-plagued 2015, we know that new challenges await us. But a glance behind us reminds us that your mercies are new every morning, and your faithfulness is great.
Bring healing, O Father, and restore this region, still so raw from this trial, and may all the people there – but especially women affected by disability – know your redemptive power in every aspect of their being.
- Women of Hope International
Micah Youth (International)
All hands, all minds, all hearts, all faith, all creativity and all hope are needed, today more than ever, to build peace, justice, and life to the fullest.
As young people, we dream of a church of children, youth, adults and elderly persons working elbow to elbow; living, loving, dreaming, and discovering together life's wonders; being lights of love and hope on the journey.
During the Micah Triennial Global Consultation held in Peru, we were challenged to work together across generations.
Negative stereotypes often surround young people - rebellious, noisy, restless, always going against the grain, questioning the status quo, voicing that which is "inconvenient", constantly flooded with emotions, naïve. As youth, from our diversity, we do not have to stop being youthful, nor should we deprive adults from our way of seeing the world. This is the best we have. This is the best we have to give.
On this path of making Shalom, our life force, our defiance, is necessary to face injustices that oppose the love of God. The faith and hope of youth is necessary in order to change the world. We need the life's desire of those who are convinced of a radically better future, and who take steps toward it.
We pray that this life force and wise defiance can be united to other's experiences and wisdom, mutually "infecting" one another.
The wise, the dreamer, the expert, the rebel; our prayer is that the young and old together will be a living expression of the Kingdom of God.
- Micah Youth (Translation from Spanish)
We invite Micah to stand with Burundi in a special week of prayer from the 14th to 20th December. Violence and instability have rocked the country and we urgently need to intercede for this hurting nation:
Pray for an end to the violence
Pray for the wisdom of the government. The eruption of violence was triggered after the July election in which the President stood for a 3rd term. Many boycotted the election process in protest.
Pray for the refugees that have poured into surrounding nations in fear the violence will continue to escalate.
Pray for the church in Burundi to be bearers of Shalom.
To take part in this special week of prayer, follow the intercession guidelines here.