Saturday, February 1, 2014


“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. The old skins would burst from the pressure, spilling the wine and ruining the skins…..”Matthew 9:17a

One night I dreamt that we had an outreach event at a church for our Muslim friends.  An older couple walked in and was upset with what we were doing.  We felt our motives and methods were misunderstood.  Then I heard the Spirit say, “That’s what you have done in some churches, too. You have misunderstood their motives and methods to reach the secular unchurched crowd.” There was no condemnation in His tone; just a fact.  At that I awoke and wondered what that was all about and asked God to reveal to me if there was something He wanted me to know.

Suddenly two decades of struggle and frustration surfaced where I had been upset with what “stood in the way” for our Muslim and MBB friends to be attracted to church. I made a mental list of those things:  too much laughing or joking, loud music and strobe lights, occasional immodest dress, cuddling of couples, Bibles put on the floor, puppet shows which couldn’t be understood, preoccupation of some denominational distinctive that made the Muslim or MBB confused,  picked up prejudice towards Muslims,  little talk about the cross, too many stories outside of the Bible, and an emphasis on programs rather than fellowship, little prayer in a service, and so forth. I desperately wanted my Muslim or MBB friends to come to church but many times when I took them they found something distasteful or foreign.  A couple of times I decided to talk about those concerns with leadership because they “stood in the way.” But, to my dismay, those issues were not fixed. They remained. I came close to being ruined and quitting this ministry.  It was just too hard. There were too many hurdles.   I reflected on my dream where I heard the Spirit say, “You have misunderstood motives and methods, too.”   It was true. To reach the secular unchurched Westerners church would need to run differently than for the Muslim or MBB who comes into church. The Spirit gently asked me another direct question: “Who appointed you to get those things fixed?”  Hmm….I thought about it. No one had appointed me.  I had appointed myself.   God had appointed me to reach Muslims outside the church. Leadership was appointed to take care of things inside the church.  With that realization corrected I released myself from that self-appointed responsibility and placed my concerns in God’s hands. He would have to preserve both me and the fruit.   He reminded me of how new wine could not be put in old wineskins or they would be ruined. He wants to preserve both because both are good.  In the same way usually western church and eastern Muslims or MBBs don’t mix well.  Some flexible Muslims and MBBs have succeeded as I have witnessed but not all.  There are no easy solutions but at least in the past nine years peace has settled in my soul about this on-going dilemma.  If I had not submitted to God and found peace from these frustrations I would have been ruined.  He continues to preserve the churches, the MBBs…. and me.

Dear heavenly Father, Your preserving powers are strong!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.