New wineskins for new wine

Traditional wineskin made of leather

In the last few months, several events were organised that have provided much insight into members’ hearts, minds and souls. Early in our discussions, we realised the broad differences in our pastoral practices. These were the focus of discussions at the Combined Pastors’ Retreat with Prof Karen Tucker in April 2019.

The pastors found the idea of merging the three Annual Conferences (ACs) challenging, citing differences related to theology, language and culture, emotional ties and readiness. During the Bishops’ Panel, our former Bishops also felt that critical factors like mutual understanding were not yet evident. It was unequivocal that we are NOT ready at the present time for a one- Conference MCS.

Yet we are very thankful for the many conversations, prayers and ideas that have drawn us closer together. Seven workgroups were formed to bring together those serving in different areas of ministry to study where we can do better by working together, cutting back on duplication, and sharing resources including financial, manpower and space as committed by all the pastors.

The task force will carry on discussing and looking into how we can continue to increase effectiveness and reduce duplication. The focus going forward include:

A. Missional unity

Optimising our talents and resources in achieving our mission calls for complementing one another and collaborating in our outreach to different groups of people, whether they are in our neighbourhood or in the marketplace, youths or the elderly, Singaporeans or foreigners working in Singapore.

B. Build more trust through better relationships

We need to develop a better expression and practice of unity in the face of anticipated challenges in order to support one another better and respond more quickly to needs as they arise.

C. Collaborate to reduce duplication

We no longer have the luxury in terms of time, manpower, money or space for each local church and each AC to do things on their own. There are many areas where it is better for us to work together than to do things separately. Cutting back on such duplication could free us for more good work. It is also important that MCS be united on our approach to critical social issues.

D. Develop church growth strategies to cover all ACs

This is where we may be more similar than different, such as identifying engines of growth, joint church planting, and even joint missions. There are immediate areas of needs in discipleship, in Chinese ministry, in Indian ministry and in leadership development.

 New wineskins for new wine

We must not miss Jesus’ lesson in the parable of new wine in old wineskins. Dr R. C. Sproul, in his commentary on Mark, said that Jesus “was warning them that their King had come, and they would not be able to deal with this King unless they got rid of the structures that made it impossible for them to receive Him.”

Luke 5:17–25 tells of leaders coming from all over—every town in Galilee, Judea and Jerusalem—and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. But they missed the opportunity to experience healing because instead of focusing on healing, they were engrossed in whether Jesus could claim that He was able to forgive sins. Although they had come so near to Jesus, their hearts and attitudes were still hung up on the old ways.

Let us look out for ways we can be new wineskins for new wine.

By the Structural Review Task Force

Picture by alfonsodetomas/