Nobody mends clothes anymore. Machine-made fabrics and mechanical sewing and assembly on a huge scale have made clothes so cheap that when something tears you just pitch it out and buy another. Even the poor can go to a thrift store and outfit their kids for a few dollars.
But in the days when all clothes were painstakingly made by hand from cloth woven by hand from yarn spun by hand from fleeces sheared by hand, the cost of a garment was so high that most people owned only one or two changes of clothes. If something tore, you patched it.
Jesus used that sewing metaphor to help Christians, and perhaps especially the organized church, to prepare to flex and change. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse” (Matthew 9:16). The message that the church has been entrusted to share is nonnegotiable. It must never change. But the style by which it is communicated, and the way in which ministries are organized, are infinitely negotiable. Changing demographics and changing culture and changing technology mean that the church must always be reexamining and reinventing its ways of connecting with people.
Too much old cloth and the times will rip a hole in it.
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