ABCD: Association of Born-again Church Dropouts

“People leave the church as turtles or skunks. . .

Turtles crawl quietly out the back door, without bringing attention to the protest of their silent withdrawal.

Skunks leave at the front, where everyone can see them, where they can let everyone know how badly they will be missed,how they should have been listened to. They leave a smell behind that lasts a lifetime. A stinky reminder of the decision that divided.”

From My Gripes about the House Church Movement. Andrew Jones (circa 2002)

There is a discussion about one of my old house church articles called “House Churches have no sex appeal” on the ABCD Facebook group (The Association of Born-Again Church Dropouts.) I thought they might like to read the turtle article also so i left a link to it. More  . . .

“Despite the vocal crowd who worship at the Cult of the New, Jesus is not infatuated with new wineskins. He likes both. But He is a connoisseur of vintage wine.

Mature wine.

Wine that has sat under time, ripened, grown, perfected under the conditions. Wine like this is achieved only by permitting the new containers and preserving the old ones. Let the old wineskins be preserved. If you squirt fresh wine into them, they will burst. Spill. Jesus doesn’t like spillage. Jesus likes mature wine.

So we need wineskins also. Old wine in the old wineskins. New wine in the new wineskins.

Whatever. Whatever keeps it. Contains it. Preserves it. Gives it room to move and expand. Grow into what it is destined to be and securing it from disease.

Both. Freedom and safety. Creativity and security. Bubbly and still.

The heights of exploding taste and the depths of softened character.

Flavor and body. Cherries and oak. Cheekiness and gracefulness.

The wabi and the sabi. The vigor of youth and the wisdom of age.

Both, says Jesus. Both.

Both will be preserved.

But here is the challenge: To allow the new without threatening the old. To preserve the old without hindering the new. Those without wisdom choose one but not both. And the result is skunks and turtles.”

Andrew Jones, link


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Bob Carlton says:

    what a fabulous post, Andrew.
    this section so resonated with me:
    To allow the new without threatening the old. To preserve the old without hindering the new. Those without wisdom choose one but not both

  • That’s well said, Andrew. But also rather difficult to put in practice. Sometimes a little local church is going along fine just because they’re hanging on to old and dusty protocols. I’ll always be one of those old farts that want no change. And the proto-skunks that want techno worship can go next door. We’ll love ’em all the same.

  • Heather W says:

    I see your thinking on this, but I wonder: how do we come to call the institutional church “the old wineskins?” The question the ABCD’ers are asking, I believe, is whether or not the “church” in all of its systems as we know it (as opposed to the organic expression of the Bride they are refering to as the “ekklesia”) actually is a “wineskin” at all? What if it’s more like a wine “ETF” or something where you don’t actually have the wine you’re investing in, you just are trading wine on the futures market and driving the price up where people have a hard time actually getting their hands on actual wine but instead get to hold a certificate of ownership in the fund? In the Biblical context, I believe old wineskins refered to the Jews, and new wineskins refered to the Gentiles… So how do we jump from that into considering the 2000 years of empire-church as “old wineskin” and the organic expressions as the “new?” Is it a false dichotomy?

  • Andrew says:

    Hi Heather. good point on the 2000 year jump. My writing ten years ago on this, that you just read, is more poetic and creative than exact representation so i wont push it any more than i should and certainly wont make a case for it
    i am with you on that one.
    but the imagery is still helpful. new wine needs containers of various kinds (even the ABCD Facebook group qualifies as such a container or wineskin). sometimes they get old and function well for the wine that has matured in it but will not yield to anymore new wine.
    new containers for new wine.
    the principle works, and is somewhat helpful, even if we cant tie it directly to the Jews/Gentiles analogy.

  • so even a turtle is ‘without wisdom’?
    not sure about that
    sometimes it is wisdom to go, rather than stay and complain or try to change things when there is no interest [maybe quietly informing with respect those who are leaders]

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