The Problem of Wineskins (40th Anniversary Edition)

Howard A. Synder


Wine (the gospel of Jesus Christ) and Wineskins (the man-made structures of the church). How do the two relate? What happens when new wine is poured into old wineskins? What about making new wineskins? In short: What kinds of church structures are most compatible with the gospel in our modern, techno-urban society? In The Problem of Wineskins: Church Structure in a Technological Age, Howard Snyder addresses these questions — and provides some challenging answers. In the course of his argument he discusses the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ, the role of spiritual gifts, the pastor as a superstar," and renewal that is deeply spiritual and immediately practical.


“We have both always felt that Howard Snyder’s writings were prescient in that they rightly foresaw many of the issues the church was to face over the coming decades. The Problem of Wineskins rightly highlighted the critical issues relating to the church’s primary expressions and forms (wineskins) as we had to come to grips with the increasingly post-Christian, post-Christendom environment which we now recognize as our context. Both of us are truly grateful for Howard’s prophetic gift to all of God’s people.”

—Alan and Debra Hirsch, founders of Forge Missional Training Network and 100Movements; Alan’s books include The Forgotten Ways and The Shaping of Things to Come (with Michael Frost)


“I am profoundly grateful for this new edition. It offers the opportunity for Howard’s simple message to be read again at a time when it is even more needed than perhaps before. As many today are experiencing the same discontent and tiredness with current-day church as I was many years ago, may The Problem of Wineskins bring a similar breath of fresh air. Even more so, may we listen afresh and discern a birthing of new faithfulness for the church in mission for the twenty-first century North America.”

—David Fitch, author Faithful Presence and other books; Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology, Northern Seminary, Chicago; founder of Life on the Vine


“Much has changed in four decades, but not the need for biblical wisdom and missional insight into structures for church life and leadership. Snyder’s wisdom and work remain remarkably relevant!”

—Christine D. Pohl, associate provost and professor of Christian ethics, Asbury Theological Seminary; author of Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition and other books


The Problem of Wineskins was a spiritual earthquake for me. … I will always remain indebted to Dr. Snyder for his gentle questions and his probing analysis, which were, in fact, nothing less than a spiritual revolution in my understanding of discipleship, ecclesiology, Trinitarian theology, and the social implications of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"The insights of these books remain as relevant today as they were forty years ago when they were first released. Therefore, I heartily commend them to a new generation of readers who are still grappling with what it means for the church to continue the Reformation and the full restoration of historic faith and practice in our own time.”

—Timothy Tennent, president and professor of world Christianity, Asbury Theological Seminary; author of Invitation to World Missions and other books


 “The Problem of Wineskins is a heartfelt invitation to the disciples of Jesus Christ to let the Spirit of God act and give shape to church structures so that each local church becomes a visible illustration of the power of the gospel to transform community life according to God’s purpose for human life.

"I highly recommend Wineskins as essential reading not only for church leaders but for any believer who, in conformity with biblical teaching, views the church as the firstfruits of a new humanity.”

—René Padilla, president of the Micah Network and executive director of Kairos Press, Buenos Aires, Argentina; author of Mission Between the Times and other books


“I would put this in the top five books that every serious-minded Christ-follower should read in order to enlarge their view of God’s kingdom and rightsize the conventional and current parameters of the church.”

—Ross Rains, founder, Pathfinders Fellowships


“This new edition of The Problem of Wineskins makes my favorite of Snyder’s books available to a new generation of women and men who want to think seriously and in depth about the perennial dynamic of being a follower of Jesus in allowing the Spirit to transform one’s heart into becoming a new person in Christ. But it goes further than that. Analyzing the problem of antiquated church structures that keep Christians from becoming Christ’s body, Snyder reflects on the qualities of community that sustains the life of the Christian in the world. There is nothing like The Problem of Wineskins to help us today to keep in tension the needs of a community to discern how its members can be faithful to their Lord with the charismatic element of nurturing freedom of heart to put love into action.”

— William R. Burrows, research professor of missiology, New York Theological Seminary; managing editor emeritus, Orbis Books


“I welcome this reissue of Howard Snyder’s groundbreaking book. When it first appeared it was valued for the way it read the signs of the times, provided a prophetic critique of the church, and offered a biblically based and historically grounded vision to deepen the church’s life and broaden its mission. Wineskins’ appeal to reform congregations around organic fellowships and the vitality of the Spirit, and to redefine what are essential church and parachurch activities, is still as valid in our emergent, mega, but still mostly traditional church environment.”

—Robert Banks, author of Paul’s Idea of Community, The Church Comes Home, God the Worker, and other books