New Wine Collective: White Paper
Introduction: Rethink Church
People are longing for deeper spiritual and relational connection. We want to do more than just sit and watch church. We want to be seen and heard. We want to practice our faith in a way that makes sense for who we are, not someone else. We want to use our voices and resources to work on real-world problems such as injustice, inequity, and climate change. Many of us sense there must be a better way of being in the world and want to participate in shaping that new future in community with others!
However, the status quo of top-down, consumer-driven Christianity has left many of us feeling disillusioned, bored, and burnt out–or simply, left out. Due to unfamiliar rules and customs, awkward social situations, and often alienating doctrinal requirements, the barrier to entry is simply too high for most people. While the Sunday programmatic church is still valuable for many, the world also needs alternative expressions of church that are more accessible to the millions who are longing for spiritual connection but will never walk through the doors of an institutional church.
Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed seismic cultural shifts that were well underway before COVID-19. The global pandemic is simply accelerating these changes. More and more people are finding the institutional church unrelatable and unappealing–especially younger generations. Many Christians themselves are struggling to reconcile their faith with the racism, sexism, exclusion, and abuses of power that seem endemic to much of Western Christianity.
Our world is hurting and broken. People are divided, disconnected, and lonely. Now, more than ever, we are in need of a brave reimagining and systematic rethinking of how we do church and spiritual community in our day.
What is New Wine Collective?
New Wine Collective is a diverse, collaborative community–a collective–engaging in a creative, intellectual, and practical conversation about the next iteration of Christianity. We’re envisioning a fundamentally different approach to church that lowers barriers, flattens hierarchies, and embodies a fresh expression of Christian spirituality that is radically loving and inclusive, oriented towards equity and justice, and marked by theological humility.
Our structure: a decentralized network of small spiritual communities
We believe the purpose of all spirituality is to make us more loving for the simple reason that God IS love. And if the practice of love is the goal, then anyone can do church anywhere. Church, at its core, is not about programming and production, although that is largely what our current form of church has made it to be. A church is a community that practices love for one another, love for God, and love for neighbors. In essence, church is a simple thing. Perhaps we have overcomplicated it!
We believe the most potent form of church is its most basic, organic, and accessible. It does not require special buildings or professional preachers or musicians. It is supremely flexible and capable of rapid contextualization anywhere and to any culture. It is not limited by location or space requirements and can flourish anywhere people are already living. What we’re proposing is a return to the Church’s roots: small, agile, and local communities that fit in living rooms with loving relationships at the center.
New Wine Collective seeks to create a decentralized network of small spiritual communities (groups of 5-25) that meet regularly for the purpose of growing in love and compassion. Our model is based on four guiding principles:
Small, self-organized communities have the freedom and flexibility to creatively contextualize to any niche community (e.g. Crossfit gyms, gamers, artists, service workers, people with disabilities, etc.) and connect with people through any existing relational network. This simple, relational, and non-hierarchical approach to church can make spiritual community accessible to anyone. And now, we have the opportunity to make small relational gatherings more meaningful than ever through technology and the connective power of the internet.
Our strategy: an innovative online platform
Our strategy is to create an online platform that empowers people to co-create their own spiritual communities wherever they are. Its purpose is to bring local people together for face-to-face mutual relationships, spiritual practices, and collaboration for the common good (love, healing, and justice work).
In the same way platforms like Airbnb and Uber disrupted traditional industries by making it possible for anyone to become a hotelier or taxi driver, our platform would empower people to do “church” wherever they are without the costly overhead of buildings and paid clergy. Most importantly, people will be free to create spiritual community on their own terms (who, what, when, where, and how) while also connecting to a diverse network that shares knowledge, resources, and expertise.
Once fully developed, our online platform/app would support a whole new approach to church by functioning in four ways:
1. A Group Facilitation Tool
- Provides structure and content for a wide variety of in-person group gatherings
- Promotes healthy group dynamics and self-regulation through features such as speaking queues, timers, and intelligent prompts
- Helps distribute power and responsibility by rotating leadership and roles, giving everyone the flexibility to grow and contribute to the group, and allowing every voice to be heard
- Creates an environment designed to cultivate empathy and compassion through mutual relationships and meaningful dialogue
- Our Group Facilitation App Prototype is currently in testing
2. A Crowdsourced Library of Resources & Group Practices
- A constantly expanding library of resources and content crowdsourced from subject matter experts as well as everyday users; accessible anytime, anywhere
- Empowers individuals and groups to take ownership of their own unique spiritual journeys by self-curating their own content, free to draw widely from diverse traditions and perspectives
- Encourages active participation by allowing any member to create, curate, and customize content and group experiences as well as share and recommend resources with others
- Like Youtube, Netflix, or Spotify
3. A Cooperative Economy for Ministry Services & Expertise
- A subscription-based revenue model to sustain the platform itself and support the work of content creators and facilitators
- An online marketplace (creator/gig economy) for clergy, counselors, coaches, and spiritual directors, etc.
- Creates an alternative business model for the Church that is more cost-effective, equitable, and sustainable for all
- Like Patreon, Mighty Networks, or Upwork
4. An Online Hub for Connection
- An online relational network without the manipulative algorithms, ads, and other compromises of large, profit-driven social media companies
- Allows groups to stay connected throughout the week via messaging, conversation threads, and shared spiritual practices (e.g. centering prayers, meditation, lectio divina, etc.)
- Users can make local connections with others and self-organize into affinity-based communities through matching and social networking
- Like Facebook, Meet Up, or Discord
Our spirituality: new wine for new wineskins
New Wine Collective seeks to embody a fresh expression of Christianity that lowers doctrinal barriers and focuses on loving God and loving neighbors as ourselves. It would foster vulnerability, non-judgment, and a practice-based spirituality (as opposed to belief-based) that makes it accessible to anyone drawn to its values and willing to participate.
A few values and distinctives that help define this “new wine” Christianity:
Love, not legalism
The way we treat others is more important to God than being right or belonging to the right group; a love-based ethic that honors the image of God in all people
Curiosity, not certainty
Humility and embracing mystery are better than having all the answers; seeking wisdom and moving beyond binary (either/or) thinking
Empowerment, not hierarchy
Sharing and distributing power, fostering mutual relationships and servant leadership, releasing people to express the full range of their diverse gifts, passions, and cultures
Compassion, not condemnation
Freedom from shame and blame, practicing vulnerability, solidarity, and non-judgment, treating one another’s humanity with tenderness and understanding
Inclusion, not exclusion
Imitating a Christ-like preference for those whom society marginalizes and casts aside; living into God’s upside-down reality where the first are last and the last are first, and where everyone belongs
In its early stages, a core community will maintain New Wine Collective’s theological center through a growing body of content and teaching which can provide cohesion and consistency for the movement. At the same time, New Wine is about creating an open platform where many voices can be heard (not just a select few in power). Instead of just being passive consumers, people will be empowered to be creators, connectors, and curators, taking part in shaping the movement themselves. Instead of being limited to one church or tradition, people will be free to explore and discover diverse expressions of spirituality that can meet them wherever they are on their journeys.
A ‘less is more’ approach
Less programming, more connection
Since there is no Sunday service or programmatic expression, it means no heavy demand for attendance and volunteer hours to maintain services and programs. In our already over-busy society, people can use more of their time where it matters most: investing in loving relationships and service to others. They will have more margin in their lives to slow down, be present, and be released as every day "missionaries" where they already are, at work, school, their neighborhoods, or even in their own homes.
Less institution, more impact
Without costly institutions and inward-facing programs to maintain, people will be free to direct more of their time and resources towards addressing real-world problems. Groups have the ability to inspire people to do things they might not do themselves, like volunteer, engage in activism, and support charitable organizations. Some micro-communities may have the capacity for creative organizing around specific needs and issues. They can pool talents and resources, and create non-profits and generosity movements.
Less control, more flexibility & movement
The New Wine Collective model values empowerment and connection over hierarchy and control. Since there is no “bottle-neck” or top-down power structure to maintain, it can remain lean, organic, and diverse, allowing for innovation and grassroots movements to grow. Instead of being dependent on just a select few in permanent positions of power, the user community itself would be the power source, channeling energy, and shaping the movement as it grows.
New Wine Collective at a glance:
Help shape a new future
Become a financial partner
You can take part in the creation of a new approach to church that will radically change the spiritual landscape and help heal and renew the world. New Wine Collective, Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization relying on the generosity of donors to support our mission during our initial three-year start-up phase. We are looking for partners willing to invest in our vision of a better future for all.
If you would like to learn about giving to New Wine Collective, please CLICK HERE.
Join the conversation
We know we don’t have all the answers. That’s why we’re creating a community for people who want to participate in reimagining church and spirituality from the ground up.
Our collective is a community gathered around a bold purpose: to tackle systemic problems within Christianity and to find new solutions together. Our hope is to convene a broad multidisciplinary conversation–a "hive mind"–that includes many perspectives and areas of expertise (science, technology, economics, business, art, theology, etc.). It’s for people from all walks of life who want to see innovative thinking result in action and a better way forward for all.
If you’re looking for a place where your voice can matter and where you can help create something new, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about how we're forming a collaborative community.
Help spread the word
Connect with us on social media and share about our work with others. If you know someone who might be excited about our vision, please consider making a personal introduction!
Spring 2020 – New Wine Collective founded
Fall 2020 – Ideation, fundraising, and launch
Spring 2021 – Proof of concept, Group App Prototype development
Fall 2021 – Formulate alternative ecclesiology; Group App Prototype testing
Spring 2022 – Convene cohorts, conversations, and communities of practice
Fall 2022 – Launch Pre-Beta Groups; fundraise for Version 1.0 (MVP)
Spring 2023 - Version 1.0 design and development
Fall 2023 – Launch Beta Version 1.0
Our name & logo
Jesus said people do not pour new wine into old wineskins… they pour new wine into new wineskins. (Matt. 9:17)
New Wine represents the radically new spirituality Christ embodied that transcended and challenged the religious structures of his day. New wine requires new wineskins– new forms and practices that serve as containers for a new way of relating to God, to one another, and to the world.
A Collective is a group of people working toward a common goal or purpose that does not rely on internal established hierarchies. In a collective, leadership is flexible, shared, and collaborative.
Our logo represents our positioning as a movement occupying liminal, “in-between” spaces, on the threshold between the now and the not yet. We are situated as a bridge between spheres—on the inside edge of religion and spirituality, yet accessible and compatible with broader culture. We dwell in the margins of both, where we find common ground and new possibilities of change.
Overlapping circles resembling a Venn diagram represent inclusivity and connection. A secondary symbol is viewed from above as a wine glass without walls, signifying openness and freedom from constraints and unnecessary structures.
For more, explore other journal entries!