A Farewell, and Thanks

Dear Friends,

1It gives me no pleasure to write this, but I am no longer going to be publishing the e-zine New Wineskins. As both a print magazine and later an online e-zine, New Wineskins has had a colorful history over the last 20+ years, but I can no longer continue to publish it.

I simply don’t have any of the essential ingredients that it takes: time, money, and heart.

I’m working fulltime now in a university office where two recent departures have left the rest of us shouldering more responsibilities, and I’m raising a teenage daughter on my own — as well as preaching once or twice a month at my small and loving church home — and that is taking all the time and energy I can spare.

The money wasn’t a problem until my family’s income shrank by 80%. And while hosting has always been generously provided free, the e-mail connections are not. Fact is, I just can’t afford them anymore.

But the main ingredient was heart, and I have lost mine. Angi was my partner in this ministry for the past ten years, starting with a simple jointly-written article and progressing to helping editor Greg Taylor move the publication from print to online, and eventually publishing it on our own. With her death on May 8, half my life and heart went with her, and it was simply too much to continue doing this.

100For a while, I could continue the conversation to the best of my ability as a loving brother in Christ … even with angry people, hateful people, bitter people, condemning people, people who could only see the communion cup filled with the blood of vengeance and exclusion for those who did not share their every view — rather than with the grace of Christ.

I don’t have the heart for those arguments anymore. And I was tempted to lose my own measure of His grace beyond what I cared to resist. I am much more interested in exploring new and better ways of sharing the Story, the gospel of Jesus Christ, with those who have not heard it, or who seek to more fully grasp it.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate every person who has ever contributed time, thought, prayer, money, advertising revenue, articles, encouragement, participation on the ZOE board of directors and music ministry which oversaw this ministry for a good long while, offers to assist, technical assistance and free hosting from Alliance Software (which I pray they will continue to provide as the site moves to an archive, at least for a while), leadership and spiritual direction, founding zeal, enthusiasm for resuscitation when energies and resources were running low — all of the vitality that made the New Wineskins conversation worthwhile.

I do, and with a depth of gratitude that mere words can’t express.

I would list the names, from founding Wineskins editors Rubel Shelly and Mike Cope through Greg Taylor and Eric Noah-Wilson to the last person to send me an article proposal just a couple of days ago — but there would be too many. You know who you are, and you know what a difference you have made in opening hearts to the greater grace of our Lord.

If New Wineskins has been as much of a blessing in your life as it has been in mine (and I sincerely doubt that is even possible), then that is all of the gratification that I’ll ever need from having served as her WebServant for all these years.

Thank you for your grace, patience and understanding as I close out that service.

And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the transcendent peace of His Holy Spirit and the love of our God and Father be with you always.

Keith Brenton, WebServant

New Wineskins e-zine
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The Return of New Wineskins

I haven’t been at this blog very much recently. I’ve been very busy.

Over much of the holiday season, I’ve been trying to put New Wineskins (http://www.wineskins.org/) back into good operating condition, adapting and installing new page templates, sketching out new editions and recruiting writers for them.

The January, 2012 edition opened a couple of days before Christmas and has been going strong with the theme of “Incarnation: Being Christ in the World.” I’ve been very excited about the quality and quantity of articles published.

Readers of this blog who are interested in writing for NW should check out the Writers Guidelines, and the quick descriptions of Future Editions. You might also want to get up to date with the ministry itself by reading my introductory article for the January edition.

NW needs reviewers of books, movies and music (from a believer’s point of view, of course), writers of articles related to the monthly themes and not related to them at all, creative types who write or take photos or create art. NW needs writers who will keep track of new items and upcoming events. NW needs fresh points of view and perspectives.

Let me know, please — at this blog, by e-mail on the site, or in comments there — what your reactions are.

We now return you to our irregularly unscheduled programming.

‘Restoration & Transformation’ – New Wineskins

It’s been a great joy these last two months to serve New Wineskins e-zine as guest editor of the January-February edition, themed “Restoration & Transformation.”

Early in the year, Senior Editor Greg Taylor and I discussed the possibility of recruiting a guest editor for each issue of the e-zine this year while he is shouldering the tremendous responsibility as lead minister at Garnett Church of Christ in Tulsa, OK (see his recent article segment in Christianity Today’s sister magazine Leadership Journal). Greg is also trying to arrange a return visit to Africa for his family, where they served as missionaries about a decade ago. That, on top of several other projects he has in the works!

I volunteered to helm the first issue while he has been leaning on some of our mutual friends and past writing contributors to serve as guest editors this year. I have to say, the response has been excellent and I am excited about the themes that they have proposed!

“Restoration and Transformation” is a compilation of some of the best blog posts, articles and other works that I could find on the subject of putting Christ first as the goal of restoring the church through the transformation of its people. Some – but not all! While there’s no limit on the number of pages or pixels I can squeeze into an issue, there is a limit on the amount of time I can spend toward it.

It’s been exciting to post works from Wineskins and New Wineskins contributors like Edward Fudge, K. Rex Butts, and Founding Co-Editor Rubel Shelly as well as bringing aboard some fresh, new talent like Ben Overby, Brian Mashburn, Tim Woodroof, Matt Dabbs and others. (I don’t want to spoil the surprise of articles yet to “go live” by naming them all!)

I hope you’ll lend an eye to each of these advocates for the kind of change churches need – restoration by way of transformation.

All Wineskins and New Wineskins Archives Now Online

I’m a little tardy with the announcement, but …

For the first time ever, all of the articles in both the online and printed editions of New Wineskins and Wineskins are available free online.

You can access any edition, all the way back to the inaugural issue in 1992, through the Archives link.

Some older issues have been named or themed in order to give you a more accurate idea of content.

While indexing by topic and author is still an ongoing process, you can always use the “Search” blank at the top left of any page to find articles with a keyword or an author’s name.

Some of the articles are timely – and you’ll read reactions to the Columbine shootings, the L.A. riots, the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9-11-01. Others are simply timeless.

You’ll agree with some of them. You won’t agree with all of them. (I don’t!) But if you permit yourself, you’ll examine what you believe and why all over again – and be blessed by meditating on those matters.

You might even find yourself drawn closer to God through Christ; closer to your brothers and sisters in your church family; closer to the person that the Lord wants you to become. (I do!)

You can comment on – if the scripts are functioning correctly – every article in the archive. Every one. You can register and/or log in to the site using your old subscription user name and password (or zoegroup.org user name and password) to participate in discussions in the Forums.

There are excerpts from at least a dozen books on the site, reviews for more than fifty.

Almost fifty interviews and conversations with noted theologians, authors and thinkers are onsite.

You’ll find a new area, News from the Vineyard, recapping current events in Christianity.

It’s all free. No subscription since 2007.

New Look at New Wineskins

Bigger. Brighter. Different type face. Hopefully a little easier to navigate and search, with a three-way search engine option that lets you select the New Wineskins site, the ZOE Group site, or just the ZOE Life Store. (Though you’ll still get “E-Commerce” results at the bottom of the first two searches.)

Those were my goals in the redesign of the sites, and I would appreciate your feedback, suggestions, bug sightings and complaints.

Greg Taylor, now Senior Editor, leads off the “R is for Revolution” edition with a chapter from his upcoming book, One Church from Leafwood Press. If reading New Wineskins makes you grumble about the old wine and the old paths being better, this article will send you running for the southern comfort of your old wineskin.

In it, he dares to suggest that there might actually be believing, saved Christians outside the confines of the Churches of Christ.

He asserts that our fellowship may not be as involved in activities to lead others closer to Christ as we should be.

And he concludes,

We’re called to unity with all Christians everywhere who call Christ Lord. When Jesus prayed his unity prayer, he didn’t parse every doctrine and neither will I here. We live the Christ-life and follow the rule of the Holy Spirit to keep that everlasting covenant God the Father has kept since creation. Christ and Paul and our own more recent forefathers such as Thomas Campbell call us to produce fruit and look for fruit of the Spirit in the lives of fellow disciples. Will Churches of Christ, Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ join this new restoration?

The comments attached to the article are beginning to accumulate like the ones posted to Editor Emeritus Mike Cope’s blog.

And there are even more challenging articles to come in this edition.

Look, you don’t have to agree with everything that’s published in New Wineskins. (In fact, I don’t. And my new title with it is Managing Editor.) But if it prods you to re-examine what you believe and what you practice in your walk of faith (as well as what you don’t practice but perhaps should), then your time and mine and Greg’s and Mike’s and a lot of other folks’ has not been wasted.

New Wineskins Access is Now FREE

Not just for the holidays. Not just for a limited-time trial period. FREE. Now. From here on out.

But I’ll let editor Greg Taylor tell you in his own words:

I’ve been waiting six years to finally say this to you . . .

Wineskins Magazine content is now completely FREE.

A huge part of my job over the last six years has been to make Wineskins Magazine accessible to a whole new generation.

Now, there are no more barriers. Wineskins is worldwide and FREE for all.

Starting now, you don’t need a subscription to access all the great content at www.wineskins.org.

You can read great interviews, articles, and reviews completely FREE. There’s no catch.

How can we do it?

God has graciously upheld the mission of The ZOE Group and Wineskins in many ways through good people like you. We will continue to advertise for your organization on 3 million annual page views and to a list of nearly 10,000 emails, receive your kind donations, and sell great music and book resources at The ZOE Store. These are the streams that will help sustain the ministries of conferences, online resources, worship music, and now the ZOE Growing Deeper and Spiritual Direction programs.

If you’ve subscribed for many years, come to our conferences, given financially, purchased resources from The ZOE Group, THANK YOU. Please keep walking with us as we help one another walk with Christ.

That’s it. Enjoy Wineskins FREE for Christmas, 2008, and beyond.

Blessings,

Greg Taylor
Managing Editor
Wineskins Magazine

So what are you waiting for?

Go! Go!

New Wineskins is Live at VitaSite

I’m very happy to announce that New Wineskins has gone live with the same domain name, www.wineskins.org at the new site host, Alliance Software.

I’m a veteran of a few domain name shifts, and this has been one of the smoothest and most trouble-free I’ve experienced. For a day, the domain name was pointed at the ZOE Group site, but that was a relatively minor inconvenience. Usually, a change of domain name from one server to another takes a few days to propagate across the globe anyway – and sometimes folks will get “404’s” for up to a week.

The past few weeks while I’ve been between jobs, I have really enjoyed getting the new site design in place, ironing out the kinks, transferring the necessary items from the old site, and adding new features.

My favorite new feature is expanded archives, with articles indexed by issue, author and topic (though I’ve only finished about half the topic pages so far). There’s also a daily quote from Christ on the home page called “From the Vine” and right below it, a linked quote from one of New Wineskins’ writing contributors and the article from which it was excerpted. It’s called – you guessed it – “From the Branches.”

At the bottom of each of the articles is a link marked “Comments” and “Trackback,” courtesy of HaloScan, which allow you to leave comments about the article or a trackback ping … and a link to the Forums, where you can also comment and discuss.

Forums are more fully-featured and there will be a home page poll or questionnaire as often as I can generate one. Also listed there are the articles for the issue that are coming.

And, at least until the subscriber database is transferred to the new site, access to everything but the forums is free. (Limited time offer! Void where prohibited!)

I just want to say a word about Alliance Software. I have described their content management system to friends as “simple and elegant,” which are two major points in my book. I could also add “practically idiot-proof,” which means that you can make boo-boos (I often do), but they’re easy to un-do. I’ve worked with a much more complex system – which will remain nameless – and even though it starts with a “v” like “VitaSite,” all resemblance ends there. It was bulky and pokey and error-prone, and that’s just all I’ll say about it.

Todd Austin and the good folks at Alliance have been holding this site in reserve for New Wineskins for the better part of three years now, looking forward to the switchover as much as any of us. They had a dandy design in place for it, but after three years it wasn’t quite what Greg Taylor was looking for, and (using some of its design elements) I hope I’ve exceeded or at least met his hopes for it.

New New Wineskins Site Design

Construction is almost finished.

It’s taken a while to put it all together – and it isn’t quite all together yet – but the New Wineskins site will soon be moving to its new location at http://wineskins.alsw.com/ and the domain name “www.wineskins.org” will hopefully be moving there soon.

Until the database of subscribers and their passwords is moved to the new site, access will be free to all visitors, as I understand it.

There are more articles, more book and movie reviews, more features than previously available online … and the archives now go back as far as the September-October 1999 issue.

I’ll be continuing to add artwork and text to the site and building in new features as time permits. So if you hear some sawing and hammering while you’re visiting, that may explain it.

For instance: Not all of the “Writer” listings are in place, nor are the links completed to the “Community,” “Culture” and “You” graphics, but they’re in process.

Begin your sneak peek by clicking on the linked headline above and enjoy the first three new features of the September – December double issue “In Christ Alone.”

And if you run across any knotholes or encounter any unwired outlets, please let me know!

A New Skin for New Wineskins

I haven’t blogged very faithfully lately, and you deserve to know why.

In addition to job-searching, I’ve been putting a fair amount of time and effort into the redesign of the New Wineskins site and transferring a lot of archival material from the current site to the new one. Right now I only need to move the “Living Jesus” and “Gospel of Mark” issues to be caught up.

And I’ve gone a little deeper into the archives in the other direction, too. On the current site, you can read articles as far back as the November-December, 2001 issue (themed “Postmodernism: Finding God in the Chaos”). On the new site, archived articles go back to the November-December, 1999 issue (themed “Resurrection Hope”) – another two years of back issues to catch up on!

It has been such a blessing to re-read these rich articles while keying them in for the archives. (I have a scanner/OCR program, but it’s more error-prone than I am – and I don’t always get to really read the articles when I use it; I end up proofreading the scanned text for errors instead of content!)

Quite a lot of those materials were transferred by Greg Taylor and Todd Austin before I started with the project, and just need a little “tidying up” in their source code. (Microsoft FrontPage adds a ton of unnecessary gobbledy-gook to HTML pages that just slows down the page build on your computer.)

On the new site – and this may not all be in place by the time the site launches this fall – I’m hoping to have all archived articles available by author and topic as well as by the issue / edition in which they originally appeared.

The topics section will be categorized under the main headings “Christ,” “Community,” “Culture” and “You” – sound familiar? I’m still designing the rollover graphics for the top banner of the site that will take you to them.

Also still to be done:

    • A special template for the home page.

 

  • Scanning and inserting graphics for many of the back issues in the archive

 

 

  • There’s still a little tweaking to be done to the navigation, incorporating a handy feature of the new site’s content management system; it lets you add major links to the navigation area without having to adjust the templates. Okay, that’s pretty esoteric stuff for those of you who don’t dig into HTML source code, but it means that it will be easier for Greg or Todd or me to help you navigate the site.

 

I’m really looking forward to the September-October issue. I’m pretty sure that a blog post by David U is queued up for publication. If I’ve counted correctly, it will be issue number 60.

I have lots of other ideas for the site that I haven’t even had a chance to talk with Greg about – so I won’t go into them here and now.

I could tell you the temporary URL of the new site and theme of the issue – and it’s not that I’d have to kill you later; it’s just that it’d spoil the surprise for you!