Editor's note:

In utter depen­dence upon Jesus Christ as my ever-liv­ing Sav­ior, Teacher, Lord, and Friend, I will seek con­tin­u­al renew­al through spir­i­tu­al exer­cis­es, spir­i­tu­al gifts, and acts of service.

Last week, Ren­o­varé Board Mem­ber Richel­la Parham shared a bit of her own his­to­ry with the Ren­o­varé Covenant. This week, we are pleased to bring you some new reflec­tions from Richard Fos­ter about how the Covenant came to be, what it means, and why it matters.

—Renovaré Team

The Ren­o­varé Covenant is so cen­tral to the think­ing and liv­ing of the Ren­o­varé fam­i­ly. What Richel­la shared about the Covenant is spot on, and I’ll just add a few com­ments about the Covenant itself.

First, devel­op­ing the Covenant was a team effort. I worked with James Bryan Smith and sev­er­al oth­ers on the word­ing — espe­cial­ly Bill Vaswig and Dal­las Willard. I was the one to put pen to paper. It was so impor­tant to have the exact words so as to pack as much as pos­si­ble into one sentence. 

It took us six months to think through the the­ol­o­gy and devel­op the word­ing for the Covenant. In the back­ground of my mind were three ear­li­er groups: Elton Trueblood’s Yoke­fel­low move­ment, a group called The Dis­ci­plined Order of Christ,” and a third called The Order of the Burn­ing Heart.” All are gone now but they had a real impact in their day. 

I’m sure you noticed the high Chris­tol­ogy of the Covenant. This is quite inten­tion­al. It was to give us a place to stand,” one uni­fy­ing focal point for the move­ment. Peo­ple came from many the­o­log­i­cal tra­di­tions and many of those issues could eas­i­ly divide us. But we were to focus on the one supreme real­i­ty that was able to unite us. The back­ground to the Chris­tol­ogy of course is the bib­li­cal wit­ness. Also, we were draw­ing from the Quak­er the­ol­o­gy of Christ the Present Teacher” and the Luther­an the­ol­o­gy of Christ Alone.” (Faith alone, Grace alone, Scrip­ture alone, Christ alone … the four solas.)

You will notice that I includ­ed the word ever-liv­ing” in describ­ing Christ, which was to put a stake in the ground for the res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus. We could allow dif­fer­ences on many issues but the cen­tral­i­ty of Christ and his res­ur­rec­tion were non­nego­tiable for us. This gave us a place to stand for the move­ment: Give me a place to stand and I can move the world (Archimedes).

Then I want­ed to stress that Christ was not just a sta­t­ic doc­trine but that he is func­tion­ing among us. That is the rea­son for the descrip­tion of Christ as our Sav­ior (to for­give us), our Teacher (to instruct us), our Lord (to rule us) and our Friend (to come along­side us). Those who have stud­ied the­ol­o­gy will rec­og­nize that this is anoth­er way of describ­ing the clas­si­cal offices of Christ as Prophet, Priest and King.” It was Dal­las who sug­gest­ed we add Friend” to the offices of Christ, of course drawn from John 13:14, You are my friends if you do what­so­ev­er I com­mand you.” 

Then, and only then, comes the verb I will seek.” This is the state­ment of inten­tion. It is, if you will, the invi­ta­tion” at the end of the ser­vice. And what do we seek? We seek con­tin­u­al renew­al” which is an effort to stress the impor­tance of progress in the spir­i­tu­al life. Here we are draw­ing from the great con­ver­sa­tion about the growth of the soul that is found all through the devo­tion­al classics. 

Then comes the means of grace, through spir­i­tu­al gifts, spir­i­tu­al exer­cis­es and acts of ser­vice.” The phrase spir­i­tu­al gifts” draws from the charis­mat­ic empha­sis upon the pow­er of the Holy Spir­it. The phrase spir­i­tu­al exer­cis­es” draws from the strong empha­sis of the devo­tion­al clas­sics upon spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines as the key means for the for­ma­tion of the per­son. Acts of ser­vice” draws both from the Catholic and the Wes­leyan empha­sis upon doing acts of mercy.” 

Well, that gives you a thumb­nail sketch about the the­ol­o­gy that informs the Covenant. In the Region­al Con­fer­ences I used to devote an entire ses­sion to unpack­ing the Covenant and the com­mon dis­ci­plines and why those two must go togeth­er — the Covenant as the word of inten­tion, and the com­mon dis­ci­plines (which are drawn from the six great tra­di­tions: con­tem­pla­tive, holi­ness, charis­mat­ic, social jus­tice, evan­gel­i­cal and incar­na­tion­al) as the means for ful­fill­ing the Covenant.

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Originally published June 2016