Introductory 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.

Sign the Ren­o­varé Covenant.

Text First Published June 2016

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

View Selections & Learn More >