From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a May 1995 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.
Introductory Note:

A quarter of a century after Richard Foster wrote this newsletter to Renovaré participants, we can see that the early signs of revival, renewal, and awakening that he mentions here have indeed flowered.

We celebrate how the Spirit has stirred up “a massive longing for spiritual reality from all kinds of peoples, Christian and otherwise,” “a deep hunger for a life of prayer that extends beyond the superficialities of pop religion,” and other beautiful longings in the hearts of people around the world, and we must continue to be attentive to Richard’s questions:

  • What can we do in cooperation with God to nurture a potential great, new movement of the Spirit?
  • What might hinder a great work of God in our day?

Richard ends by reminding us that we are not in control of when or how the Holy Spirit moves, but that “we can come to live in, and even enjoy, God’s great surprises.” May it be so!

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

Dear Friends,

Many Chris­t­ian lead­ers world­wide — myself includ­ed — are sens­ing that we may be enter­ing the first stages of a great, new move­ment of the Spir­it of God. There are numer­ous ear­ly signs worldwide:

  • a mas­sive long­ing for spir­i­tu­al real­i­ty from all kinds of peo­ples, Chris­t­ian and otherwise;
  • a deep hunger for a life of prayer that extends beyond the super­fi­cial­i­ties of pop reli­gion, seen par­tic­u­lar­ly in two-thirds world countries;
  • seri­ous con­cern (as opposed to pub­lic pos­tur­ing) over racial rec­on­cil­i­a­tion seen in the dis­solv­ing of the Pen­te­costal Fel­low­ship of North Amer­i­ca and the for­ma­tion of the inter­ra­cial Pentecostal/​Charismatic Church­es of North Amer­i­ca, the renewed con­ver­sa­tions between the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Evan­gel­i­cals and the Nation­al Black Evan­gel­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, and the aggres­sive posi­tion on racial rec­on­cil­i­a­tion by Promise Keepers;
  • a great new surge of His­pan­ic Chris­t­ian wit­ness seen in the for­ma­tion of groups like Alian­cia de Min­is­te­rios Evan­ge­lios Nacionales (AMEN) which embraces 26 nation­al­i­ties, 27 denom­i­na­tions, and 21 para­church organizations;
  • man­i­fes­ta­tions of signs and won­ders” (both authen­tic and man­u­fac­tured) stem­ming from the Toron­to Bless­ing” expe­ri­ence which is dra­mat­i­cal­ly affect­ing many Chris­t­ian groups, espe­cial­ly on the British scene;
  • reports from numer­ous Amer­i­can Chris­t­ian col­leges (Howard Payne, East­ern Nazarene, Hous­ton Bap­tist, Gor­don, Olivet Nazarene, Wheaton, etc.) of pro­tract­ed meet­ings marked by repen­tance and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion; and more.

The jury is still out as to whether these ear­ly signs” will blos­som and flower or with­er and die. Many things can hin­der this work, and oth­er things can nur­ture it — more on that later.


Three terms — revival, awak­en­ing, and renew­al — are often used to describe var­i­ous aspects of these mas­sive expe­ri­ences with God, and it is help­ful to clar­i­fy what we mean by them.

Revival sim­ply refers to a reviv­ing of the peo­ple of God. Think of a per­son on an oper­at­ing table who is near death, but through the skill of the physi­cian is brought back to life and restored to full health. Well, his­tor­i­cal­ly the Church — the peo­ple of God — fre­quent­ly has looked like that per­son on the oper­at­ing table. In fact, more than once observers have declared her dead. But time and time again Christ, our Mas­ter Teacher and Great Physi­cian, has reached down in sov­er­eign grace to revive his Church. His­tor­i­cal­ly these move­ments have been char­ac­ter­ized by a deep repen­tance of sin (pride, lust, bit­ter­ness, racism, faith­less­ness, and more) and a white-hot love for God (pray­ing, wor­ship­ing, singing, cel­e­brat­ing, and more). Most of what we have seen up to this point can be prop­er­ly thought of as in the pre­re­vival stage.

Awak­en­ing refers more broad­ly to the life of God break­ing into seek­er groups and oth­ers with sov­er­eign, sav­ing grace, ush­er­ing them into life in the king­dom of God. Peo­ple every­where are awak­ened — born from above” as the Scrip­ture says — and rec­on­ciled to God. Awak­en­ings are accom­pa­nied by a seri­ous impact upon the cul­ture in gen­er­al. Through­out Chris­tians are engag­ing the cul­ture on var­i­ous lev­els of art, music, dra­ma, pol­i­tics, and intel­lec­tu­al thought, all of which is done in a proac­tive rather than reac­tive manner.

Renew­al is an ongo­ing process, renewed day by day” as the Apos­tle Paul put it. This involves the spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion of the dis­ci­ple of Christ into the image of Christ, the imi­ta­tio Chris­tus. It is a train­ing in the spir­i­tu­al life with dis­ci­plines appro­pri­ate for each indi­vid­u­al’s per­son­al needs and spir­i­tu­al devel­op­ment. Through­out renew­al move­ments the cul­ture becomes pro­found­ly affect­ed. His­tor­i­cal­ly, these are times of great intel­lec­tu­al life and Chris­tians become among the most cre­ative thinkers and shapers of ideas.


In the nat­ur­al course of things, revival and awak­en­ing will draw dis­ci­ples into the work of renew­al. But, of course, we all know that the nat­ur­al course of things is some­times hin­dered, and when­ev­er this hap­pens, the indi­vid­ual is left with reli­gious expe­ri­ences devoid of the sub­stance of faith and the life remains firm­ly root­ed in destruc­tive habits of anx­i­ety, bit­ter­ness, and sin.

What are some things that might hin­der a great work of God in our day?

  • An obses­sive pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with end time sce­nar­ios. The clos­er we move to the mil­len­ni­al mile­stone — A.D. 2000 — the more we will see this. Such pre­dic­tive games are often tied to con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and deep-seat­ed fears. And often mixed in is an unbe­liev­able lit­er­al­ism, as one per­son said to me, Well, Jesus says we can’t know the day or the hour, but we can know the month and the year!” Friends, Jesus made it unmis­tak­ably clear to any­one will­ing to lis­ten to his words that the tim­ing of his glo­ri­ous return is none of our busi­ness. Our busi­ness, our only busi­ness is to live lives of lov­ing faith­ful­ness and see the life of the king­dom of God brought into the human sit­u­a­tion every­where pos­si­ble. And we live this way whether Jesus returns today or ten thou­sand years from now.
  • The dis­cred­it­ing of gospel min­istry through immoral­i­ty, sin, and rebel­lion. Chris­t­ian lead­ers are to be an exam­ple in word and deed of right­eous­ness and peace and joy in the Holy Spir­it.” Infi­deli­ty and adul­tery are wrong and are not to be tol­er­at­ed among those in lead­er­ship. Lying and cheat­ing are an affront to God as is pride and arro­gance. Nor is the Chris­t­ian leader to mim­ic the world’s sys­tem of posi­tion and pres­tige, but rather to take the role of a ser­vant and car­ing under-shep­herd. Hon­esty, integri­ty, com­pas­sion, faith, hope, love — all this and more should be the dis­tin­guish­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics of the ser­vant of Christ.
  • Chris­tians who vicious­ly attack oth­er Chris­tians over incon­se­quen­tial issues. Today there is a trag­ic inabil­i­ty to dis­tin­guish between issues of major sig­nif­i­cance from minor mat­ters. As a result, we have numer­ous self-appoint­ed heresy hunters who are with­out any seri­ous the­o­log­i­cal train­ing and who con­demn any­body and every­body who dis­agrees with them over any­thing. These peo­ple want to pre­serve the puri­ty of the faith, but they lack the his­tor­i­cal van­tage point of the defin­ing moments in the­ol­o­gy such as the for­mu­la­tion of the Nicene Creed, the great doc­tri­nal posi­tions artic­u­lat­ed by Augus­tine and Luther, the West­min­ster Con­fes­sion, and more. To be sure, it is impor­tant to con­tend for the faith once deliv­ered to the saints,” but this must be done from a clear his­tor­i­cal, the­o­log­i­cal, and bib­li­cal per­spec­tive. Oth­er­wise peo­ple will end up major­ing on the minors and dam­ag­ing the Chris­t­ian cause.
  • An anti-intel­lec­tu­al pos­ture which unnec­es­sar­i­ly pits faith against rea­son. Faith is not opposed to rea­son; it is opposed to sight. We need a well-artic­u­lat­ed faith that is ratio­nal­ly cogent and intel­lec­tu­al­ly defen­si­ble. To the ancient ques­tion, What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” we answer, Plen­ty.” It is not wrong to show the insuf­fi­cien­cy of intel­lec­tu­al­ism, but a pos­ture that ridicules the work of the mind dam­ages the Chris­t­ian cause.
  • The wed­ding of the gospel mes­sage to any par­tic­u­lar polit­i­cal per­sua­sion. The gospel has much to do with pol­i­tics, but it can nev­er be iden­ti­fied with any sin­gle polit­i­cal par­ty or move­ment. To do so threat­ens its prophet­ic role over all polit­i­cal par­ties and move­ments. The Chris­t­ian is to be the con­science of the State; com­mend­ing it when it pro­vides jus­tice for all peo­ples and cri­tiquing it when it fails to do so. To be co-opt­ed by the State for any polit­i­cal agen­da is to threat­en the integri­ty of the gospel and to flirt with idolatry.


What things can we do in coop­er­a­tion with God to nur­ture a poten­tial great, new move­ment of the Spirit?

  • Pray with sen­si­bil­i­ty, under­stand­ing, and inten­si­ty. It is com­mon and right to urge Chris­tians to pray for revival, awak­en­ing, and renew­al. But this needs to be done with good sense and under­stand­ing. We do not pray for some nation/​state to ascend to great­ness when we should be pray­ing for the king­dom of God to advance. We do not pray to be deliv­ered from prob­lems when we should be pray­ing for endurance to live through them. We do not pray against the demons when we should be pray­ing for the angels. Through­out our prayer work we should be seek­ing (and expect to receive) dis­cern­ment and prudence.
  • Influ­ence our great uni­ver­si­ties for Christ and his king­dom. One of the great lacks in the ear­ly signs” I men­tioned at the begin­ning of this let­ter is sub­stan­tive Chris­t­ian influ­ence in our great research uni­ver­si­ties. To be sure, there are many fine Chris­t­ian pro­fes­sors, espe­cial­ly in the hard sci­ences, but over­whelm­ing­ly our great uni­ver­si­ties are cen­ters of agnos­ti­cism and unbe­lief. This defi­cien­cy is sig­nif­i­cant for these places are the foun­tain­head for the great intel­lec­tu­al fer­ment of our cul­ture. To lose the bat­tle here is, most sure­ly, to lose the war.
  • Seek out lov­ing, non-manip­u­la­tive forms of Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ty and wit­ness. We are in the midst of a spir­i­tu­al cen­trifuge” where old den­si­ties are break­ing up and new den­si­ties are being formed, and peo­ple need to see new par­a­digms of faith and prac­tice. Jesus observed that the watch­ing world will know us by our love. And in new and liv­ing ways Jesus Christ is bring­ing forth an all-inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ty as its prime sus­tain­er and most glo­ri­ous inhab­i­tant. It is a com­mu­ni­ty of cross and crown, of coura­geous action with suf­fer­ing love that redeems. It is a com­mu­ni­ty of unselfish love and wit­ness with­out com­pro­mise. It is a com­mu­ni­ty buoyed up by a the­ol­o­gy of Christ’s ever­last­ing rule, not only immi­nent on the hori­zon but already com­ing to birth in our midst.
  • Encour­age a lead­er­ship which is equipped to labor in the move­ment of God. The day of the super­star is over. In the new move­ment of God it will not mat­ter who is up front or who gets the acco­lades. The new lead­er­ship under God will be free to give way to one anoth­er. It will be a lead­er­ship who has a con­tin­u­ing hunger for God, a deep sat­is­fac­tion in prayer, and the abil­i­ty to for­give oth­ers at great per­son­al loss. It will be a lead­er­ship who has a real­is­tic assess­ment of per­son­al abil­i­ties and lim­i­ta­tions, a fun­da­men­tal free­dom from boast­ing about spir­i­tu­al accom­plish­ments, and a demon­strat­ed abil­i­ty to live out the demands of life patient­ly and wise­ly. Above all it will be a lead­er­ship who has a deep sense of being estab­lished” in God for oth­er­wise such lead­ers are too dan­ger­ous to be allowed into the soul space of oth­ers to influ­ence their spirits.
  • Trust in our lov­ing Lord who sov­er­eign­ly pours out his Spir­it where he wills, when he wills, and upon whom he wills. One of the clear­est signs that any move­ment is from the hand of God is that no sin­gle human being is in charge of it. No manip­u­lat­ing, no man­ag­ing, no con­trol­ling. God is in charge of this oper­a­tion from start to fin­ish. In truth, He’s got the whole world in his hands.” We do not need to fear. And we must be pre­pared for God to work his work among whomev­er he choos­es and in what­ev­er ways please him. Most cer­tain­ly his ways will sur­prise us, but we can come to live in, and even enjoy, God’s great sur­pris­es. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Pho­to by Thomas Kin­to on Unsplash

Text First Published May 1995 · Last Featured on October 2022

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