From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a May 2004 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.

Dear Friends,

A little over fifteen years ago now with God and a laser printer” we took our first hesitant steps toward beginning what we today call RENOVARÉ. In the early days we didn’t even have a name, just a passion that people be renovated in the deep subterranean chambers of the heart and know by experience the transforming power of Jesus in all of life. We were, of course, wrestling with the many issues surrounding spiritual formation — a topic much in vogue today, but back then it was hardly talked about, no less understood.

They were heady days; days of big dreams and heated debates and intense prayer. To be sure, we made our share of mistakes … and then some. But we also learned some valuable lessons that have guided our thinking ever since. So, in this fifteenth anniversary season I thought it might be helpful to share with you a few of the lessons we learned in those early days. But first let me add this small caveat; I would never want to turn these little lessons into anything like universal principles, nor would I pretend to know what is best for you and your situation and circumstances. These lessons are part of our story; if and how they might speak to your condition is a matter for you and God to discern together. Out of respect for your attention span I’ll confine myself to seven simple lessons!


In the early days I had the notion that in order to have a significant influence on the religious scene (not to mention the world scene) we would need some 300 employees and substantial properties and buildings. But as we waited on the Lord together and prayed and discussed and listened we were taught that perhaps, just perhaps, there is another way … a way of significant influence that is not necessarily tied to large staff and properties and buildings. And it seemed good to the Lord and us to explore that way. Hence, up to this point at least, we have chosen to own no land and no buildings and many of us are volunteer workers, earning our livelihood in other ways. This keeps our overhead to a bare minimum so that monies given can go as much as possible directly toward the nurture of precious people in their growth in grace.

Please do not misunderstand me; I’m all for properties and buildings and paid employees when having such things genuinely help further our mission and make our efforts more efficient. I work with many fine Christian ministries that have these things in abundance and I thank God that they have them. But I’m also keenly aware of the modern idolatry of the edifice complex” that is a plague in contemporary society, and we want to do what we can to raise a standard against it. So, for us thus far, light on our feet” seems to be the best policy.


We never want to become an institution that depersonalizes people, nor a machine that chews people up, nor a monument that focuses on the cult of personality. We work hard to be more like an organism than an organization. (In the early days we even debated whether we should file as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.) But we are, in some measure, an organization simply because organization helps us get our work done. The Holy Spirit does not have to ad hoc his way through life! Even so, we never want to become bound by organization. A movement is always dynamic, always nimble, always responsive to every movement of the Spirit. So, when and where structure helps us, we’re all for the structure; A movement is when and where structure hinders us, too bad for the structure.


Today distraction is one of the greatest obstacles to spiritual growth. Including religious distraction. This is something I determined we would never do if we could possibly help it. So we are constantly evaluating everything we undertake with the simple question, Will this help people grow in grace?” If not, it is not for us. And it is amazing how many times this simple question has protected us from wasting our energies on non-productive enterprises.


The advance of Christ and his kingdom comes first. Always. In this regard we must decrease so that Jesus and his kingdom life may increase. Indeed, we must be prepared to let RENOVARÉ die if doing so will better promote the work of the kingdom of God. Our real task is to take people off an over-dependance upon human beings and human organizations (including us) and turn them to Christ, their present Teacher. Life with-Jesus is what people need and what we must focus upon. Always.


When we are putting on events — conferences and retreats and seminars — we are constantly evaluating to see that they help and enhance the lives of people. This includes our own team. If we are pushing too hard, we need to back off. The health of marriages, the health of children, the health of our own walk with Christ is too important to sacrifice them on the altar of programs. We should not have to disobey the way Christ taught us to live in order to do the work God has given us to do.

The building of relationships among our own team is one of our highest priorities. Frankly, developing relationships is more important to us than getting the job done. We have discovered, though, that when relationships are strong and healthy the work that needs to get done does in fact get done. And we’ve found that the things that don’t get done we are able to live quite well without.


Flesh is humanly initiated activity without any reference to God. I have seen many things done in the power of the flesh, including the building of whole churches. But we cannot do the work of the Spirit in the power of the flesh. Following times of ministry work we will often put this question to ourselves: How much of what has happened this weekend cannot be explained by our skill or brain power, or how was our skill and brain power used in ways that is beyond us?”

It is the Spirit that reaches into the heart, touching and transforming inward and unseen realities. We simply cannot program our own heart, or anybody else’s heart for that matter. This is something only God can do. So we are constantly watching for evidence of the great work of heart formation and transformation in ourselves and in others.


Over the years I have learned something about the wisdom of waiting until an idea or project becomes someone’s passion. This demands spiritual discipline … and patience. For some things we have waited prayerfully for eight, even ten years, waiting for the passion and the resources and the maturity to come together in just the right person. Then we step out trusting the God who gives the passion to uphold the person and prosper the work.

Well, these seven lessons from those exciting, energetic, early days. Simple lessons really, but they have become important for us over these fifteen years, shaping our thinking and ministry. I hope you will find them helpful in some small way. And may Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, guard you, guide you, and strengthen you in all you are and all you do.

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster

Text First Published May 2004