From the Renovaré Newsletter Archive

The selection below is from a May 2005 Renovaré newsletter. Download a PDF of the original newsletter.
Introductory Note:

How can prayerful attention to what the Spirit has been emphasizing and affirming guide us into the future? This now vintage letter from Renovaré’s founder is perhaps one of the best statements of “who we are and who we hope to be” as contributors to God’s spiritual formation movement. Richard Foster gives some backstory about the message and focus of Renovaré that developed in early days—like the “ecclesiastically positive” mindset that supports the Church and celebrates “distinctive spiritual insights” from across the denominations. These foundational commitments continue to guide our work at Renovaré but they also light the path forward for all Christ’s followers. In our various spheres of influence and local expressions of the People of God, there is an ongoing need for “fleshed-out love,” teamwork, historical perspective, ecumenical cooperation, and the grand vision of continual renewal through discipleship to Jesus.

Renovaré Team

Dear Friends,

What is the future for Ren­o­varé? An excel­lent ques­tion and I’d like for you and I to think about it togeth­er in this pas­toral let­ter. Of course, the most true and hon­est answer we can give to such a pen­e­trat­ing ques­tion is, We real­ly don’t know!” No one knows, save God alone. We do our best think­ing and plan­ning. We study the cur­rents of con­tem­po­rary cul­ture and con­sid­er how we ought to respond and what we might do to nur­ture a more life-giv­ing soci­ety. We prayer­ful­ly lis­ten and wait for the Divine Whis­per. We step out when we feel the time and the action is right. But where it will all lead we sim­ply do not know.

To illus­trate: I recent­ly received a let­ter from a per­son I believe has a gen­uine prophet­ic gift. She shared an encour­ag­ing and chal­leng­ing prophe­cy about Ren­o­varé. Encour­ag­ing” because it remind­ed me that God tru­ly is in charge of the good ship Ren­o­varé. Chal­leng­ing” because it called us to ven­ture out into the spir­i­tu­al unknown bold­ly, con­fi­dent­ly. How­ev­er, if I were to con­dense the prophet­ic mes­sage itself into one phrase it was sim­ply this: Things are going to change.” Well, yes, okay, but: How? When? Who? What? Where? These are mat­ters unknown to us. You see, even the most spir­i­tu­al­ly astute of us still peer through a glass dark­ly. Even so, it is incum­bent upon us to do every­thing pos­si­ble to look ahead and con­sid­er the future face of Ren­o­varé — ten, fif­teen, even twen­ty years from now.

A Look Back: The Mes­sage and the Messengers

Look­ing for­ward is almost always sharp­ened by look­ing back. Fif­teen odd years ago Ren­o­varé start­ed out with no mate­r­i­al things” … just a mes­sage ham­mered out on the hard anvil of our expe­ri­ence with God.

  • A mes­sage about the good news of the avail­abil­i­ty of life in the king­dom of God, here, now.

  • A mes­sage of Jesus alive and here to teach his peo­ple himself.

  • A mes­sage of gen­uine form­ing, con­form­ing, trans­form­ing life in and through Jesus.

  • A mes­sage of God’s grace-filled invi­ta­tion for us to coop­er­ate in this trans­form­ing work through spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines appro­pri­ate to our need and growth.

  • A mes­sage of break­ing down the old walls that sep­a­rate and iso­late us.

  • And more .…

From its incep­tion Ren­o­varé has been an eccle­si­as­ti­cal­ly pos­i­tive move­ment. We are inter­de­nom­i­na­tion­al and mul­ti-denom­i­na­tion­al, and at the same time trans-denom­i­na­tion­al. Rather than bypass­ing or avoid­ing denom­i­na­tion­al life, we want­ed to gain from the best insights of all the denom­i­na­tions. Instead of a reli­gion of the least com­mon denom­i­na­tor we urge the denom­i­na­tions to bring us their most dis­tinc­tive spir­i­tu­al insights. We have found that the great spir­i­tu­al trea­sures are almost always loan­able,” espe­cial­ly when our com­mon core in Jesus Christ is firm. We want the Pres­by­te­ri­ans to teach us about God’s sov­er­eign­ty and the Bap­tists to teach us about evan­ge­lism and the Men­non­ites to teach us about com­mu­ni­ty life and the Nazarenes to teach us about holi­ness and the Methodists to teach us about social jus­tice and the Luther­ans to teach us about jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by faith alone and Roman Catholics to teach us about litur­gi­cal life. And so on.

Fur­ther, we have always been an intra-church move­ment. We have no inter­est in doing an end-run around the church­es. Far from it, we are com­mit­ted to the Church of Jesus Christ in all her mul­ti­fac­eted expres­sions. We believe in local con­gre­ga­tions, even with all their imper­fec­tions and frus­tra­tions. And we know that new, cre­ative expres­sions of the Peo­ple of God will con­tin­ue to burst onto the scene, and we are for them too.

That has been, and is, our mes­sage. The mes­sen­gers in those ear­ly days were few in num­ber: myself and Dal­las Willard and Mar­ti Ensign and Jim Smith and Bill Vaswig and Gayle With­nell and Roger Fredrik­son and a few oth­ers. Even then, though few in num­ber, we decid­ed to work in teams when­ev­er pos­si­ble. Peo­ple need­ed to see our mes­sage embod­ied in the love we had for each oth­er. With­out this fleshed-out love the mes­sage would be under­cut and of lit­tle effect for the form­ing of lives into Christ­like­ness. In the ear­ly days when peo­ple asked me to speak, I always insist­ed on the inclu­sion of oth­er team mem­bers as well, and that insis­tence helped to devel­op us as a com­mu­ni­ty of love. Far from per­fect, to be sure, but always deep­en­ing in our love for each oth­er and for all people.

And Today: Two Sig­nif­i­cant Changes

Two sig­nif­i­cant changes have occurred since those ear­ly days. First, the num­bers of indi­vid­u­als who get” the Ren­o­varé mes­sage of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion has increased dra­mat­i­cal­ly. All over this coun­try peo­ple real­ly are step­ping into this life that is life indeed.” The Ren­o­varé vision has become embed­ded in the con­scious­ness of mul­ti­tudes and we thank God for it. Fif­teen years ago folk were ask­ing for me and I was urg­ing them into Ren­o­varé style events; five years ago prob­a­bly 60% were ask­ing for me and 40% were ask­ing for the mes­sage of Ren­o­varé; today maybe 30% ask for me and 70% are look­ing for the Ren­o­varé mes­sage and are glad for any num­ber of mes­sen­gers who can right­ly embody and artic­u­late the mes­sage. For exam­ple, our ini­tia­tive into Africa last fall was done entire­ly with­out me, and at the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence in June we will be hav­ing key lead­ers from Africa with us — lead­ers that are capa­ble of speak­ing the Ren­o­varé mes­sage into African cul­ture far bet­ter than I ever could. The same could be said for our Korea and Britain and Ire­land ini­tia­tives. For this change I thank God. It gives us high hopes for the future, for, as we all know, a day will come when I will not be able to give the same vis­i­ble pres­ence to Ren­o­varé that is now the case.

The sec­ond change (and it is sig­nif­i­cant) is the vol­ume of lit­er­a­ture now sur­round­ing and rein­forc­ing the Ren­o­varé mes­sage. Since Cel­e­bra­tion of Dis­ci­pline was pub­lished there has come Devo­tion­al Clas­sics and Spir­i­tu­al Clas­sics and Free­dom of Sim­plic­i­ty and The Spir­it of the Dis­ci­plines and The Divine Con­spir­a­cy and Prayer and Streams of Liv­ing Water and Ren­o­va­tion of the Heart and A Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion Work­book and Wilder­ness Time and a host of oth­er writ­ings. Beyond this is a ton of lit­er­a­ture out there now; it all needs sift­ing, of course, but many fine works can be found among a lot of silli­ness. And I must not for­get The Life with God Bible that has just been released. It will give us a sol­id bib­li­cal foun­da­tion for all the spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion work we have been doing. This Bible, I pre­dict, will take on a life of its own. The Bible is God’s book and we can be con­fi­dent that God will take care of it. It will win its way into the hearts and minds of hon­est seek­ers. And it is ful­ly capa­ble of stand­ing on its own in the open mar­ket of ideas. I expect this new study Bible to be a fan­tas­tic aid in our ongo­ing engage­ment with con­tem­po­rary cul­ture. In addi­tion, I just yes­ter­day signed con­tracts with Harper­San­Fran­cis­co for six­teen sup­ple­men­tal books to sur­round The Life with God Bible. One is a uni­ty of the Bible” book and the oth­er fif­teen will be study books designed to help peo­ple walk through the entire Bible with spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion themes in mind.

And Into The Future: Four Dar­ing Proposals

The future is bright. Renovaré’s begin­ning efforts have reaped a sub­stan­tial har­vest and now it should be con­sid­ered the major move­ment with­in the field of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion. A sol­id foun­da­tion has been laid. But now we must look to the future, and not just the imme­di­ate future. To that end allow me to cast a vision for per­haps the next fif­teen to twen­ty years in areas I believe God would have Ren­o­varé move into, con­fi­dent of divine lead­ing and undergirding.

  1. I long to see the gath­er­ing togeth­er of mul­ti­plied num­bers of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion based con­gre­ga­tions” through­out the US and beyond. In the begin­ning days it was impor­tant for us to cast the vision of spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion as broad­ly as pos­si­ble. We have done this and mul­ti­plied thou­sands of indi­vid­u­als have respond­ed. We thank the Lord.
    Now it is time to see this vision find root in con­gre­ga­tion­al life. We are link­ing efforts with oth­er groups like The Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion Forum near Chica­go and Springs of Liv­ing Water near Philadel­phia and the Jesus Con­nec­tion near Kansas City that are work­ing with many of the same con­cerns. At the Inter­na­tion­al Con­fer­ence, we will have a con­gre­ga­tion­al spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion work­shop track, and we hope to learn much from that expe­ri­ence. What future ini­tia­tives we will be tak­ing is yet to be deter­mined. The oper­at­ing idea is to see a sub­stan­tial increase in the num­ber of church­es that val­ue spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion as the orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple of their con­gre­ga­tion­al life. And to see them work­ing togeth­er; shar­ing resources, shar­ing suc­cess­es, shar­ing fail­ures, shar­ing staff … shar­ing, shar­ing, sharing.

  2. I long to see the nur­tur­ing and deep­en­ing of the spir­i­tu­al for­ma­tion life of the glob­al house church move­ment. This is a non-tra­di­tion­al church expres­sion that has been explod­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly in Africa, Asia, and South Amer­i­ca. (It has had only lim­it­ed suc­cess in the West­ern World in pock­ets of the Pacif­ic North­west, Cana­da, and Eng­land.) Think of it this way: In the tra­di­tion­al church mod­el we have a church with small groups; in the house church mod­el the church is small groups.
    In the West some are now speak­ing of this as the home church­ing move­ment” and Ren­o­varé has much to give this bur­geon­ing effort. In their vast expe­ri­ence, our Ren­o­varé Spir­i­tu­al For­ma­tion Groups have sub­stan­tive insights to bring to the table. We can enhance the move­ment with a dis­ci­ple­ship ele­ment that is rich in his­tor­i­cal per­spec­tive. In addi­tion, we have an eccle­si­as­ti­cal empha­sis of net­work and con­nec­tion that stands in stark con­trast to the inde­pen­dent, stand-alone mod­el of many house church­es. In some respects the glob­al house church move­ment is akin to the emer­gent church move­ment that is being talked about so much in the US; in oth­er ways the two are quite dis­tinct. We want to encour­age and give depth to both. To learn more on this top­ic I would direct you to Dr. Rad Zdero’s book The Glob­al House Church Move­ment.

  3. I long to see new and cre­ative mis­sion­al efforts to seek­er move­ments every­where. These seek­er groups — not yet Chris­t­ian but deeply inter­est­ed in spir­i­tu­al­i­ty — rep­re­sent our largest mis­sion field. They are post-mod­ern in think­ing and near­ly all are aller­gic to insti­tu­tion­al reli­gion. Because Renovaré’s his­to­ry and struc­ture allows us to func­tion with­out either build­ings or hier­ar­chy we are ide­al­ly suit­ed to reach out in ser­vant min­istry toward these many seek­er groups. But to do so will demand of us new cross-cul­tur­al think­ing, writ­ing, and out­reach. It will become our great­est chal­lenge in the future. But, also, per­haps our great­est oppor­tu­ni­ty. As West­ern cul­ture con­tin­ues to deep­en in its sec­u­lar out­look and to hard­en in its anti-estab­lish­ment, anti-reli­gious sen­ti­ments, Chris­tians will need to find non-insti­tu­tion­al ways to flourish.

  4. I long to see a sol­id finan­cial foun­da­tion under­gird­ing all Renovaré’s efforts. It may sound strange to con­clude a vision­ary list of future min­istry oppor­tu­ni­ties with harsh finan­cial real­i­ties, but with­out seri­ous resources our most vision­ary dreams sim­ply will not get off the ground. We are so thank­ful for the won­der­ful, sac­ri­fi­cial sup­port that has come from pre­cious peo­ple over the years. In addi­tion to this, how­ev­er, the time has come to estab­lish sol­id, depend­able fund­ing resources for what we hope to accom­plish. Frankly, many of our most longed-for hopes and dreams have remained on the draw­ing board because we have lacked the resources to bring them to pass. Now is the time to work to solve this impasse. Last year we began Part­ners in Renew­al,” a small group of folk who have proven to be gen­er­ous toward Ren­o­varé in their giv­ing or in their pray­ing or in their vol­un­teer efforts, and often in all three. But we must do more, much more. We need com­mit­ted month­ly givers we can count on. We need to form a Ren­o­varé Foun­da­tion that can lay a last­ing finan­cial base under what we do. We need to estab­lish an endow­ment for Ren­o­varé. And more. Already one cou­ple has giv­en us $20,000.00 as seed monies to begin a Ren­o­varé endow­ment and in the months ahead we will be work­ing to build upon their gen­eros­i­ty. So the time has come for us to build a strong finan­cial base that is equal to our dreams.

Dar­ing pro­pos­als? Per­haps. And yet, I am remind­ed of the evan­gel­i­cal cry of William Carey so long ago, Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God!”

Peace and joy,

Richard J Foster

Pho­to by Rowan Heuv­el on Unsplash

Text First Published May 2005 · Last Featured on September 2022

📚 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.

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