Editor's note:

Christian community is like the Christian’s sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

One of the sweetest blessings of blessing comes within community life. As we serve and love our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are blessed twofold in return. Bonhoeffer continues in the passage quoted above to say, “The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.” 

Every August, the Renovaré Institute begins a new cohort of students from all over North America and overseas that is based in a new host city. Every autumn, when we gather for the first week-long residency, we witness a miracle no less miraculous for its consistent appearance: out of this varied group from all walks of life, strangers until but a moment before, we watch a community form. Through the next two years, we share prayers and tears and laughter as we journey together toward God’s highest hopes for us. After graduation, life-long friendships remain.

James Bryan Smith captured a bit of what we experience with each new cohort in this short excerpt below from the Good and Beautiful God—a book that we read through in the first course of the Renovaré Institute. Our Seattle cohort will begin in August. Won’t you consider joining us?

—Renovaré Team

Excerpt from The Good and Beautiful God

The Holy Spirit and community. 

The Holy Spirit is like a symphony conductor, orchestrating our communal life of prayer and worship and praise. But unlike a human conductor, the Holy Spirit endows each of us with gifts and graces that are meant to be used for the benefit of others (see 1 Corinthians 12). When we hear a sermon that touches our hearts, the Spirit is at work not only in inspiring the preacher but in softening our hearts and opening our ears.

In the book of Acts we see the Holy Spirit in every story as the early Christian community learns how to live together and participate in the ministry of Jesus. One of my favorite stories is about how the Spirit prompted the community to commission Barnabas and Saul (Paul) to go on a mission: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3). Notice the context: they were together (community) worshiping and fasting (engaging in spiritual disciplines) when the Spirit spoke to them. The Spirit could have spoken directly to any one of them, but instead chose to speak to the community. Then they laid hands on Barnabas and Paul and sent them off.

When we gather together in Christian fellowship, the Holy Spirit is once again at work, often imperceptibly, with the single intention of leading us to a deeper love of Jesus and the Father. I was leading one group through this material, I fell prompted to stop and use the last fifteen minutes of our hour together simply to pray with one another in small groups of three. I encouraged the people to share a bit about what they would like prayer for and then spend a few minutes praying for those specific needs. Within only a few minutes I looked around and heard people sobbing. We had been together for about fifteen weeks, but it was only when we opened ourselves up to one another and let the Spirit lead us that real community began to occur.

Now Underway: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? First, choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Excerpted from The Good and Beautiful God (Formatio-InterVarsity Press, 2009).