Editor's note:

For any­one who is curi­ous as to what the Ren­o­varé com­mu­ni­ty is all about, I’m not sure you’ll find a bet­ter primer than this suc­cinct and stur­dy piece from Richard Fos­ter. And for any­one who won­ders what we mean by train­ing over try­ing” in our life with God, start here, with Richard’s exhor­ta­tion to train in right­eous­ness” as appren­tices to Jesus Christ.

—Carolyn Arends
Director of Education, Renovaré

Ren­o­varé is not an orga­ni­za­tion. It is not an organ­ism. It is not even a move­ment, tra­di­tion­al­ly under­stood. Often peo­ple strug­gle with this. When I tell them, for exam­ple, that our orga­ni­za­tion­al chart is to do like Samp­son in the Hebrew Scrip­tures — to light the tails of the fox­es and let them go — many sim­ply don’t know what to make of it. Some, thank God, do get the idea and almost instant­ly become flam­ing wit­ness­es with­in the giv­en struc­tures of their lives. But many peo­ple, you see, are look­ing for an insti­tu­tion, a hier­ar­chy, a flow chart, a CEO, at the very least a sweat shirt with the Ren­o­varé name embla­zoned upon it. But Ren­o­varé has none of these.

So, if Ren­o­varé is not an orga­ni­za­tion, what is it? It is a vision. It is an idea. It is a message.

And what is that mes­sage? Jesus cryp­ti­cal­ly — and pow­er­ful­ly — summed it up in his oft repeat­ed words, The king­dom of God is at hand; repent” (Mark 1:15 and many oth­er places). That is to say, Reeval­u­ate the whole way you are liv­ing in light of this great fact; in and through the per­son of Jesus the king­dom of God, with all of its atten­dant life and pow­ers, is now avail­able and acces­si­ble to every per­son who wants to step into it.”

Train­ing in Righteousness

Now, the instant we turn and step into the king­dom of God we are born from above, as Jesus said, and we enter into a vast array of expe­ri­ences in the Holy Spir­it. These expe­ri­ences are glo­ri­ous glimpses into heav­en­ly real­i­ties — com­fort and care, strength and hope, guid­ance and prophet­ic wit­ness, bap­tism in the Spir­it and fill­ings with the Spir­it, and more. But right here we face a gen­uine dan­ger: these expe­ri­ences can be so blessed and so won­der­ful that we are tempt­ed to sim­ply stay in the expe­ri­ences. But we were not brought into the king­dom of God for the sake of expe­ri­ences, but for the sake of train­ing in right­eous­ness, and we must nev­er try to replace train­ing with experiences.

So in our turn­ing into the king­dom of God we are also enrolling as dis­ci­ples, or appren­tices, to Jesus Christ. We will be in this appren­tice­ship all our lives for this is the most basic pos­ture in our train­ing in right­eous­ness. Jesus says, Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gen­tle and low­ly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my bur­den is light” (Matt. 11:28 – 29). We become yoked to Christ, allow­ing him to teach us how to live our lives as he would live our lives if he were us.

This train­ing in right­eous­ness most sure­ly involves spir­i­tu­al dis­ci­plines appro­pri­ate to our sit­u­a­tion and our need: soli­tude and silence, prayer and fast­ing, study and ser­vice, and so much more. These dis­ci­plines are the main way we offer our bod­ies up to God as a liv­ing sac­ri­fice. We are doing what we can do with our bod­ies, our minds, our hearts. God then takes this sim­ple offer­ing of our­selves and does with it what we can­not do, pro­duc­ing with­in us deeply ingrained habits of love and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The Blessed Community

Well, to begin with, the divine com­mu­ni­ty that is under God’s care and direc­tion is already in exis­tence and it is doing quite well — it always has and it always will. While it may inter­face with human struc­tures of one kind or anoth­er, this com­mu­ni­ty is nev­er depen­dent upon any human struc­tures. It is, in fact, a divine com­mu­ni­ty which involves a whole lot more of God’s cre­at­ed real­i­ty than human beings, and we are invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in it.

So, first, with the eyes of faith we join in the joy­ous com­mu­ni­ty of the angels and the archangels, the cheru­bim and the seraphim, the liv­ing crea­tures and the elders, and all the hosts of heav­en. Then too — and this also with the eyes of faith — we enter the great com­mu­nion of saints with those who have gone before and who cheer us on. And final­ly —and even this is done through the eyes of faith — we prayer­ful­ly watch for oth­ers who are liv­ing and walk­ing in the life and pow­ers of the king­dom of God. They, I might add, may well be found in the most unlike­ly of places. Then we sim­ply slide along­side of them and jour­ney togeth­er as part of this all-inclu­sive com­mu­ni­ty of lov­ing per­sons, and God is at the heart of this com­mu­ni­ty as its prime sus­tain­er and most glo­ri­ous inhabitant.

Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Per­spec­tives newslet­ter, April 101999.

Originally published April 1999

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