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.

Starting Soon: The 2017-18 Renovaré Book Club

You’re invited to a journey through four soul-shaping books, like C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Chris Hall’s Living Wisely with the Church Fathers. Read intentionally with a guided plan. Go deeper with exclusive study guides, essays and podcasts. Engage meaningfully in online or in-person discussion groups. Running late October 2017—June 2018, join now to receive the included first book.

Learn more >

Originally published in Perspectives newsletter, April 10, 1999.