Renovaré has passed the 25-year mark. We have a new president and a strong board. We are stable and people are optimistic and enthusiastic about the future.

At this juncture I am utterly convinced that Renovaré will live on and on.

However many good things are currently within the organization, my statement of confidence comes from something entirely different. Renovaré is not about an organization; it has never been. Renovaré is about equipping a movement.

Gently, quietly, and sometimes subversively, at their best the people of Renovaré have been living and teaching the real and present availability of God’s Kingdom. This involves a practical strategy for spiritual growth (the spiritual disciplines), a balanced vision for our ecclesiology (the streams), and helping people become formed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (spiritual formation).

In the last three months I have been speaking on formation topics in South Korea, Canada, and England, as well as the United States. (It’s not nearly as cool as it sounds, my schedule just sort of worked out that way). I return from my trips encouraged by what I have seen. The work is happening. Something has been birthed.

Of course it’s always messy. We are human after all. We have an uncanny ability to distort and tarnish nearly everything we touch. But, in spite of it all, God is at work.

It is impossible and completely unnecessary to try to calculate the global impact the spiritual formation movement has had. Certainly we’ve seen formation organizations, classes, pastors, writings, degree programs, and resources popping up all over our country and around the world and certainly some things are more helpful than others. However once again, it is not formal structures or institutions that encourage me; it is the people and the values.

Now, I don’t speak formally for Renovaré. I’m not involved in the day-to-day operations or the decision-making processes. But, I have been watching and listening for the better part of the last 20 years and I want to tell you what I have witnessed. I want to talk about the values within the values, the informal culture, because what really excites me is when that pops up in places.

I like hearing my dad, Dallas, and others quoted. It’s fun for me; it’s novel and even sentimental. However, it is when the words are accompanied by deep, heart-felt, life-transforming values that make me aware that something truly special is brewing. Of course Renovaré has done well to articulate their formal values, but here are a few I’ve noticed lurking in the background.

Self-Preservation Rejection

People often struggle to pronounce the name Renovaré. No surprise—it’s Latin. The name means “renewal,” which may well be the most fitting description of its vision. My mother actually came up with the name, and my father liked its complete lack of branding appeal. When I asked him about the decision to name the organization “Renovaré” he simply smiled and said, “I didn’t want it to turn into some commercial enterprise.” My dad kept a four-inch model corporate jet with the Renovaré name and logo on his desk. For him this stood as “a constant reminder of what we must never become!”

Few know this, but when my dad met with the attorneys to register Renovaré as a 501(c) 3 non-profit he tried to apply a “death date” so that on a certain date the organization would disband and give away any resources it had accumulated to a like-minded group. Apparently this was not possible. Fully aware of the tendencies of institutions to lose sight of their original focus, my dad was trying to protect Renovaré from itself.

This is the gentle and intentional spirit of not trying to build our own kingdoms and institutions. It is forgoing the “bigger is always better” mantra and thus giving into the fear-driven seduction of self-preservation which seems to so often permeate the decision-making process in our structures.

Counter Cultural

The “with God-life” often calls us to ruthlessly seek to eliminate hurry from our lives. This value has played itself out many times within organizational processes and decision-making. Of course, the results throughout the years have varied, but for the most part it has enabled the organization to negotiate shifts and changes prayerfully and intentionally. There tends to be a preference to err on the side of moving too slow rather than too fast.

You’ll notice throughout the years the breadth of resources the organization has produced is fairly limited. My understanding is that this has been somewhat intentional, a sort of rejection of a consumer culture that is constantly asking for more, more, more.

From its inception Renovaré has freely given ideas away. For many years Renovaré events culminated with the launching of spiritual formation groups, the material always urged people to be free to call their groups whatever made sense to people in their context, again a push to avoid branding and organizational building.

Dallas was notorious for telling people that if he said anything of value that others should be free to use it, stating that if it was of value it probably didn’t come from him anyway. Certainly many have taken him up on this generous offer.

Relationships Matter

I think it’s safe to say that there has, at the least, been an undercurrent to favor others over self. This sort of thing is nearly impossible to find in our culture, but by and large, individuals within Renovaré have rejected the cultural norm of jockeying for position and rather have sought to promote each other. Speaking is almost always done in teams, and people are selected for their lives and content rather than their social or public position.

At its heart Renovaré is highly relational. Hence, when possible I’ve noticed a favoring of the small gatherings where conversation and connection can occur.

No matter how messy it can sometimes be, there is definitely a purposefulness to build and cultivate honest and open relationships, both within the ministry team and among the larger dispersed community of Renovaré.

Old Books

Not many organizations have championed the reading of old books quite like Renovaré. Of course the focus hasn’t been on old for the sake of old, but rather books that are engaged in, as my dad says, “the great conversation about the growth of the soul.” The richness of the great collection of devotional classics has been a huge influence on much of Renovaré’s writings, thinking, and speaking. Rather than turn this into a sort of intelligence snobbery, there is an attempt to focus on how reading a book slowly is helpful in the formation of the individual and community, instead of just plowing through a text and marking it off a reading list.

Inclusive in Nature

When Renovaré first began, it was nearly unheard of in America for people from various dominations to work closely together. Its founding vision of teaching across denominations remains. There seems to have always been care and concern to be just as inclusive of gender and race.

Holy Gaiety

One thing that I can always count on in Renovaré gatherings is lots and lots of laughter. Often things can turn downright silly. It has taught me an important fact: saints laugh, saints have fun. I’ll never forget Emilie Griffin handing out umbrellas and leading the ministry team in a playful march throughout the building and out the door singing “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching in.” Why umbrellas? I don’t remember. But, it was fun.

The Teachings In-between Words

Renovaré’s teachings have been so important to many of us. To me, the values tucked in the margins, the words between the words are as important as the teachings. It is the spirit of Jesus permeating what we do. Renovaré is not about producing written material or seeing how many Dallas quotes we can recite. It is about life with God. It is about character formation into the likeness of Christ. And this is truly a joyous undertaking.

I am fully confident that Renovaré as an organization has many fruitful years ahead and I am hopeful it will remain rich and vibrant in its continued service beyond our lifetime. But in a very real sense, it doesn’t matter because the teaching and the values of this with-God life are out there. Call it whatever you want. Start new programs and organizations and close down old ones. Honestly, I don’t particularly care what name lives on because something much greater has happened, something far beyond any particular person or book or organization. And, it is found in the whispers of lives genuinely transformed by the power of God. It is for this reason that I say with full confidence that Renovaré will live on and on and on.

These values reflect an intentionality to conduct its affairs in a highly Christocentric manner. I remain so thankful to all those who have partnered with Renovaré and other organizations through resources, community, prayer, and financial help. In so doing you have all helped to light the tails of the foxes and set the world ablaze.

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