Introductory Note:

Next month Renovaré will officially welcome a new president. Seven years ago, in 2015, we were at a similar juncture. Our current president, Chris Hall, was just joining the Renovaré team. New initiatives were on the horizon. There was a sense of excitement and perhaps some uneasiness about the future, as there is during any transition. Nathan Foster marked the occasion by writing this essay on “Why Renovaré Will Live On.”

If someone didn’t read beyond the title, he or she might assume it’s self-congratulatory. But do read on. This is the opposite of endurance for the sake of legacy, ego, or institutional self-preservation. The longevity of Renovaré is about continuing to contribute to the spiritual formation movement for as long as the Church needs support guiding people into a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we look back on the past seven years we are so thankful for the blessing of Chris Hall’s leadership. We have thriving initiatives to celebrate and exciting plans for upcoming resources and events. But Nate’s 2015 assessment holds up: it isn’t our programs or our history that justify our existence, but rather the work God is doing that reaffirms our mission and calls us to continue.

Renovaré Team

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. 

Many good things are hap­pen­ing with­in the orga­ni­za­tion, but 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.1 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 more 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 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 resist­ing the fear-dri­ven seduc­tion of self-preservation. 

Counter-Cul­tur­al

The with-God life” often calls us to ruth­less­ly 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

Ren­o­varé team mem­bers seek to ele­vate each oth­er over self. Speak­ing at events 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, I’ve noticed that small gath­er­ings are favored, places where con­ver­sa­tion and con­nec­tion can occur. 

No mat­ter how messy it can some­times be, there is def­i­nite­ly an inten­tion­al­i­ty to 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 old for the sake of old.” Rather we spot­light books that are engaged in, what my dad calls the great con­ver­sa­tion about the growth of the soul.” The rich­ness 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 scholas­tic snob­bery, there is an attempt to focus on how read­ing a book slow­ly helps form 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 dif­fer­ing Chris­t­ian tra­di­tions and denom­i­na­tions to work close­ly togeth­er. The found­ing vision of col­lab­o­rat­ing across denom­i­na­tion­al lines remains, along with a gen­uine desire to grow in diversity. 

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. What mat­ters is that the teach­ing and val­ues of this with-God life have made their way into people’s hearts. 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. 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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  1. When this piece was writ­ten, Nathan was not yet on staff. He now serves as Renovaré’s Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ty Life. ↩︎

Pho­to by Jr Kor­pa on Unsplash

Text First Published March 2015 · Last Featured on Renovare.org January 2022

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