November 2005

 

 

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November 2005
 

A Pastoral Letter From Richard J. Foster

Dear Friends,

My concern in this pastoral letter is to write to you about the vision and mission of RENOVARÉ. In one sense I am talking out loud with you, for our entire RENOVARÉ Team is right now working together on this subject with the hope of hammering out a substantive position paper on the matter. We would love to hear your thoughts.

CLARIFYING THE VISION
The RENOVARÉ vision is simple and straightforward: a life of flaming love for God with all our "heart, soul, mind, and strength" (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:30).

• It is a vision of genuine, solid, substantive life in the kingdom of God, available to you and to me. Here. Now.

• It is a vision of the continuing, experiential reality of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).

• It is a vision of Jesus high and lifted up drawing all peoples to himself (John 3:14).

• It is a vision of us constantly returning to our first love, Jesus . . . and falling in love with him over and over and over again (Rev. 2:4-5).

• It is a vision of an ongoing forming, conforming, transforming life in and through Jesus—a transformative character development into Christlikeness.

• It is a vision of radical community life; an all-inclusive community of loving persons gathered in the power and fellowship of the Trinitarian presence.

This is a vision of LIFE. For you. For me. And I urge you: never leave off pursuing this life. Though it be difficult, seek hard after it. My friend, you can learn to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. You can learn to love your neighbor as yourself. You can learn to love your enemies. You can learn to overcome evil and to do what is right. Believe me, you can learn these things. We here at Renovaré are committed to helping you find just such a LIFE.

To be sure, this life is not automatic . . . though God bestows innumerable graces upon the earnest seeker. Still, developing and sustaining a life of loving abandonment to God involves an overall plan of living, incorporating special practices that care for the inner person. These are the familiar disciplines of the spiritual life. These we put into regular practice: prayer and solitude and study and service and worship and confession and celebration and more.

Through all of life's vicissitudes we must never allow anything to replace this vision of white-hot love for God. It is our first and last order of business. Nothing is more important than this. Nothing. Not good deeds. Not faithful service in the church. Not even missional labor in the name of Christ. Nothing. Love God alone. Adore God alone. Worship God alone. Be blinded to all other loyalties.

UNDERSTANDING THE MISSION
If our vision is simple and straightforward, the RENOVARÉ mission is complex and multifaceted. It is a mission deeply rooted in Jesus' commissioning words to his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:18-20). This threefold task of "discipling" and "baptizing" and "teaching" is essential, and essential in that order.

The "discipling" task brings us to the point of decision . . . decision to live under the kingdom rule of Christ. This is an act of will, a choosing to become Jesus' student, his apprentice. It is also the action that turns us from being creatures dead in our trespasses and sins and makes us alive to God (Eph. 2:1; ROM 6:11). As his student we are now enrolled in the School of Christ 24/7. As his apprentice we follow the Master Journeyman; listening to what he says, watching what he does, and seeking to live our lives as he would live our lives if he were we. All authority is given to Jesus and as his disciple (student or apprentice) we are yielding to this authority.

While physical baptism is a right and good initiating action, "baptizing" involves a whole lot more than just getting people wet. It involves our being immersed into the community life of the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are being baptized into the reality of the Trinitarian presence. As Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus, so we are in Jesus and Jesus is in us (John 17:21). We are baptized into the life described in Chapter 14 of John: participation with Jesus as the way to the Father and the truth about the Father and the life of the Father, and participation with the promised Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth and who abides with us and in us.

It is only after experiencing the realities of "discipling" and "baptizing" that we are ready for "teaching." This involves learning to come into the conforming reality of obeying everything Jesus commanded. No small task, to be sure, but a task in which Jesus promises to be with us right up to the end of the age. This is the work of spiritual formation which is so inextricably tied to the work of evangelism. Frankly, it is often "the great omission" from "the great commission." But the good news of the evangel is that a formed life really is possible, that we truly can learn to obey him in all things. Not perfectly and not automatically, but purely and fully as we learn to walk in the Way of Christ day by day. Accomplishing this demands Spirit-inspired, Spirit-driven teaching. RENOVARÉ seeks to provide just such teaching.

A MOVEMENT AFOOT
A movement is afoot today. It extends far beyond RENOVARÉ and can be seen in seminaries and colleges and churches and hosts of seeker groups everywhere. In more recent years it has coalesced around the concept of "spiritual formation," and it expresses the deep yearnings of people for a life of spiritual substance. All of this could go in many different directions, but in its Christian expressions there is genuine hope for individuals and churches to find a sure footing in character formation in Christlikeness. RENOVARÉ has been the pioneer in the modern spiritual formation movement, and I see our future role here in three ways.

First, we need to fuel the growing spiritual formation movement. Speaking and writing, conferences and retreats, seminars and training sessions, all aimed at continuing to fuel the movement.

Second, we need to resource the growing spiritual formation movement. Churches need coaching and consulting; individuals need teaching and spiritual director training; emerging church expressions need historical perspective and wise counsel. And more.

Third, we need to model a unique community life for the growing spiritual formation movement. In our recent venture into East Africa Glandion Carney was asked how our RENOVARÉ Team could possibly function together with its immense diversity of denominations. His answer, "When we gather together it is like heaven!" And it is, it truly is! Oh how we need models of reconciliation and unity, compassion and caring, vigorous social ministry and loving, respectful evangelism.

OUR GEOGRAPHIC STRATEGY OF PENETRATION
RENOVARÉ
has always sought to "light the tails of the foxes and let them go" (see Judges 15:1-8), and so we fully expect the ideas and vision for life that we encourage will go far beyond our actual organizational structures. This has already occurred and we desire its increase.

In addition, we have targeted five major geographic areas for penetration. Since we began in the States we established RENOVARÉ USA as a model for the penetration of all of North America. While we have been at this for a while there is still much for us to do, especially when we consider Canada and Greenland and Oceania and the many island countries in and around the Caribbean Sea.

Next, we established RENOVARÉ Britain and Ireland to function as a model for the penetration of all of Europe. They are now a registered charity in the UK with full independence and with an entirely British/Irish board. I continue to go across the pond as I can, but the bringing of the Renovaré message to Europe is really in their hands. And, believe me, they have their hands full.

RENOVARÉ Korea has been in formation as a model for the penetration of all of Asia. I have just returned from being with a combined gathering of Korean leaders from the U.S. and from Korea. The meetings were exhausting . . . and glorious. In their Board gathering (thrilling to participate in) they made the decision to begin the process of being fully independent of the US Board. They even want a RENOVARÉ International Conference to be held in Korea and we are looking into the feasibility of this. I will be going to Korea with a team in the fall of `06 and again in `07. We even have some contacts and possibilities for forays into North Korea. These leaders are highly visionary and energetic. Do pray for their efforts.

Our 2004 trip to Africa was most encouraging. In June we brought Anastase Rugirango of Rwanda to the States to meet with us. I was deeply moved by his pastoral skill, his deep commitment to Christ, and his ability in articulating the RENOVARÉ message. In November I will meet with Peter Mutisya of Kenya from whom I expect to learn much. Could these be the future leaders who could spearhead a RENOVARÉ East Africa effort that might be the model for the penetration of all of Africa?

A fifth continent is in our sights though nothing firm has developed as yet. I am referring to a RENOVARÉ effort in Central and South America. I made several forays early on in Costa Rica but nothing lasting developed. We still await God's timing here, but we are very much wanting to move in this direction. (Note to the purist: I'm fully aware that Central America is categorized as part of North America, however, it seems best for our practical strategy to think of it in conjunction with our efforts toward South America.)

You can see that our mission strategy is a large one indeed. But we must not get carried away here. We cannot allow the mission to squeeze out the vision. First things must remain first. Mission must always flow out of a deeper vision and experience of love for God. But, as you see, we sense God calling us to large areas of our world as he gives us strength and resources.

Our mission and opportunities to serve most certainly exceed our means. For this reason I ask for your help. In time I would like to call upon us together to raise a million dollars for each of the five continents I have described to you. For now I am asking you to give generously, even sacrificially at this year-end. Will you help us? Thank you.

Peace and joy,

Richard J. Foster


Permission is granted to duplicate this letter for free distribution. Any quotations or references to it should give proper credit to RENOVARÉ, 8 Inverness Drive East, Suite 102, Englewood, CO 80112-5624 USA

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