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
vision is simple and straightforward: a life of flaming love for
God with all our "heart, soul, mind, and strength" (Deut. 6:4; Mark
• 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.
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.
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.
addition, we have targeted five major geographic areas for penetration.
Since we began in the States we established
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.
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.
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
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
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