Stages of Renewal

I listened to a lecture the other day that concluded with Mark Driscoll quoting Rick Warren on seven stages of renewal.  I can certainly see the pattern to be accurate in my experience and I thought it was very succinctly stated.

I have incorporated some of my thoughts and experience to each of the seven stages and conclude with two quotes that, from my viewpoint, help us to to engage the stages.

1. Personal renewal is about loving God and begins with acknowledging Jesus Christ as our greatest treasure and the object of worship. Personal renewal occurs as we recognize our spiritual poverty and surrender afresh to loving care and instruction of a God who is alive and available. The outflow of this active and intentional surrender is prayer, the reading and study of Scripture, and a growing worship of Jesus and connectedness with him – which renews us from the inside out.

2. Relational renewal is about authentically loving others.  As we embrace personal renewal with Jesus an initial effect is that we have new hope for people and pursue them in love. If married, relational renewal begins with our spouse. And, if we are parents our children ensue. Relational renewal allows us to be authentic around others, stop pretending and performing, and simply be in loving community where we are known and know others, with deep gratitude for the work of the gospel.

3. Missional renewal awakens in us a hope and love for the Great Co-mission. Once we have personal and relational renewal, the result is that God’s people want to be on mission together doing what God calls the church to accomplish. Without personal renewal, a church cannot have relational renewal. And, without both a church has no life or unity that allows them to press forward on mission with God together.

4. Internal cultural renewal happens as the fruit of personal, relational, and missional renewal forms a new culture of grace internally and new passion for lost people externally. In a church this results in people trusting their leaders and one another more, wanting to spend more time together, worshiping with greater intensity, and hanging out longer after services – as they begin to realize they are becoming a unified community.  This also increases innovation, a willingness to risk, and a burgeoning missiology.

5. Structural renewal is necessary once the personal, relational, missional, and internal renewals have been initiated and creates the need to change how a church operates. What structures have hindered growth?  What structures can be implemented so the church won’t have a bottleneck as the church grows? There is no perfect structure in Scripture because every situation is different. Rick Warren speaks of changing structures just about every year at Saddleback. We can’t put new wine in old wineskins. As a church begins to get healthier and healthier, the structure needs to change.

6. Institutional renewal happens when Christianity’s institutions change. Institutions – like seminaries and denominations are usually the last ones to change; they have difficulty with the change process. Unfortunately, institutions generally exist to preserve the change of the previous generation. It’s like a tree – the growth of a tree is not on the trunk but on the new branches. Institutions are like trunks. They provide stability not innovation.  Innovation happens at the local church level.

7. External cultural renewal is the fruit of personal, relational, missional, internal, structural, and institutional renewal. It might be best described as the outworking of Acts 2:43-47: A renewed sense of awe, wonders and signs taking place, refreshed and authentic community, mutual identification amongst classes and cultures, equality, unity, enthusiastic joy, heartfelt praise, favor with all the people, and salvations.

Here are two quotes that seem to reflect the attitude that initiates the process:

Charles Spurgeon was converted on January 6, 1850, and on February 1 he wrote the following prayer of consecration:

“O great and unsearchable God, who knows my heart, and tries all my ways; with a humble dependence upon the support of Your Holy Spirit, I yield up myself to You; as Your own reasonable sacrifice, I return to You your own. I would be forever, unreservedly, perpetually Yours; while I am on earth, I would serve You; and may I enjoy you and praise You for ever! Amen.”

James Burns, in Revival, Their Laws and Leaders writes:

“To the church, a revival means humiliation, a bitter knowledge of unworthiness and an open humiliating confession of sin on the part of her [pastors] and people.  It is not the easy and glorious thing many think it to be, who imagine it filled the pews and reinstated the church in power and authority.  It comes to scorch before it heals; it comes to [convict] people for their unfaithful witness, for their selfish living, for their neglect of the cross, and to call them to daily renunciation and to a deep and daily consecration.  That is why a revival has ever been unpopular with large numbers within the church.  Because it says nothing to them of power, or of ease, or of success; it accuses them of sin; it tells them they are dead; it calls them to awake, to renounce the world [system] and to follow Christ.”

Post Valentine’s Day Thoughts

Learning to love well…

It’s been said that loving well is the essence of true spirituality. Loving well involves authentic interaction (or communication) with God, with ourselves, and with other people.

“Love reveals the beauty of another person to themselves”  –Jean Vanier, friend and mentor of Henri Nouwen

Jesus epitomized – and modeled spiritual and emotional health for us.

[Jesus said], “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” –Matt 22:37-40 (MSG)

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were not able to make the same connection with people as he did. They were competent, diligent, zealous, they were absolutely committed to having God as the Lord of their lives…they memorized entire books of the Hebrew Scriptures, they prayed five times a day, they faithfully tithed off all their increase — plus gave money to the poor, and they evangelized – yet there is little evidence that they delighted in people.

The word incarnate come from a Latin word that means – in – flesh. Jesus choose to limit himself to the confines of human history and a human body.

John 1:14 in the MSG translation says:

“The WORD became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes.”

Today the incarnated presence of God is intended to be the Church – identified in the Bible as the Body of Christ.

3 Dynamics of Incarnational Life…

1. Enter another’s world. James 1:19; Philippians 2:5-8

“Understand [this], my beloved brethren. Let every [person] be quick to hear [a ready listener], slow to speak, slow to take offense and to get angry.” James 1:19 (AMP)

What does it mean to enter “another’s” world?

To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. — Henri Nouwen

What does it mean to be fully present, or become “a ready listener”?

  • Put your own agenda on hold
  • Look people in the eye
  • Practice reflective listening:
  • Allow the other person to speak until their thought is completed
  • Try and restate their thoughts in your own words
  • Don’t try to fix people.
  • Be cognizant of body-language (only 10% of communication is verbal!)
  • Validate people’s feelings. We can validate without being in agreement. (Feelings are neither right, nor wrong, they just are.)
  • Try not to become defensive…

2. Hold on to your world. Ephesians 2:10; John 15:15

“For [you] are God’s masterpiece. He has created [you] anew in Christ Jesus, so [you] can do the good things he planned for [you] long ago.” Eph 2:10, NLT (singular & plural)

In The Emotionally Healthy Church Pete Scazzero states that this dynamic (holding on to our world) is the most difficult and challenging principle to apply. He asserts…

“It is the key to conflict resolution. It is the key to responding in a mature loving way when other people push and challenge your desires, values, and goals inside or outside the church. It is the key to serving as a leader, in any capacity…Without this ability to hold on to yourself, it is not possible to be an imaginative, creative leader who breaks from the status quo and leads people to new places.” (p. 185)

What does it mean to “hold on to your world”?

  • Recognize that we almost always have a choice. (The choice often involves choosing between “peacekeeper” or “peacemaker.”) Peacemakers create false peace.
  • Determine and set clear boundaries:
  • Identify and be clear about limits. Don’t allow people to make demands of you. Allow people to make requests, but not demands. If you hear a request that makes you uncomfortable, your discomfort may be a signal that this is an attempt to invade your boundaries.
  • Learn to say The Graceful “NO.”

“Good boundaries attract good friends.”

3. Live in the tension of both. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7; Matthew 22:37-40

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor 13:4-7 (thought to be a description, not a definition)

  • Living in the tension of another’s world and your own world happens when we are willing to authentically connect with people across our differences (including religion and politics). Civil, or respectful, dialogue…
  • When authentic, incarnational Christian love, or spirituality, is released in a relationship God’s presence is manifest.
  • When we ignore conflict we create a false peace. Jesus was murdered because He disrupted the false peace all around him. True peacemaking disrupts the false peace.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matt 10:34

  • We cannot have true peace in the Church, or society, with pretense and façade.

To care means, first of all, to be present for each other. –Henri Nouwen