Renewal Isn’t Easy

Look for God’s passion in your life.

What a blessing it is to be positioned in life and in this denomination of ours to focus on renewal. I am not the only Canadian Presbyterian who is emphasizing renewal these days, but as the full-time leader of the Renewal Fellowship Within the Presbyterian Church in Canada, I get to fill my days praying for, imagining, working towards, and trusting God for renewal.

What do I mean by renewal? There is so much that we could talk about if we were sitting over a coffee with some meaningful one-on-one time. (I am grateful for all those opportunities I have enjoyed so far.)

In an attempt at brevity, I’ll look at our passion as a dimension of renewal. We know it is desperately needed when our passion for important areas has waned and is perhaps even on life support.

As Christ’s followers and aspiring disciples, we need passion for God’s Word and God’s Son. For us to have communities of Christ that are alive and well, we need to renew our passion for the things of God. When passion is missing, I believe we lose our primary reason to be people and communities after the heart of God.

Jesus taught us about God’s heart for lost people. He continued to teach, in the tradition of the law and the prophets, God’s heart for the hurt, the suffering, the marginalized, and for justice for all people. When lost people or suffering people are not part of our passion in a significant measure, renewal is called for.

We should be able to find the marks of Christian passion in our people and our congregations in various areas of our discipleship. Are we passionate about evangelism and lost people? How about worship that includes a passion for stewardship? Are we intentionally impacting our communities and world in mission? Are we reflecting the love of God in our relationships? Are we known by our love for God, each other, our communities, and even our enemies and those we fear and mistrust?

Jesus identified the issue of unity in John 17. His prayer displays the central place unity should take in our relationships in congregations and between other faith communities. If we are passionate about Him, His Word and His church, we will be passionate about unity.

As I look for evidence of God’s passion in my life and witness, I become aware of the need for renewal. You can make your own evaluation of your life, your congregation, and your denomination. I don’t doubt that many of you will find a need for renewal, if not a deep longing for it. The big question isn’t whether we need it, but rather how do we accomplish it?

The answer is: we cannot do it. Renewal is God’s activity. We are the objects of renewal, not the causes of it. This is sometimes a hard concept for me to get right. I want to make it happen. Not just in my life and not just in the congregations I visit, but in the whole enchilada. If I can’t make it happen, then what should I do to bring renewal? What can I call all of you to do?

The first priority is prayer. It isn’t necessary to talk God into the need for renewal. I believe our prayer is more to give Him permission to do the heart surgery necessary so that renewal can come. That means we need to prayerfully listen. Listen to His Word. Listen to His Spirit. Listen to others whom God is calling to bring messages of renewal.

Renewal isn’t easy. It isn’t comfortable. It isn’t intuitive. But it is life. Life that comes from living waters. Not just life eternal but life abundant.

Thy kingdom come. Renew us, we pray.

Published in The Presbyterian Record on October 1, 2012.