Renewing relationships begins when His mission reshapes our desire and prepares us for a better one alongside Him.
Every year since 1950, people have decided to leave the dominant faith in America. The interesting point is that they are not publicly changing their faith. It’s not a priority or value anymore. I often wonder why some people go to church or temple or the mosque while others don’t or won’t? I’ve heard people say:
People are busier these days.
There are more family activities on the weekends.
There are children’s sports on the weekends.
We only get two days off, so why would I want to spend it in church?
I get more out of reading my Bible alone than I do going to a church.
I commune better with God when I’m in nature.
The local church seems more concerned with ancillary issues than fostering my relationship with God.
All these comments are real for some and excuses for others. However, my point is that the riddle of why people don’t value coming together never gets solved.
The Jesus I read about was about introducing others to His Dad. He was about relationship. He spent extensive amounts of time with God. He humbled Himself to be a servant. He modeled it for three years with twelve apprentices. He took them everywhere and showed them everything they would need to know before they asked. He demonstrated that love in action equals relationship. It was the type of relationship that stimulated a desire to know more in the hopes of encountering a living God.
Missio Dei means “the mission of God”. Many believe this is the story behind the story. God’s will for us all is that all would come to know Him. The word “know” is not just information. It recognizes our need to grow in our understanding and experience of the relationship, so we can discern when and where to get involved. An involvement that puts into play the two greatest commands (love God and love others) so the people around us will open their hearts to the possibilities that God’s love has for them.
What does it mean to love someone? The Greeks had multiple words for love, but in English we have “love.” As a result, songwriters have struggled with this topic for years. Love is just too hard to define. However, one thing is for certain, love is the cornerstone of every good relationship. It’s as true for the people you meet, as the God you revere.
The larger question is how we can best live “love” as a lifestyle. Discovering this is what RENEW is all about.
We can never give away what we do not have. If you are good relationally today, you are an anomaly. It is the most critical aspect of being successful and yet so many are terrible at being in a relationship with others. We’re not talking about being an extrovert or an introvert. We are referring to the ability to demonstrate love for another in a way they feel valued, known and heard. Social media is a great advancement in the use of technology. It’s useful for keeping connected to those in your social circles, but it doesn’t foster authentic relationships or personal growth, unless you consider emojis a growth area. Rarely does a person share their most intimate thoughts online. They share what they want the world to hear or see. The motives behind a post or picture or video are fascinating, but you will never discover the truth about an individual without first talking with them, belly button to belly button. Trust is hard to develop electronically. We can argue about the power of teleconferencing but ask a person to close a multi-million-dollar deal over SKYPE or ZOOM and my point will be made. Trust is formed when people gather. The most precious aspects of any of our lives require us to be in relationship.
RENEW is founded on the vision that to discover a life worth living, you must first be in relationship with both God and others. Once either relationship begins, the authentic and compassionate nature of human beings fosters a greater understanding of the world around us.
Everything we do at RENEW is about fostering growing relationships. We gather around a table to eat because it lowers the barrier to interaction with others. We provide topic cards for an easy opening. We then move into a time we’ve called the “experience” so people can get themselves centered in the peace, joy and hope of this life. We offer music, art and a story to help everyone begin to think more critically before we break out into smaller affinity discussion groups. The experience is also about diffusing the tension of the world and infusing an everyday topic with a spiritual twist through the intersection of a spiritual and physical consideration. The final component is service. We encourage each person who comes to RENEW to serve somewhere. It could be the neighbor down the block, the local mission or another not-for-profit. We recognize God works in these areas every day. He fosters our relationship with Him in these times and helps us to continue the expansion of our relationships, so others might discover a life through living as well.
It really is the most basic of concepts. It’s easy to say and far more difficult to follow through because, inevitably, if it’s of God there will come a time when it gets hard. This is not a bad omen but a realistic one. It’s the moment the flesh (our will) begins to fight against God’s will. This is not the time to disconnect. These are the moments to walk in faith. As the folks in recovery say, “don’t quit before the miracle happens.” In the same sense, don’t stop the renewing of your heart, mind, soul and strength when the near future looks tough. This is when the real renewal begins because it reshapes your desire or prepares you for a better one.
For more information on the ‘Nuts and Bolts’ of a RENEW Group, check out Appendix B.