Monday, 2 October 2017

Path of Renewal - A movement, not a programme

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

From the beginning, we've been at pains to make it clear that Path of Renewal is not simply another church growth programme - or, indeed, any type of programme. It is not an attempt to "fix" the church but a movement that seeks to recover the core purpose of what the church is about and work out how we live out those immutable values in our local communities today.
Many institutions have grown out of good and noble and sometimes radical intentions to provide services - religion, finance, education, health: The National Health Service (in the UK) sought to provide health care for all, free at the point of delivery.
The challenge is that, once these institutions become established, the radical nature of their instigation and their core values become obscured, not least by bureaucracy and by other competing interests.
In response to this, movements arise on the margins that seek to challenge the stagnation or status quo of institutions in an attempt to recover those radical principles on which they were founded. However, in an institution there are a lot of extraneous paraphernalia at stake, useful for maintaining an institution but not for delivering or engaging with the core purpose of the organisation and there is often a struggle to maintain the status quo that protects those elements of an institution, particularly when status or employment is at stake.
Sometimes movements have to constantly battle against institutions. Occasionally, the institution sees the value of a movement and offers collaboration to help it restore core purposes.
Those who participate in movements find their values critically examined by others. This is helpful in honing and defining the purpose of a movement. It also helps those engaged in the movement to embody the changes they want to effect. 
Our work in Path of Renewal, part of which is establishing spiritual practices that transform the lives of leaders involved is an important part of that embodiment.
In the stories of the Exodus of God's people from Egypt, we see God's people being transformed by the re-establishment of God's will and purpose in their lives individually and in community.
As they became settled in a new land, institutions grew up, a monarchy was established and corruption set in. Prophets then emerged to challenge those institutions and to lead new movements that re-established the core purposes of the people of God - to live in God's peacable kingdom where the lion lies down with the lamb by loving justice, practising mercy and walking humbly with God.
Similarly, we see Jesus and his disciples engaged in a kingdom movement, challenging the political and religious authorities of the day. And what a movement - one that included prostitutes and tax collectors, that encouraged parties but that also promoted focussing on the inner life - feeding body, mind and spirit!
The vitality of the church demands that such movements, birthed by the Holy Spirit remain active in communities today, embodied, contagious, always willing to challenge institutions by focussing on renewal, inspiring others to re-define core values and how those might be lived out in our different cultures today. 
Movements, though they must remain mobile and light on their feet, responsive to new insight and revelation, also require resilience and a commitment for the long term. Change, particularly cultural change is an ambitious endeavour and slow to effect. That is why embodying effective Spiritual Practices are essential for health and growth. These practices are also transformative for individuals.
And so we continue to be part of a movement not a programme, a kingdom movement that seeks to discern and realise the purposes of God today. 


  1. Thanks for this as it helped me see more clearly what the role of Path of Renewal is. I looked up the definition of 'movement' in the dictionary. Among others, definitions were; 'change of position', 'activity', 'motion of the mind'. As you said, real change can take a while to effect. To undergo learning and develop individually in the process seems to me a wonderful goal for all those engaged in it. If activity can lead to a worthwhile change of position it will be well worthwhile.

  2. Thanks Janet. I'm glad this has helped explain a bit more - though it's hard to nail down! And you're right, personal transformation is worth the effort along the way.

  3. For me the key words were "core values" and make me re-evaluate the meaning of church for me and what contribution I can make in its transformation in accepting God's will in all we do and say. It has certainly given me food for thought. Prayer for me is central and I think for the church too and it is here that is what I will focus on love jamie

  4. I agree totally with the ideal of PoR being a ‘movement’ and not a project. That changes your whole mindset in terms of its longevity and our commitment to it. A project has a fixed amount of time, and though it may lead onto other, longer lasting work, of itself it comes to a conclusion . It can be difficult to get folk to understand that difference! We certainly found that to be true in the job I did, but it is worth keeping on plugging away because unless we understand that fundamental and long lasting, transformational change is required, we are doomed - Dad’s Army style!