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Renewal as a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth Paperback – January 17, 2002
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Worship Small groups Community outreach Prayer Evangelism Political action Missions Signs of renewal are springing up everywhere How can we encourage and sustain this spiritual vigor How can we make renewal a way of life Spiritual growth says Richard Lovelace depends on grasping and applying certain key biblical principles We need to understand how the forces of evil work against us and what God has done for us in Christ Lovelace begins by focusing on our need to develop a God centered kingdom centered life He then details the dangers and strategies of the world the flesh and the devil Individually we are renewed as we grow in Christ who accepts us frees us from bondage to sin and lives in us through the Holy Spirit Corporately we are renewed as we pray participate in community life increase our theological depth and reach out with the gospel in word and deed This book incorporates insights from seven years thought since Lovelace s earlier Dynamics of Spiritual Life Its shorter length and added discussion questions make it ideal for small group study as well as for individual reflection This is a guidebook for all who desire spiritual growth
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Firstly, Lovelace highlighted that renewal began with an awareness of God's holiness and our sinfulness. Without these basic conditions, there will be no renewal. However Lovelace seems to use the word `renewal' and `spiritual growth' interchangeably. Compared to his earlier work in which he was clear in writing about renewal in spiritual life, in this book he was rather vague in the use of his terms. He seems to imply that spiritual growth is equivalent with renewal. While this is true to a certain extent, spiritual growth is more than renewals. Renewal is reworking the same territory repeatedly while spiritual growth should be progressive towards a definite goal.
Secondary, I agree with Lovelace made is that renewal is both individual and corporate. Too often, books on spiritual growth emphasised on the individual or inner life alone. Spiritual growth has to be done in the context of a community.
Thirdly, Lovelace gave the impression that there is a progression in renewal by his primary and secondary elements. Renewal should happen individually and corporately simultaneously. There should not be a dividing line between individual and corporate elements. And both elements should be Christo-centric, not just the primary elements.
Fourthly, authority in conflict as a primary element is an important step in renewal. This is where an individual decides who is in command of his/her life- self or God. Unfortunately Lovelace concentrated instead on spiritual warfare rather than responsible decision making.
Finally, Lovelace made a good point about the theological integration of revealed truth and cultures. Too often, our spiritual growth models are very western in its approach without being in the context of our pluralistic Asian cultures.
Lovelace's thesis can be summarised as :
I. Precondition of renewal (individual)
a. Awareness God's holiness ( his justice, his love)
b. Awareness the depth of sin ( in yourself, in the world)
II. Primary Element of Renewal (individual)
b. Sanctification. in Jesus
c. The Holy Spirit within.
d. Authority in conflict.
III. Secondary Elements of Renewal (corporate)
a. Mission (proclamation, social work)
b. Prayer (individual, corporate)
c. Community (micro, macro)
d. Theological integration ( revealed truth, culture)
It is not until the end of the book that we come to understand from where Lovelace is coming. As a product of Yale philosophy, he found himself as a new Christian amid a flotsam of conflicting theologies and therefore sought to build up his own system which would balance the leading of the Holy Spirit with the Word of God. Along the way, he seems to have come into contact with writings of the early Moravians and was influenced along those lines. It is here that he calls for a theological integration of theory and practice and, as such, he decries theologians as those who amuse themselves by making "generations of students jump through systematic hoops" (pg 187). This is not a call away from theological training. To the contrary, he suggests that laypersons invest in formal theological training so as to bring the church to a point where it can counter the ideas of modern culture.
Lovelace quotes Pope John Paul 2 in reminding us that we in the western world are the rich man while much of the rest of the world is Lazarus at our gate (Page 39). As such, we are called to be a blessing to the nations which, left to themselves, are pictured as rival gangs whose corporate selfishness drive them to war upon one another or, at best, to neglect one another. When the church does not take action or is even a part of the problem, "God sometimes raises up prophets among unbelievers" (page 86). Perhaps one such prophet is Zoltan Kodaly who remarks, "Capitalism is the oppression of man by his fellow man, and communism is the reverse" (page 91).