30 Ways the Church Can Find Renewal

by Mark Votava


As I think about the word renewal these are some of the things that come to mind.  Sometimes I think the church cares more about money, power and status than renewal.  But as St. Francis worked to rebuild the church in his time by renouncing riches and following Christ, I think we can do similar things in the twenty-first century world.  I think God is leading us this way and I am wanting to listen to this leading.

1. Become rooted in a particular local community.  If we are not rooted in a local community, what I like to call the parish, we will not be connected relationally to others.  We will live independently, autonomous and isolated.  This is the breakdown of local community in our country and the demise of what will preserve beauty among the body of Christ, the church.

2. Collaborate and partner with others in the place you live.  The church needs to become a collaborator and a partner in everyday life for the good of the place it finds itself in.  Collaboration and partnership fosters renewal, respect and community.  Collaboration and partnership cultivates unity over competition.

3. Take a posture of listening to yourself, others, God and the place you live.  Listening promotes unity, openness and transformation among us.  Why are we afraid to listen in the place we live?  A lot of time is it easier to label someone as “wrong” or “stupid” than to allow ourselves to be faithfully present to them through listening.

4. Practice a contemplative spirituality.  Contemplative spirituality is one of the most neglected practices of the church.  A church that is not contemplative will soon turn colonial and violent.  Contemplation goes way beyond words and helps us to listen by becoming honest, vulnerable and open in our communion with what is authentic in everyday life.

5. Understand your Enneagram Type and practice Nonviolent Communication.  The enneagram is a tool of growth that guides us to understand how to live more fully human in all of life beyond our dualities that we have created.  It is a tool of self-awareness that will show us what is happening to us in times in times of stress and times of security.  The enneagram is made up of nine personality types and each one has a particular gift that is also its particular struggle in life.

I like this so much because we all have different personalities.  It shows us how to live healthy in our lives and how to avoid unhealthy, destructive patterns.  The enneagram puts everyone on the same plain as those we label as “leaders” are often thought to be above all struggles.  When we live into the unhealthy side of our type, we will not live into our true self and will become destructive toward others and ourselves.

Nonviolent communication is a process of communication that takes into account 4 steps.  First, make a statement of observation around something that happened without judgment.  Second, identify what you are feeling by taking full responsibility of your emotions.  Third, communicate what you need from the other person.  Fourth, make a request of that person that is tangible and concrete without demanding.

I like this so much because it helps us to take responsibility of our feelings without blaming others and leads us to open communication that is nonthreatening in a vulnerable way.  This promotes authentic connection, honesty and respect.  It seems our most difficult struggles in sharing life together are over our personalities and communication styles.  Understanding the enneagram and nonviolent communication are wonderful tools to help us understand one another, respect one another and share life together in our local community.

6. Have a paradigm shift to value community over North American definitions of church.  We need to deconstruct our faith and enter into a new paradigm where the church becomes a network of relationships in a particular place.  We need to embody a communal imagination where love, humility and grace become a reality in everyday life.  This will help the church to find its way out of its colonial patterns that foster to services, buildings and wealth.

7. Embrace the value of living in proximity and becoming neighbors.  Embracing proximity could bring so much renewal to us.  It seems we do not want to be neighbors in the same neighborhood.  If we do not live in proximity we cannot live as a community in the world we find ourselves in.  And the church will turn into a service in a building where we learn information about God, but are disconnected from one another in everyday life as neighbors engaged in our culture together.

8. Practice vulnerability, humility and compassion.  It seems Jesus practiced vulnerability, humility and compassion in his life.  We are called to follow the authentic way of Jesus and follow this path also.  But in an American culture that does not value such things, it is very difficult.  We have to live intentionally or it will never happen.

9. Practice hospitality to the poor, oppressed and marginalized.  If we practiced hospitality, this could move us toward social justice and out of our homogenous cocoon.  The poor are all around us, we just live blind to it.  Maybe we could start sharing our lives with the poor entering into a process of discernment on what this means to us.  God is revealed through the poor more than anything else in life.

10. Eat together with others.  Eating together breaks down class structures and makes everyone equal.  The one commonality we have as a human race is that we all need to eat.  Let’s not eat in isolation, but together.  Life is fuller when we share it with others.

11. Commit to a lifetime of working through your own pain and codependence.  There is no renewal in codependency.  When we cannot say no to others while being controlled by another’s actions we will live a life of shame, guilt and always being tired.  We need to work to transform our pain into compassion as we become dependent no more.

12. Take care of yourself.  It is okay to take care of ourselves.  It is essential.  Take care of your needs so you can be sustainable in the good you are doing in the world.

13. Stop trying to save the world and do small things with great love.  To bless the world starts with the small, ordinary things of everyday life that we do with love.  Love is the authentic path for all of us.  We must find how we can become an expression of love and not hate in the world.

14. Become connected and linked to other communities in other contexts.  As we live locally, we need to be linked to others who are pursuing community in other places.  We learn so much from other contexts.  Experiencing a new place shapes our imaginations for the place we live.

15. Read 100 books a year (especially by women and minorities).  Reading transforms us tremendously.  Books can become our friends when we feel alone and frustrated.  They are always there for us and are our companions along our life’s path.  I would suggest replacing the practice of watching TV with the practice of reading or some modification of it.

16. Let go of patriarchy.  The church would find so much renewal if we honored women along with men on an equal plain.  When we don’t allow women to have a voice, we destroy the church because it becomes unbalanced as the masculine dominates.  Men have produced so much disunity, competition, colonialism and violence among the body of Christ.

17. Learn to see love as the only thing that matters above theology, doctrine or ritual.  Love is more important than theology, doctrine or ritual.  Many will cry out to Jesus after they have lived a life without love and he will say I never knew you.  Love is the most beautiful value in the world and everything that is beautiful comes from love.

18. Learn to release expectations and take on a posture of grace.  Expectations are premediated resentments.  Expectations demand and control.  Expectations will destroy us if cannot release them in everyday life.

19. Support and create local economies in the place you live.  Economies shape life.  The global, corporate economy is based on progress, exploitation, competition and greed.  The local economy is based on collaboration, community, social capital and benevolence.

20. See all of life as sacred.  We need to get out of the sacred/secular divide.  All of life is sacred.  There is no secular.  This is the call of Christ to our lives to embrace all of life as sacred.

21. Practice simplicity over consumerism.  Consumerism runs the United States.  It is the narrative of progress that we are taught by everything around us.  Simplicity subverts consumerism giving us space to have an imagination outside of the narrative of the market and empire.

22. Do not believe in upward mobility.  Renewal will come when we stop believing in and practicing upward mobility.  Upward mobility does not value neighbors in everyday life.  It makes money and possessions the priority which Jesus taught against.

23. Live in risk, uncertainty and unraveling constantly.  We cannot live if we do not risk.  Our whole lives should be about unraveling and uncertainty in the ways we risk.  We need not to be afraid of risk and the places it puts us in.

24. Find what is authentic in you and follow that path.  All of us have a unique path to follow that is our own.  It is no one else’s.  We need to seek out what this is for us as we live engaged in the world.

25. Connect truth with a deep way of honesty about yourself.  Honesty is truth.  There is no truth without honesty.  Without honesty there is no love, but only manipulation and apathy.

26. Do not allow the American Dream (market or empire) to capture your imagination.  The American Dream holds our imaginations captive.  The church cannot find life within the American Dream.  It is made up of money, progress and possessions which Jesus cared nothing about.

27. Live in your body by engaging your senses, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.  Valuing the body enough to slow down, work less and rest more is healthy.  This will help us to see, hear, smell, touch and taste what is authentic in everyday life.  We need a healthy balance of exercise and sleep.

28. Learn to practice gentleness, compassion and kindness toward yourself.  Gentleness, compassion and kindness is what we need directed toward ourselves first.  We need to be compassionate to ourselves.  We need to find a kindness that overflows to ourselves.

29. Work to rebuild the church into something more authentic instead of complaining about all the damage it has done.  It is easy to complain and hard to work for something better.  For the church to become more authentic, we must love it and hate it at the same time.  We must work for the things we can change, accept the things we can’t and have the wisdom to know the difference.

30. Stop focusing on what we perceive of as our sin (being driven by shame and guilt) and start building your life around Christ living in you (love, compassion and authenticity).  Do we have any awareness that Christ lives within us?  Is this the focus of our deepest longing?  This is the way to discover our true self which is an expression of love in the world.

What do you think brings renewal?



This is a post that is a part of the February 2015 synchroblog on renewal.

Abbie Waters – It is Well with My Soul

Done With Religion – Renewal

Mark Votova – 30 Ways the Church Can Find Renewal

Jeremy Myers – I am Dying … (So I Can Live Again)

Phil Lancanster – The Parable of the Classic Car

Susan Schiller – Renewal by Design

Glenn Hager – Repurposed

Wesley Rostoll – Why I no longer pray for revival

Clara Ogwuazor-Mbamalu – Renewal of the Spirit

K. W. Leslie – Those who wait on the Lord

Lisa Brown – Momma’s Kick Off Your Shoes and Stay For A While!

Jenom Makama – …Like An Antivirus

Leah – Renewal!

Liz Dyer – Put Your Mask On First

Peggy – Abi and the February 2015 Synchroblog – Renewal