This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ March 2017 newsletter. We are posting it now in honor of the country coordinators who are gathering again this week for their annual meeting. Please keep them in your prayers!
In early fall each year, we host a meeting of our Renewal Ministries Country Coordinators. They’re the group of talented and highly dedicated brothers and sisters you read about regularly in our newsletter. They lead the nearly forty international, short-term missions we are able to do each year, thanks to your generous support and prayers.
When we gather for our annual meeting, we often take time to answer a set of key questions about who we are and what Renewal Ministries’ missions are called to do. As part of that process, we take time to look back at our beginnings and to remember what the Lord did to bring us all together. We do this so that we can remember the Lord’s faithfulness and give Him thanks. But we also do it to keep our mission—what we do and why we do it—clear in our minds.
Last year, we took some time to answer the question, “What is it that we value?” That is, what are the distinct values that shape our mission? The conversation we had was clarifying and inspiring. When we finished our discussion, someone suggested that I share some of these values with you, our extended Renewal Ministries family, so you can better understand not only what we do, but why we do what we do the way we do it.
The following are some of the key values we discussed:
The Apostolate of the Laity
Simply put, this means that we believe what the Second Vatican Council and recent popes have consistently communicated to us: every baptized person is personally called by Jesus and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be directly engaged in the mission of the Church.
“With the Council the hour of the laity truly struck, and many lay faithful, men and women, more clearly understood their Christian vocation, which by its very nature is a vocation to the apostolate” (John Paul II, Apostolicam actuositatem, 2; emphasis mine).
“Since the entire People of God is a people which has been ‘sent,’ the Synod reaffirmed that ‘the mission of proclaiming the word of God is the task of all of the disciples of Jesus Christ based on their Baptism’” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini).
“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples . . . Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 120).
In a fundamental way, our work is informed by these words. We seek to help identify, equip, and deploy lay leaders who share this conviction and are eager to work in complementarity with clergy and religious to respond to the call of the New Evangelization.
By apostolic covering, we mean working under the authority of the local bishop in whatever country we are serving. We’re convinced that Jesus established a visible church, and that through apostolic succession, He has passed down His authority to the bishops to govern and shepherd their dioceses. The bishop carries the first responsibility for the evangelization of the people within his diocese. We bring our teams only at the invitation and under the blessing of the bishop; we consider it a great gift to serve under right authority and to receive the protection it brings. Our goal is not to build up Renewal Ministries, but to help the bishop, clergy, and lay leaders of the diocese equip their people for the work of ministry.
The Power of the Preached Word
We believe the Lord has called us to preach and to teach His word as the starting point of all our missionary work. We hold it as a value, because we want to constantly remind one another to trust in the words of Jesus and the apostles, and to resist the temptation to “preach ourselves” or “to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word” (2 Cor 4:5,2). Our earnest prayer is that the message we preach would not be “in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit in power” (2 Cor 4:4).
We’re convinced that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom 1:16), that God’s Word “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12), that “faith comes through hearing, and what is heard is the word of God” (Rom 10:17). This is the only Word that awakens faith, heals, saves, and sets captives free.
With Pope Francis, we affirm that “there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus as Lord,” and without “the primacy of the proclamation of Jesus Christ in all evangelizing work” (Evangelii Gaudium, 110)
And finally, we go to the ends of the earth confident that “the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel are the first service that Christians can render to every person and to the entire human race” (Benedict XVI, Address to the Participants of the International Conference on the Occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Conciliar Decree “Ad Gentes,” March 11, 2006; emphasis mine).
The Baptism in the Holy Spirit
We believe that we are “living in a privileged moment in the Holy Spirit” (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75), when the Church has been led by the Holy Spirit to “the providential rediscovery of her charismatic dimension,” which is “co-essential as it were to the Church’s constitution” and which contributes “to the life, renewal, and sanctification of God’s People” (John Paul II, Meeting with Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, May 30, 1998).
The baptism in the Holy Spirit is the fundamental grace of renewal in our time; it is a renewal of baptismal graces and the experience of a New Pentecost. Pope Francis describes it as “a current of grace in the Church and for the Church” (Address to the 37th National Convocation of the Renewal in the Holy Spirit, June 1, 2014). We believe it’s the grace of a New Pentecost that is meant to energize and empower a whole New Evangelization in our time. It’s a grace not just for a few, but is meant for all. Pope Francis made that abundantly clear when said, “I expect you to share with everyone in the Church the grace of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit” (ibid).
This grace of renewal is fundamental to who we are at Renewal Ministries. Without this “current of grace” there would be no Renewal Ministries. We strive to follow the exhortations of the recent popes, who have discerned the work of the Holy Spirit in our time, and who’ve challenged us to help others open themselves to this grace:
“Be open to Christ, welcome the Spirit, so that a new Pentecost can take place in every community! A new humanity, a joyful one, will arise from your midst; you will again experience the saving power of the Lord and ‘what was spoken to you by the Lord’ will be fulfilled” (John Paul II, “Address to the Bishops of Latin America,” L’Osservatore Romana, October 21, 1992, p. 10, sec. 30).
The Calling and Gifting of Our International Partners
Since our very first mission to Lithuania in the early 1990s, it has been our great privilege to work closely with inspiring clergy, religious, and lay leaders from around the world. We have seen and experienced firsthand the call and gifting the Lord has placed on their lives. We value the gift they have been to us, and the irreplaceable role they play in leading the work of renewal and evangelization in their respective countries.
We respect the leadership, discernment, and responsibility they carry as the primary evangelists of their own countries. To that end, we see our collaboration with them as a work of solidarity in the Lord, a “communion in mission.” Our goal is not to get them to be at the service of our vision, but to accompany them as they respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the vision He has placed on their hearts.
These are just some of the values we work hard to keep front and center in our work. Please pray for our brothers and sisters around the world and for our continued collaboration in the years ahead. And, if you ever feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to join us in mission, please don’t hesitate to call us, at 734-662-1730, ext. 132.