Is spiritual renewal for everyone?

Several people holding hands in a circle in prayer.
Disciplines associated with renewal include widespread prayer, a deeper engagement with Holy Scripture, a commitment to worship, and the practice of sharing the faith through word and deed.
 on April 2, 2024

The bible is chock-full of stories of people whose lives were profoundly changed when they were encountered by God. A young boy asleep in the Tabernacle. A woman drawing water in the heat of the day. A fisherman worn out from a fruitless night of empty nets. A scholar hunting down religious heretics. A businesswoman gathering with friends near a river. These ordinary people experienced God in such a powerful way that their lives were forever changed.

The boy became one of the great prophets of Israel. The woman at the well became an evangelist to her entire village. The fisherman became a preacher to thousands. The scholar and the businesswoman became church planters. In short, these people experienced a spiritual renewal so profound that it changed their sense of identity and vocation.

Across the pages of history, God has touched the lives of ordinary people in this same way. But could this sort of renewal be something that God wants to bring about in each of us today? And if so, what might lead to such a thing?

It’s an interesting question, because we know that spiritual renewal is something God alone can do. As human beings, we love to predict and manage things, don’t we? However, when we look through the pages of scripture, we see that the Spirit is unpredictable and will not be managed. Instead, the Spirit blows where it chooses, often stirring up new possibilities that human beings never dreamed of, and growing our vision of how God works.

God grew Abraham’s vision by promising that he would make him a blessing to all nations. God grew Peter’s vision by pouring out his Spirit on Gentile believers. The first apostles would have been astonished that 2,000 years later there would be over 3 billion followers of Jesus Christ spread around the globe. God is clearly a god of surprises!

God wants to bring renewal

Although we humans can’t make spiritual renewal happen, here is why I’m hopeful for such renewal in our own time: God has told us in the scriptures that he wants to breathe new life into his people, for the sake of the world he loves. Stretching right back to the period of the exile, God has promised to renew his people. One such promise is found in Jeremiah’s message to the exiles, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:11-13) Across the ages, God has continued to breathe new life into his people, and in the wake of such renewal we’ve learned about some of the tools God has used.

Tools of renewal

Data on church renewal tells us that there are at least four disciplines associated with renewal. These include widespread prayer, a deeper engagement with Holy Scripture, a commitment to worship, and the practice of sharing the faith through word and deed. Again, these four disciplines are not themselves what makes renewal happen. Think of them, instead, as what we offer up to God with the hope that he will use them to help us know and love him more deeply.

On the ground

So, what will this Season of Spiritual Renewal look like across our diocese, and who will guide it? At Bishop Asbil’s invitation, in January I began to serve as the coordinator for this season. In February, an administrative assistant was hired, and Bishop Asbil invited a representative group of people to serve on the steering committee. This faithful, generous and creative group of people will be working together with Bishop Asbil and I to pray, dream and equip all our churches more deeply through prayer, scripture, worship, and sharing the faith.

Churches will receive resources and training in each of these four areas of Christian life, with the hope that we will all come to know and love God more deeply.


Our plan is to send churches prayers related to spiritual renewal that they can incorporate into their weekly liturgies and use at a wide variety of meetings in their parishes. We’d love to see every single meeting taking place across our diocese during the next two years include prayers for spiritual renewal. We’d also love to see churches writing their own simple prayers for spiritual renewal, some of which we’ll share across the diocese. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to engage our children and youth in writing some of these prayers!


We hope to point churches to a variety of resources that they can choose from to help their members all engage more deeply with the scriptures. Whether in the form of online or in-person study groups, individual reading plans, or video introductions to the various books of the Bible, we will also be offering some leadership training so that churches can establish their own reading, study, and discussion groups.


We plan to provide churches with resources and training related to such things as including children in worship, including stories of God’s grace in the life of your church, enhancing the music of small churches, enriching the spiritual focus of choirs and worship bands, and how to introduce a ministry of anointing for healing. Our plan also includes holding several wonderful large worship gatherings across our diocese. Our goal is that these large events will allow all of us to experience the rich diversity of worship that exists within our diocese.

Sharing the Faith

This area focuses on equipping churches to use a variety of discipleship tools, including online and on-site courses, film series and print materials, that will help introduce people to the Christian faith and refresh our own knowledge of the basics. Our goal will be to help all Anglicans across our diocese share their faith in a natural and welcoming manner. We plan to also include resources and training in some creative ways to engage with people in our neighbourhoods, towns and cities, drawing on and sharing ideas that some parishes are already implementing.

So, where will this Season of Spiritual Renewal take us? Ultimately, we don’t know exactly how God will use it, and so much will depend on all our churches engaging together in this endeavour. But based on who God is, we’re very hopeful that we will grow in our love and service to him, so that we can join in the Holy Spirit’s work of reconciling the world through and in Christ Jesus.


  • The Rev. Canon Dr. Judy Paulsen

    In addition to being the coordinator of the Season of Spiritual Renewal, the Rev. Canon Dr. Judy Paulsen has served as professor of Evangelism at Wycliffe College and as a parish priest in four churches in the diocese.

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