Tuesday, January 31, 2012

growth

We're about to wrap up this short series of posts about Nativity Missions values. I hope that it's been helpful for you -- and if you're just tuning in, I encourage you to check out the last ten or so posts to catch up. Our vision is making Church matter by influencing the world for Christ, and our values set the tone and trajectory for how we pursue that vision. Today's value is
growth
When we say growth, we mean spiritual growth or discipleship, growing specifically in the area of our relationships with Jesus, our individual walks of faith with Christ. When asked what it is to do the work of God, Jesus responded "This is the work of God: to believe in the son whom he sent" (John 6:29). Our movement begins with our own discipleship. And our influence is limited by the extent to which we're willing to surrender. As Christians, seeking God's face and his will for our lives is first and foremost. If we gain the world by lose Christ, all is lost.

Growth happens in different ways in all sorts of different areas of our lives. The environments that Nativity promotes for growth are Ministry and Small Groups, and as missionaries we believe that these environments are essential to a growing relationship with Jesus. Ministry at the local church that reaches out to those seeking God, and fellowship with other believers in a safe, challenging, Christ-centered group give us tools for growth that we cannot find elsewhere. NativityMissions values growth, and these environments promote, encourage, and facilitate growth. Discipleship is fundamentally about surrender, giving up more and more of ourselves to God to be used by him. We cannot be used by God to influence the world unless we're seeking him and growing in relationship with him.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

generosity

Thanks for checking out the Nativity Missions blog -- we're having a little discussion about our values, those things that set the tone and trajectory for how we get things done. There are quite a few, so look back to the past couple days to catch up. Today's value is
generosity
Giving sacrificially, being good stewards, bringing the whole tithe to the storehouse is a huge part of being a disciple of Christ. Jesus talked a lot about money because he thought it was important, so we take him at his word and believe that our obedience in this area of our lives, our finances, is key -- after all, where our heart is, there will our treasure be. Generosity is not just a value for our missionaries and our leaders but also for our church.

As a priority, Nativity is committed to giving away a percentage of our income to support the work of our strategic partners, and we're committed to growing that percentage over time. (Over the past few years we've raised money through direct gifts and our Advent Conspiracy campaigns. Moving forward, tithing our income to Missions creates a sustainable system for funding projects, it models stewardship for our congregation, and allows us to commit ourselves to long-term projects.) We also believe that it's of great value for our team members and missionaries to be giving sacrificially to support the work of the local church. Generosity sets the tone for our Missions efforts. We're able to love because Christ first loved us. We joyfully and generously give to God what is rightly his, knowing that he's doing a great work in our hearts while using our resources to do a great work in the world.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

life-change

Here's another post about the values of Nativity Missions. Our values are principles that we believe are essential to the way we carry out or work. They are words to live by, things to be mindful of, attitudes to adopt as you carry out mission work at Nativity. Today's value is
life-change
A few days ago I wrote about our value of story. That post talked about the value of telling stories of life-change, but maybe I should have posted about life-change first... In church world, the numbers don't tell the whole story. Numbers matter, they represent lives, but attendance, giving, program sign-ups, etc. don't give us the full picture. Changed lives is the win for Nativity. The Gospel message isn't meant to just influence, inspire, or educate people, it is meant to completely change lives from the inside out. Life-change is the win, but it has a twist...

We don't have the power to change lives. (If you do, please leave a comment or e-mail me!) But God does. He wants to change us, to make us completely whole and perfect in him. The part we play is in preparing the atmosphere, creating the environment in which God can move and work. We prepare our own hearts to be used by God and we prepare experiences (like short-term mission trips and small group discussions) where God can show up. He said he would give us the holy Spirit and power to be witnesses locally, nationally and internationally. We're after life-change, only God can do it, so we do our part to set the stage and expect him to show up in big ways.

Monday, January 23, 2012

dependence

Thanks for tuning into this series on values. Nativity Missions is all about making our Church matter by influencing the world for Christ. In order to be used by God to carry out such an amazing task, we have a few values that we think are very important to our culture and the way we engage in our communities locally, nationally, and internationally. Today's value is
dependence
No fruit can be borne apart from the vine. God wants us to rely on him, depend on him, lean on him. Our Mission work, if it can be accomplished by our own power, would be worth nothing. We set our goals high so that when they're accomplished, God can take all the credit. When we depend on God, he gives us the grace to bear fruit, and by that our Father is glorified. Check out John 15 for a picture of what it's like to abide in God in your life.

Nativity Missions has been a part of accomplishing some pretty awesome things, we're involved in some fairly risky things, and we'll continue to set our sights on even more amazing things in the future. God is a god who loves to provide for us, he loves to show up for us when we put our faith in him. One of the ways we remain mindful of our dependence on God is through prayer, accepting that he can do immeasurably more than all we ask of imagine. We believe wholeheartedly that God is good and that he is great -- that God's promises are true and that he has the power to carry them out in our lives. Nativity Missions values dependence on God; when we depend on his provision he honors our faith and blesses us with what we need.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

partnership

Over the next few days I'll be blogging about the values that Nativity Missions holds. They're not in any order, and they're all important. Values are principles that we believe are essential to the way we carry out or work. They are words to live by, things to be mindful of, attitudes to adopt as we carry out mission work at Nativity. Today's value is
partnership
Nativity Missions carries out all our Mission outreach and service through strategic partnerships locally, nationally and internationally. Partnership is a core value for missions because it allows for us to make a maximum and measurable impact. Church of the Nativity is a church; we're not a soup kitchen, a school, a homeless shelter, we're not experts at providing treatment for AIDS patients in Africa or equipping men and women to enter the workforce in Baltimore City. Our focus is to reach disconnected Catholics in Timonium by creating irresistible weekend environments. But, as a church, we are called to be relevant in our community, we're called to serve others, and we're called to spread the Gospel outside of our community. Partnership makes that possible.

By partnering with other organizations and churches that do understand the assets and needs in their own local communities, we can build relationships with partners that bring about lasting change. We can be a blessing to other organizations, offering resources to further the already amazing work they are doing, while still remaining focused on our vision and mission. Partnerships also give us the ability to measure our impact. By sustaining long term partnerships, we can see how God is using our relationships to bring about change in those partner communities, rather than spreading our efforts across a variety of initiatives and not making a significant impact.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

scripture

Welcome to this series on the values of Nativity Missions. A vision is a picture of our preferred future (making Church matter by influencing the world for Christ), a mission is what we exist to do, and values are the principles that are essential to our culture and our attitude. We're discussing some of the values that are key to our work. Today's value is
scripture
The Word of God has the power to change lives; it is living and active; it saves us, encourages us, teaches us, gives us life and much more. Nothing can replace studying scripture in the life of a disciple. God makes us promises in the Bible that give us an identity and hope, God gives us the law and commandments that give us direction and guidance. Through the scripture we learn who God is and what attributes he has, we read about Jesus, his saving work, and what he teaches us about the Father, and we see the working of the Holy Spirit and get to understand how she moves in our world. Reading, studying and memorizing scripture is an incomparable tool as we follow and strengthen our relationship with God.

This, perhaps, is a funny value for a church. It might seem to be pretty obvious... But we Catholics don't have a great history or reputation for reading and studying the Bible. We learned some stories as children but haven't, in many cases, been taught how to begin reading the Bible as adults. Nativity has some great resources (the weekend message, daily e-mails, the message guide) to help our community dive deeper into God's Word. Nativity Missions holds it as a value to place importance on scripture -- recognizing that it isn't necessarily a strength, we chose to make it a priority for our work.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

story

You're tuning in to a series of posts about Nativity Missions values. Check out the past few day's entries to read more. Our values are principles that we believe are essential to the way we carry out or work. They are words to live by, things to be mindful of, attitudes to adopt as you carry out mission work at Nativity. Today we're talking about
story
Story is a big part of what we do at Nativity; stories of life-change are what we're after. Our organization is winning and God is winning when we witness people's lives change. Whether it's here in Timonium, in front of a computer watching LIVE, or on a mission trip in Africa, it's our job to create environments where God can change lives.

Stories fit in at a few different points. When we tell stories of life-change that we've experienced by God's power, it gives glory to God. That's what we're created to do, it's why we exist, to bring glory to God. Telling a story allows us to give testimony to God at work in our lives. Stories also help our church determine whether or not we're winning. Our balance sheet, attendance numbers, or program sign-ups don't tell the full story of our ministry, so by hearing stories of life-change we're able to know if our efforts are successful. And lastly, stories are hugely important at Nativity because stories have a unique way of communicating a message. People identify with and can relate to stories unlike statistics or facts. When we hear about someone's experience overcoming an obstacle or taking a step in faith it has the opportunity to encourage us, motivate us, and inspire us to take action as well. Paul tells us always be prepared to give our testimony -- if you hear stories of life-change or you experience God's power in your life, tell your story!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

relationship

I'm going to write briefly over the next few weeks on the values that Nativity Missions holds. They won't be in any particular order of importance, and I do believe they all are critical. Our values are principles that we believe are essential to the way we carry out Missions work. They are words to live by, things to be mindful of, attitudes to adopt as you serve at Nativity. The first one is
relationship
God created us all equal, in his own image and likeness, and he created us for relationship. He thinks relationships are pretty important -- so important that he was willing to send his Son to be crucified on a cross so that we could be in relationship with him. Relationships are eternal. God wants to have a relationship with us and wants to use our relationships to change lives.

Nativity Missions is all about connecting people from our community with people outside of our community. In order to be an effective witness to your faith and provide real help and encouragement, relationships are essential. Movie recommendations and constructive criticism from a best friend mean a lot more than hearing those words from a stranger. Relationships lead the way to other blessings like encouragement, accountability, support and love. Our Missions work is focused on building relationships because it's what we're designed to do and it's one of the few things that's going to matter when we're six feet under.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

vision

The third most popular religion in the United States is "formerly Catholic."
Left and right, churches are closing due to low attendance and poor giving.
An entire generation is being raised isolated from the God who created life.
Pleasure is king; marriages are failing; addictions are winning; the culture is taking over.

Yet, the local church is the hope of the world...
Church of the Nativity envisions a future in which we are making Church matter.

Nativity Missions is making Church matter by influencing the world for Christ.

We believe that God has a plan and a purpose for our local church. We believe that God is alive and at work in this world, and that his plan includes using Nativity to do amazing things, things like bringing hope and healing, restoration and reconciliation to the world. Acts 1.8 says, "But you will receive power and the holy Spirit to be witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Starting with our local community, into our nation, and to nations throughout the world, we are commissioned to enter into the lives of others doing good works and bringing the Gospel message. Nativity Missions is all about mobilizing our community to influence the world for Christ.

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be writing about more aspects of our Missions vision and the things we hold as values. But the foundation is this, that God has a calling on each of our lives, he has called our church to be relevant and influential, raising up dedicated disciples who are growing other disciples, being a light to our North Baltimore community and affecting other churches as well. We are making Church matter!

Friday, January 13, 2012

an exciting faith

When you were baptized, the priest rubbed holy oil on your forehead and anointed you "Priest, Prophet and King." Did you know that you're a priest, a prophet and a king?

As a priest, you have been made holy. God through the sacrifice of Jesus has made you holy, blameless and irreproachable, yet we know that we're not exactly models of holiness all the time. We are called, as priests, to continue to pursue holiness and to offer our lives as living sacrifices.

As a prophet, you have been made a witness. Christ called his disciples to be fishers of men and to be light of the world and salt of the earth. Be light and salt to those in your local community, in your region, and to the ends of the earth. Study the Word of God and give the gift of encouraging others.

As a king, you have been made eternal. Your salvation comes by God through faith for works, and you have been given a heavenly inheritance. Store up for yourself a treasure in heaven by giving generously, serving joyfully, and loving unconditionally. Get involved in kingdom building works that will transform this world.

I'm going to be honest here... Sometimes when I think about these things -- trying to be holy, being a witness for Christ, serving others -- the devil tells me that these things are boring, that when I do these things I'm not going to have any fun, that I'm going to miss out on life. (This tactic goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden by the way.) So in order to combat these thoughts, whenever the thought pops up that a relationship with God is lame, I'm going to read an exciting Bible story, the Book of Acts is chock full of them. If you can relate, join me in reading some thrilling stories from our faith. Following Christ doesn't cause me to miss out on life -- it grants me access to the life I've always wanted.