Wednesday, February 29, 2012

testimony

Here's an awesome testimony video from Chris Wright. Chris traveled with me to Haiti last November and his testimony really encapsulates our value of relationships -- short-term trips are all about building relationships with the people in our partner communities. It's also a great example of the power of testimony... We just showed this last weekend and folks were glued to the big screens when the video was playing.

If you're looking to apply to one of our summer trips to Haiti or Nigeria, click here for more information...

Monday, February 27, 2012

conversation starter

Over the next few weeks, we'll be hearing from different leaders and missionaries who are a part of making NativityMissions all that it is. It's my hope that this blog can become more of a forum for discussion rather than a one-way information download. I encourage you to chime into the conversation by clicking on 'comments' at the bottom of each post.

Today's entry is from Bob Barczak. Bob is the Nativity:Nigeria mission leader and serves on the Missions Leadership Team. He has been a part of many, many "firsts" at Nativity. Bob was a member of both of the first mission teams to Nigeria and Mississippi and has helped take our worship to the Fairgrounds each Christmas. Here are a few words from Bob about staying focused on the vision...

...

Described as the “core,” the “goal,” the “mission,” the “focus,” or countless other self-help terms, the vision of NativityMissions remains the same: NativityMissions is making church matter by influencing the world for Christ. All actions within Missions at Nativity must move the church closer to that vision.

In a church as active and passionate as Nativity, it becomes easy to consider various service activities that may be fruitful because people are excited about them and they are doing positive things in the community. Nativity is blessed with energetic ministers and Missions is a moving, emotional, appealing way to get involved. Because of this, we are presented with an ongoing struggle to create more partnerships as well as more opportunities within our existing partnerships in order to quench this thirst. However, more important than capacity or scope is that all our efforts strive towards the vision. It is very challenging yet extremely critical to ensure that the all of the components within a particular Mission lead towards the vision.

As a Missions leader, I must look through this lens as I interact with both our ministers and our strategic partners. If a part of Nativity:Nigeria is not in line with the vision it is actually having a negative effect on Missions as a whole, taking energy and resources away from others. Two things I have learned are that when ministers are aligned with the vision, ministers serving in different roles can be repositioned successfully within a ministry. Also, it may be necessary to disband an element that, although well intentioned and successful, does not share the vision of NativityMissions. As a leader, I must be willing to pass up the merely good in order to reach the absolutely great.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

quick exit

Yesterday I was sent an invitation to check out the website of an organization that is fighting against human trafficking... in Baltimore. I was clicking around learning about their mission and history. The website was put together well so I was admiring the layout as well as looking at the different design aspects. Then I noticed a button on the side of the screen; it said 'quick exit.' It caught my attention and so I clicked on it -- my browser immediately took me to the Google homepage.

Then it dawned on me what the link was for... That link was there for people who might have found this website seeking to escape slavery, for victims of human trafficking here in our city who might be stealing a few minutes on a computer to find rescue from their situation. Perhaps people have clicked that link fearing that they might be caught, or worse, been too late to 'quick exit' and...

It caught me totally off guard. I was about to take our staff's Starbucks order. Instead, I broke down crying.

...

That moment yesterday was totally overwhelming for me. Realizing how fortunate I am not just to have a great job, a loving family, enough food to eat and a roof over my head, but that I am free -- that realization gave me a quick glimpse of how undeserving I am of these blessings in my life and how great God is to pour them out on me nevertheless.

I'm so excited for the upcoming series at Nativity, Highly Favored, which is all about God's grace. Grace is God's unmerited favor. Moments like yesterday are helping me to regularly acknowledge that I have done nothing to merit or earn God's favor yet I have been chosen as a recipient of grace as a gift of God. Learning that God is a God of grace has changed my life. And seeing evidence of God's grace in my life has led me to one conclusion, one that I wish I was better at staying mindful of...

Gratitude is the only reasonable response.

What are you grateful for today?
How have you seen God's grace at work in your life?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

unqualified? perfect!

As we've begun promoting our upcoming summer mission trip opportunities, I'd like to post two short lists: basically reasons why you should and should not apply to go on one of our short-term international mission trips. A mission trip is an incredible way to experience God's power and allow him to use you to serve others, but we're not always ready to be used by God in that way.

Don't apply for a mission trip if you...

5. Have always wanted to go to Africa/Haiti -- it's not about tourism
4. Want to make up for doing some lousy things in the past -- you can't earn God's favor
3. Feel that you have some great gifts and talents to offer -- it's not about you
2. Want to dig a well -- our mission trips are about building relationships not buildings
1. Can afford it and think it would be fun -- it's about loving God, others and making disciples

Please do apply for a mission trip if you...

5. Feel unqualified -- trust me, I do too
4. Want to connect with others at Nativity -- our teams grow very closely together
3. Have a heart for the people you'll be interacting with -- God designed you that way
2. Are in a Small Group and Ministry and are wondering what's next -- it's your next step
1. Went 5/5 on the "don't apply" list -- God might want to change your life!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

summer trips

Nativity Missions is making Church matter by influencing the world for Christ. We mobilize members to grow in their relationship with God by creating environments where we love others and make disciples through local, national, and international partnerships.

We believe that it’s all about relationships – connecting people in our community with those outside our church. Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation and told us to be witnesses to the ends of the earth, starting with our own neighborhood and extending to the ends of the earth. By sending mission teams to build relationships with our international partners, Nativity Missions aims to empower others to glorify God and live with dignity and to embrace the call that God has put on our lives to be witnesses to our faith. We’re all broken, just in different ways. By walking with others in relationship, we believe that God will change our hearts and use us to change the lives of others.

Our upcoming summer mission trips are great opportunities to put your faith into action and get connected to others at our local church. You'll learn more about the vision God has given our church, how he's called us to engage with our partners, and the larger work that he's accomplishing in the world. Our missionaries grow a close connection as a team, praying for and encouraging one another, having fun and facing challenges as well as looking inward and reflecting on topics like grace and brokenness.

As you consider these opportunities, I encourage you to learn more about our strategic partners on our website (churchnativity.tv), pray and ask God what trip he might be calling you to apply for, and attend the Mission Trip Info Sessions where we'll be talking about some specifics and answering questions about the different trips.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

it's not about you

This wraps up the end of the vision and values "blog series." To recap, in no particular order, the values that Nativity Missions hold near and dear to our hearts are
partnership -- relationship -- story -- dependence -- growth
prayer -- life-change -- generosity --  focus
and the last value is...

it's not about you
"It's not about you." is the first line of Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life. And it's true.

"It's not about you." is the introduction to a book all about living out the calling that God has placed on your life. Living out God's purposes is the only real way to experience true and lasting joy and fulfillment, and it begins by realizing that we're not the center of the universe. God is, God was, and God will always be. God is the main character in the story of your life and of life itself. He's the unbegotten begetter. He's upholding and sustaining creation right now. And he's the only one in control of bringing the world to an end.

Nativity Missions begins with realizing it's not about you. It's a little backwards that this is the last value, because it's foundational not just to Missions work but to Christian life. We are participants in God's story -- granted, we're chosen, adopted, and appointed to do God's work, but it all comes from him and ultimately it's all about him. At Nativity, we care more about seeking and living out God's purposes for our church than we do about personalities, opinions, and ideas that come from men.

"But Peter and the apostles said in reply, 'We must obey God rather than men.'" Acts 5:29

All these values are our attempt to stay obedient to the vision God has called us to pursue:  making Church matter by influencing the world for Christ. I do pray that these values will be absorbed into the culture of your teams and visible by the way you interact with one another.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

focus

Here's one of the last posts on the values of Nativity Missions. Have you been following this series? Have you found them to be helpful and informative? Do you agree or disagree with any of the values? You're always invited to leave a comment with your thoughts; we're dedicated to being life-long learners and the best ideas come from conversation -- chime in! Today's value is
focus
We've been commissioned to go, literally, to the ends of the earth with the Gospel message. That gives us a world of possibilities for our work (pun intended). Nativity's strategy of partnership means that we're embracing our limitations, it gives us a system to practice the value of focus. We could do a hundred things, maybe even a thousand things in an effort to serve others locally, nationally, and internationally. We could spread out our resources across initiatives like food drives, clothing drives, and diaper drives, dresses for Haiti and pennies for the poor, serving homeless men and single moms and children and the elderly, and on and on. These things are great, but it's not the best way for our community to engage. Nativity chooses to focus our efforts, to do a few things and to do them really, really well.

Valuing focus gives us direction for our partnerships and it informs the way we operate internally as well. Missions is one of many great environments for growth at Nativity, so we have a focused approach to promotion giving equal footing to each opportunity. Focus also gives us the ability to measure our results. Perhaps you've had experiences like me where you have volunteered to serve a meal at a local soup kitchen, an experience that is almost exactly the same each time you serve, week after week, maybe year after year. We want our partner communities to change as a result of our involvement. Focusing our efforts helps us make the maximum impact, measuring our efforts, being wise stewards of our resources.