Values

INTRODUCTION

While our beliefs express the spiritual realities we hold as foundational to our faith, our values are the central ways we embody and express those beliefs.  Our values describe our collective, living response to what we believe.  These values are outpourings of who we are, and who we are becoming as we live out God’s call on our lives.

Our values are not unique; they are rooted in scripture, and shared with believers all around the world.  However, we feel called to live them out in unique ways.   Through our values, God continually invites us to operate as ‘strangers in the world’ (1 Peter 2:11) – distinct from the systems and patterns around us and yet united with one another as we invite people around us to embrace His Kingdom reality in our midst.  In this way, we co-labor with Christ as He brings to fulfillment His vision for our community, our city, and the world.

What follows is a brief overview of some of our central values.

Relationship

Above all activity and accomplishment, we elevate and cherish our relationships. We recognize that God created us for relationship and not simply a flurry of earthly or even spiritual activity.  We grow and mature not by accomplishing greater things, but by being transformed through loving relationship with God, self, and others.  

Opening ourselves to relationship requires vulnerability and risk, because authentic love between imperfect people opens us to possible hurt and disappointment.  However when we allow ourselves to love and be loved; to know and be known – our hearts are softened to the reality of a love that can persevere beyond our imperfections.  In relationship, we are able to learn the kind of grace required to love like Christ has loved us.

If we resist relationship for the sake of a perceived safety, we isolate ourselves, and we refuse the refining and sharpening work God desires to do through our relationships with others.  Christ reminds us in the Gospel of John that it is by our love for one another that people recognize we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35).

For this reason, we choose a life of Christ-like communion and connection, rather than a life of self-reliance and isolation.  We honor the way God created us, and glorify him through how we choose to relate to Him, to our selves, and to others.   We bring Him joy by obeying the greatest commandment, which is to love God with all our heart mind and soul, and to love others as we love ourselves  (Luke 10:27).  Meanwhile, we know that God’s desire is for redemption in relationships throughout creation, and so we participate in this redemptive work by growing in love.

Intentionality

We value intentionality in our relationship with God and others.  On the journey of faith, we recognize the vital importance of living intentionally in our thoughts, words, and actions.  

The full life which Christ offers does not thrive without our participation.  Growing in His likeness does not happen without our surrender.  Recognizing His presence is not likely to occur without our being mindful of Him.  So we choose to participate in the life God offers us by surrendering ourselves to Him, and being mindful of His presence in all that we do.

Throughout scripture God’s people are invited to remember who God is, to recall His good works, and to make decisions in light of His love and His ways.  Often these choices are difficult or contrary to the ways of the world.  Because of this we desire to grow in mindful awareness of God’s presence as well as His desires and intentions in our midst.  We desire to discern His movements, and to live in response to what the Father is doing.  Because He is with us by His Spirit, and our identities are secure in Him, we are free to make choices and plans, and submit them to Him, trusting in His faithfulness no matter the outcome.  We are also able to approach His throne with confidence to ask for what we need.

Because God is good – full of compassion and justice – we are secure enough in Him to take the risk of failure, and pick up our cross when the choices we need to make are not comfortable.  We recall that God has pursued us with great intention, and we respond to His love with the faith and free will that He has given us.  We practice this intentionality in all our relationships – in how we treat ourselves, others and creation; how we work and play; how we use our time and finances; and how we worship and engage with God through our spiritual practices.

HONEST EXPRESSION

We value honest expression of ourselves before God and one another.  Celebration and mourning, rejoicing and weeping; we don’t want to waste any time keeping up pretenses because God embraces us just as we are, simply and honestly ourselves.

As we are honest with our personal histories, cultural backgrounds and God-given gifts, and as we offer ourselves entirely up to God – God is faithful to redeem all those aspects of our character, and root them more and more in himself.  They are then shaped into beautiful and unique acts of worship to him.

While God desires to see everyone conformed to the character of Christ, He also desires ‘every tribe and tongue’ to worship him in unique ways that reflect the beauty and majesty of God Himself.  This means that Heaven is not a place of bland homogeneous expression, but rather a brilliant chorus of authentic and diverse expressions.  Because of this, we desire to be people who worship God freely and authentically as united but unique children of God.

personal and mutual responsibility

We value personal and mutual responsibility in following after Christ, and stewarding our relationship with God, self, and others in community.

We understand that no one can live our spiritual lives for us, and we alone answer to God for what we do with the life he gives us. Recognizing this, we choose into the personal journey of discovering how God crafted us.

We then partner with supportive brothers and sisters in pursuing the dreams God has awakened in us.  We encourage, challenge and equip one another along this path rather than force, coerce, or enable one another.  The Church, then, ceases to be a place of mere spiritual instruction, and instead becomes a community of mutual encouragement and empowerment in the Spirit of God – who is our ultimate guide.

spiritual Maturity

We value spiritual maturity and the process of being conformed to the character of Christ.

We believe spiritual maturity involves a process, and is not a plateau.  Maturity implies growth, and growth requires humility, honesty, and intentional relationship.  It is not about putting on airs of maturity, for we know that God looks not at our appearances but at our heart (1 Samuel 16:7).   Spiritual maturity transcends human measurements; in Christ we are no longer bound by the world’s definition of maturity (1 Timothy 4:11-14).

Our inner life and outer life then grow in tandem, and we become more conformed to the character of Christ as whole persons.  We recognize and celebrate the aspects of maturity that God has planted in us, which creates a foundation to encourage and challenge one another to surrender to the work of the Spirit, purifying our hearts through greater obedience and love (1 Peter 1:22).  We do all this so, with our Church family beside us, we increasingly discover our freedom to step into and develop the unique ways God has crafted and called us.  As we do this, we grow holistically as children of God, and thereby bring Him glory.

contribution

We value a lifestyle of contribution, which is in contrast to our tendency toward consumerism.  

Contribution takes many forms including service, generosity and encouragement.  We desire to be generous as God is generous – stewarding well our unique God-given gifts, talents, resources and creativity by offering ourselves as ‘living sacrifices’ to our church family, Orlando, and the world.  This means the church looks like a potluck overflowing in abundance, rather than a buffet of scarce “spiritual” goods or services, because we all have something to bring to the table.

We desire to be a church whose contributions are offered in thanksgiving and glory to God as we freely give to those in need (Acts 2:45).  As we practice contribution we not only not only to bless others, but learn the humility and honesty it takes to ask for and receive help when we are in need.

church everywhere

We value the call to be the Church anywhere we gather throughout the week.

Sunday is only a fraction of the picture of church.  It is a time to gather our entire family, worship and celebrate what God is doing in our lives, together.  We love to assemble as the Body of Christ throughout the week to live out the principles of scripture and life in the Spirit wherever we are.

This can manifest itself in formal ministry activities, and also beyond those events in our daily lives and relationships with one another.  Church takes place when two or more believers gather as the bride of Christ, and move deeper into intimacy with Him.   This comes in the form of fellowship, breaking bread, praying, studying scripture, listening to and encouraging one another, and resting in God’s presence.  (Acts 2:42)

Church, then, is no longer a place, but an inextricable part of our identity.  When we recognize this, we are empowered to be the Church; the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.

unity

We value unity in the midst of our diversity as part of the Church.    

Our desire is to continually move toward strong beliefs informed by scripture and the leading of the Holy Spirit alongside one another – united in the midst of diversity.  Jesus’ prayer in John 17 reminds us of the central call to unity in the Church.  As a community, we fix our eyes on Jesus and his prayer for us, in order that we might come alongside our brothers and sisters in the faith, to keep building His Kingdom, even if we disagree on certain theological or church issues.

We recognize that where the Church lacks unity, we can still desire it and build it.  We heed Paul’s instruction in his letter to the Church in Philippi, pleading with them to, as much as possible, “agree with each other in the Lord.” (4:2) We follow his invitation to the entire church to be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” (2:2)

Religious tribalism can interfere with Christ’s emphatic prayer for unity in the Church.

However, we recognize that our doctrinal differences do not give us permission to divide when we still share the foundation of Christ.  Instead we have found that our differences in doctrine, when addressed in love, can serve as a point of sharpening, mutual challenge and edification, and growth for us all.  With this understanding of unity, we see ourselves as one unique expression joined with the broader Church of Christ; both in Orlando and the world.