Welcome to The Orchard!

The popular Christian musician Michael W. Smith said in a recent interview, “I think if the church did what they were supposed to do we wouldn’t have anyone sleeping on the streets.”

Interesting observation, huh? Christians do a lot of things. We are busy with fund-raising, construction, Sunday productions, Christian concerts, social events, politics and the ever expanding sale and consumption of Christian merchandise. Though Christians do a lot of things, doesn’t it seem that we spend 99% of our time and energy doing things that Jesus never told us to do?

Following Jesus begins with following the simple path that He told us to follow. To do this, means a radical change from some of the ideas of how churches operate … like the radical idea that the Church is not a business, but a community.

It is important to understand that this is the reason that The Orchard was started. You will find that The Orchard does things differently, and we do some things that are radical for a church - like, we don't pass around an offering plate and we aren't trying to build a big building. Now, honestly, we don’t know if this model of “church” will actually work or survive. We just want to focus on what Jesus told us to do, and this means that we are just trying to keep "Church" simple.

The clearest way to understand the Orchard is to learn three things about the culture of The Orchard.

1. We are Missional.

Most are familiar with the classic church in America that builds a nice building and then strives to fill it with as many people as it can gather on Sunday. The hope is that the gathered people are inspired to accept the path of Jesus Christ and then engage in ministry and discipleship to gather more people. There is nothing wrong with a gathering church, and it has resulted in a lot of good things and transformed a lot of lives.

The gathering church is not the only way that a church can operate. There is another strategy that we call a “missional” church. A missional church like The Orchard is focused more on sending than gathering. Sure, you’ll encounter familiar things like Sunday services and small groups, but our primary emphasis is not on gathering the biggest crowd that we can on Sunday, but rather strengthening our crowd so that they can be sent.

What are some things that are distinctive about this missional approach?
  • We spend most of our money on mission work, and helping people in crisis– not on buildings or full-time professional staff or social events.
  • We help our members to become engaged in service to others. Typically, 80 to 90% of our members are engaged in local ministry, local missions or global missions.
  • We publicly celebrate when our members become engaged in Christian ministry, even when it means that they serve in another church or country.

2. We are Relational.

It seems that the trend of relationships in the United States is that they are becoming more superficial, more sterile, and more “electronic” and we dispose of friendships like an outdated iPhone. Some Christians have even said that they’ve attended a church for months without ever entering into a relational conversation with another person.

We actively promote the development of genuine relationships with other Christians, even when they are sometimes messy and imperfect. When we gather to worship on Sundays, we value relationships over religion and people over performance. We are not trying to create a perfect Sunday event for spectators, and so you will hear people give testimonies, you will hear people laugh and make comments (maybe even during a sermon), and you might even see the church stop and pray for someone. Simply, we encourage people to be genuine.

The Orchard is a great community for those who value growing in relationships, practicing the biblical values of forgiveness and bearing with the faults of others when they fail us, and working as a team to accomplish the will of God. We even host a luncheon each Sunday to encourage our members to relationally engage with one another.

3. We are Spiritual.

The word “spiritual” gets used in so many different ways that it might seem hard to really know what we mean when we use this word. But, when we use the word “spiritual” we mean that we lean upon the Holy Spirit to be both the vision and the power for everything we do. This can seem hard to do in the Washington DC area with so many competent, well-educated, well-resourced, and articulate people … it might be easy to feel that we can do a lot of holy stuff without the presence of the Holy Spirit.

But we take a different approach. If we are genuinely doing the things that God wants us to do, we will fail without the power of God. Thus, we pray … a lot.