Leonard Sweet says, "Every community has sacred words that need to be learned."
In his book, The Gospel According to Starbucks, he compares our church communities with Starbucks - who, to some degree, expect you to learn their language (grande, venti, etc...).
Anyway, this got me thinking about the language and phrases that have become a part of The Orchard's culture over the past few years. Here are a few that you would hear - even if you spent just a little time around our community:
We believe that following Jesus is a journey - not a destination. So at The Orchard we see our mission as creating the right kind of environments for people to constantly move forward on their spiritual journeys - regardless of where they're at ON that journey right now.
On a side note... One of the things I love about our community is the diversity - both ethnically and spiritually. At any given moment, I'll find myself talking to someone who knows absolutely NOTHING about church and the next minute I'll be talking with someone who has been a follower for most of their lives. Diversity is a beautiful thing...
We use the word "community" a lot more than we use the word "church." It's not uncommon to hear us refer to The Orchard as a "church community" simply because we really believe that the people ARE the church - which means that church is not necessarily something you "go to" on the weekends, but something you ARE all the time. This is also why we've tried to move away from using the phrase "church services" and often refer to Sunday mornings as our "weekend gatherings."
"Followers of Jesus"
We aren't trying to turn people into "Christians" or shove them into the Christian "sub-culture" that permeates the church world. In fact, if anything, we are trying to keep people OUT of it! Which is why I'm pretty dang encouraged by the fact that hardly anybody in our church community is even aware that it exists! (If you doubt that, try using "church-y humor" around our people. It will flop. Believe me...)
We also talk a lot about how following Jesus is so much more than about "getting into Heaven" or "being saved from hell" and how it's also about being a part of God's story and mission here in this earth. It's about learning to actually live like Jesus lived NOW while proclaiming and singing songs of freedom and redemption to our world.
We are learning what it means to be a missional community. Since 75-80% of our local community is unchurched or dechurched, we have a lot of work to do. So we work really hard at keeping a strong focus on those outside of our church walls.
I've told our church over and over again that we will always be a church that is MORE focused on those outside of the church walls than those on the inside. And even thought that might seem "out of balance" to some people, my question is always, "Who ever said it SHOULD be balanced?" Because I can't help but look at the life of Jesus and come to the conclusion that his life was always way more about those who were sick, hurting and lost than it was about those who weren't. And of course, the empowerment that Jesus gave his followers was to do what? To turn their focus on the same people! So part of being missional is helping those on the inside to do a better job of loving and serving their neighbors and friends.
We don't have "ministries" or "programs" - we have "environments." Everything we do is about creating healthy environments for people to grow and step forward in their journey. (Andy Stanley & the gang at Northpoint has been a huge influence for us in this area...)
We also recognize that an "environment" is made up many elements that MUST consistently work together well in order to be effective. It's not JUST about the teaching. It's not JUST about the music. It's not JUST about having a welcoming environment. It's all of those elements working together to create an environmental synergy. Which means that our leaders and teams have to work together well to protect the unity of those environments.
So what about you and your church community? What words or phrases are commonplace in your culture?