Serving Caffeine & Christ with Nathan Bennett
Here at Orangewood Church, our members serve faithfully each week to provide a welcoming environment for all who enter through the doors. Our hope is for Orangewood to be a place for people to gather, before or after a service, to mingle, catch up, and be with one another as part of the body of Christ. Each member who serves is able to greet and welcome others, and often can employ some of their passions into the service itself.
Born and raised in West Virginia, Nathan Bennett has found his home in Florida for the last ten years, when he moved here to study at Reformed Theological Seminary. He found a church home in Orangewood in the fall of 2016, when he and his wife, Laura, attended service for the first time. Since then, they have become members of Orangewood and recently welcomed a beautiful daughter.
Nathan serves on Sundays by preparing specialty coffee from the award-winning Onyx Coffee Lab for members and guests coming to worship. His passion for coffee grew from the seed of drinking coffee with his Grandpa in high school to the fruit-producing tree of discovering new tastes, places, and people to serve daily.
“My first exposure to something other than Grandpa’s pot of pre-ground Maxwell House from a can came when I studied abroad and then started working at a local coffee shop in Morgantown,” Nathan said.
This new exposure opened up the world of coffee for Nathan, as he found that you could trace each coffee bean to its source and discover the people and process behind the beans. Nathan spoke about the importance of using your passions when serving the community, and how something as simple as a cup of coffee could have a great impact.
When asked to elaborate, Nathan responded, “Well, in a way, everything has to do with Jesus, right? ‘whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God…do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (1 Cor. 10; Col. 3) How does that apply specifically to coffee? Well, I like to think that coffee, for a number of reasons, might be a little closer to Jesus’ heart than, say, carrots or cucumbers….”
He added, “I say this because Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. I grew up with carrots and cucumbers growing in my backyard; I can’t grow coffee in my backyard.”
“It has to be grown with intense labor by a distant neighbor, usually in the equatorial zone and usually in countries with struggling economies, large wealth gaps, and often corrupt governments. So coffee farmers and field workers are often exploited without anyone noticing. And those people are exactly the kind of people that Jesus says he came to set free, and to whom he calls us to be neighbors.”
Following that passion, Nathan found a more personal connection to coffee and to the people who bring it to the world. Building on his background in foreign languages and missions, he developed an obsession with learning more about coffee, the places where it comes from, and the people who work to get it to us. He spoke about how these interests and connections have shaped his values and daily practices.
“Orangewood, like a lot of other American churches, has missions partners in Mexico and Central America. It’s no secret that a lot of coffee is grown in Central America. It’s also widely known that countries in Central America have some of those conditions I mentioned before that make it easy for coffee farmers to be exploited. I view buying and brewing high-quality, ethical coffee as a small way to be missional and combat exploitation in these countries and others,” Nathan said.
The mission of Orangewood is to invite every person into the life-changing story of Jesus. It can feel impossible to live out our daily lives with the framework of missions, values, passions, etc., all while bringing glory to our Savior. Nathan’s passions led him to this new perspective on missional living, focusing on daily service, care and concern for others, and being willing to serve the Lord in any capacity. Something as simple as brewing coffee for churchgoers on Sunday can be a part of something so much bigger.
Nathan’s passion for all things coffee has developed into a full-fledged ministry at Orangewood Church. So whether people are coming for the first time or the 100th time, they can experience skillfully brewed Onyx coffee courtesy of Nathan. With it, they might taste the opportunity to use their own passions in their daily practices, knowing that anything can be made great and mighty by our Lord.