Matt Rose senses plenty of anxiety and fear around him in the valley west of Phoenix, where he, his wife and their two children live.
But, instead of places that offer hope and healing, Rose sees more and more grocery stores and big box retailers.
“If we need that infrastructure for food, how much more do we need churches?” Rose said.
So, Rose and a core team planted Orbit Church to answer that question for Buckeye, Arizona, a city about 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix that has nearly doubled in population since 2010.
“We need more churches,” he said. “People need Jesus out here.”
It’s not even launch Sunday, and God’s already working
Orbit Church has planned its launch service on February 25. But God’s not waiting to save people far from him. The Roses and their core team have helped 15 to 20 people start following Christ.
In October 2023, the church hosted a vision night when several people joined the core team. In addition to gaining new volunteers, six people made their faith public and were baptized.
Karezz Goggins, the church’s worship and technical director, and Kayleigh Sewell, the church’s children and communications director, also moved to Phoenix to be part of Orbit. They both see the church offering something the city of 100,000 needs.
Goggins and his wife, Maggie, meet many military families new to the area. They also meet a lot of families where the husband works out of town or even out of state. He said the church’s most significant gift will be serving as a place where “people can just walk in, feel welcomed, feel loved.”
Sewell, who moved from Missouri a year ago, is also part of Orbit’s core team. She said she has seen how the growing town has plenty of new roads, warehouses and workplaces. However, the infrastructure for spiritual life is inadequate compared to the population.
“There are not enough churches out here to really have that growth and meet the needs of people,” she said. “There’s that hunger to know Jesus more.”
What — or who — makes life in Phoenix go round?
Orbit can be the church that meets that hunger, Rose explains, because God’s word and his people can help people learn to let Christ lead their entire life.
“That’s where the image of orbit comes in,” Rose said. “We want to help people find peace (and) develop their purpose. We think the way to getting there is by revolving everything around Jesus.”
Right now, life in the valley means people transplanting from California, the Pacific Northwest and a few other places. Many of them work remotely or commute to Phoenix. All of them are busy, and almost all of them feel apathetic about God and the gospel.
The people have children playing sports or other extracurricular activities. The adults spend a lot of time working and commuting and little time focused on their eternal future. Rose said about 12 percent of people sometimes attend church.
Despite the disinterest, the core team has seen the gospel and God himself break through the barriers. The church is building relationships where it can help people find purpose and peace through serving alongside local charities.
He said the congregation is learning to see hurting people, think about their needs, and prepare to help. Orbit has agreed to give 12% of its budget to other organizations, with more than half of that 12% allocated for transformation in Buckeye or Phoenix.
“We want that to be a part of our DNA, that we offer redemptive value to our community,” he said.
Another part of Orbit’s DNA is reflecting the community’s demographics of whites, Latinos and African Americans. The West Valley has significant diversity, drawing the core team to focus their ministry there.
“We knew we wanted to be in a place where we could reach all kinds of people,” Rose added.
God’s preparing a harvest as buildings cover brown sands
Kayleigh Sewell has had a year to get oriented to much of the transition and transformation happening around the west valley of Phoenix. There are new Frye’s and Safeway grocery stores, a new Costco and new highways, schools and hospitals.
She sees how the people moving from other states are filling in the valley, replacing alfalfa fields. She sees human development of all kinds shrinking the brown sandy stretches.
She said the area will be completely grown in 10 to 15 years. That creates excitement for the team as they eagerly desire the new building and expansion the Lord is starting to do.
“God’s preparing a harvest; we’re just the workers,” she said. “We’re being able to plant the seeds and water and tend the field while waiting for the doors to open.”
Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.