We started with a call from God ...in a Walmart

Radiant Life is an Assemblies of God Church, planted in March 2007.   It started long before that...in a Walmart.   


Here is the story:  In October 2006, John and Susan Utley were attending Pathway Assembly of God and decided to go by Wal-Mart after church to purchase groceries to cook a Sunday dinner. After that morning service, the last thing on anyone's mind was launching a church on the North Side of Elkhart, Indiana. 

As they arrived at the CR6 Wal-mart, John and Susan walked through the doors and said the obligatory 'hello' to the door greeter. 


Immediately, the Lord captured John's heart, stopping him in the front of the store. Susan asked, "Are you coming with me?" John replied, "no, I am going to stand here for a few minutes." 


As he stood in the greeter area, he turned and watched  as customers walked into the Wal-Mart. It was like a mosaic of nationalities...American's, Latino's, Europeans, African's...men in blue jeans and ladies in burkas. People speaking english, russian and spanish. Immediately, John sensed the Lord's strong leading to plant a church...right there....in Wal-Mart. 


Who knew God could call someone in a Wal-Mart??? 


The feeling would not leave him, so John called his pastor and asked to discuss it with him. They met, and the pastor affirmed the call. All of John's spiritual advisors affirmed that call to plant a church in Elkhart, and the process to plant the church began. 


Pathway provided funds and personnel to plant the church and in the late winter months, John began meeting with those individuals. The first few meetings were in a barn in Middlebury, and the name "Radiant Life" was chosen as the name of the new church plant. It would convey the principle of 'beginning with the end in mind" ...making our calling and vision clear...bringing men and women, boys and girls into the "radiant" life God called for in His Word. 

The first 'barn" meeting was attended by 12 individuals. A location was not yet determined, but the name was chosen. After a great deal of searching, the Ramada Inn in Elkhart was chosen to be the launching location. Contracts were signed, signs were ordered, and plans were made to have two weeks of a 'soft opening' preparing for a launch in late March 2007. These two weeks enabled the set up and break down crew to work on establishing systems, and gave everyone a glimpse into what was missing and needed. 


 

The Launch

March 25, 2007 was chosen as the launch date. Funds were limited, so only free advertising and limited numbers of postcards inviting people to the launch. Friends were called and family members were encouraged to attend. Most of John and Susan's friends attended other churches, but came for the launch to encourage the new work. Afterward, they returned to their home churches.


On the launch Sunday, 74 individuals gathered to launch Radiant Life Church. It was an exciting day as those in attendance worshipped God and heard Pastor John share the vision of Radiant Life Church.

Since many that came were family and friends, going home or back to their church following the launch, the second week's attendance was very uncertain. Would anyone come? Would Radiant Life begin reaching Michiana with the gospel...outside of Pastor John and Susan's circle of influence. It was very clear that God was doing something in the hearts of people. The second week, Radiant Life had 69, and has not looked back.


The first few weeks, Radiant Life met at Ramada, until Easter. Ramada had a very successful "EASTER BRUNCH" causing Radiant Life to find another place to worship for Easter.  So, three weeks after launching, Radiant Life moved for one service to Discovery Middle School (several miles away). A few weeks later, Ramada would have a very successful "MOTHERS DAY BRUNCH" and Radiant Life would once again have to worship at Discovery Middle School. This happened on several occasions during Radiant Life's first year. The church motto during this time was "You can come, if you can find us."


Radiant Life had its first water baptism service at Ramada Inn's swimming pool and had its first salvations while there. 


Radiant Life was planted with a heart for missions as well. In 2007, Pastor John and twenty individuals traveled to Tabacundo, Ecuador to conduct a medical missions clinic. They ministered to over 1,500 individuals with 800+ coming to Christ. Since that time, they have traveled to Honduras three times, twice to work on the Casa de Esperanza orphanage, and the also time to build a church on the Roatan Island. In 2012, 25 traveled to Otavalo, Ecuador to conduct a medical clinic and to construct a church building. True to the form factor of Radiant Life, that clinic was a mobile clinic, ministering to three different communities.


 

A place to call home

In 2008, Radiant Life contracted with "THE GRAND EVENT CENTER," a banquet facility to hold worship services in that facility instead of the Ramada. For the next year, the set up/break down crew unloaded, set up, broke down and hauled the church away from the facility. 


The church continued to grow. Following that year, Radiant Life took over the full lease, enabling the church to remain set up each week. 

Radiant Life was planted as an independent church. The beliefs were identical to the Assemblies of God doctrine, of which John was an ordained minister. In 2009, the church voted to affiliate with the Assemblies of God with full sovereign status. 

During Radiant Life's short history the church has conducted outreaches continually. A food pantry that reaches hundreds every month was established in 2009 and continues today. "Ladies Day Out" began as an outreach to women who have been impacted by the economy offering a free meal, free clothes, household items, jewelry, shoes, prizes and most importantly, THE LORD. The children's ministry has had harvest parties (halloween alternative) and massive Easter Egg hunts (our latest was over 13,000 Easter Eggs). In each outreach, the gospel has been conveyed and a number of children have come to Christ.

Radiant Life reached out to local laundry mats offering those washing and drying their clothes an opportunity to receive it free. Participants in the "CODE SIX" outreach paid their own way, and shared the love of God at three area laundry mats. More "CODE SIX" outreaches are being planned.

Radiant Life's drama team has garnered greater prominence in the church with sermon skits, a hilarious Christmas production called, "A Madison County Christmas." Most recently, the drama team and praise team came together with Pastor John to present Radiant Life's first illustrated sermon, "THE THORN."  That Easter service broke attendance records and enabled the church to begin to utilize media in a new and exciting way. 


In the midst of ministry, the church attempted to purchase a building, only to lose the sale the day of closing due to an IRS tax lien on the property. This lien kept Radiant Life from the property purchase, and in the process of the purchase, lost the lease on the location on Lillian Avenue. 

 

You can come...if you can find us!


On October 27, 2013 Radiant Life moved from Lillian Avenue to the Northern Indiana Event Center (RV Hall of Fame) where it went back to its roots as a mobile congregation. During most of the 2014, Radiant Life held services at the Event Center, but later in the year a scheduling conflict caused RLC moved to an Elementary School for two weeks, then back to the event center for a week...then to the school...then to the event center...then...um...somewhere...Radiant Life lived up to it's unofficial motto: YOU CAN COME IF YOU CAN FIND US. 


Some outside observers told Pastor John that such moving around would be the death knell for the congregation. They assured him that people will not follow a church on wheels...especially one that has been around eight years. Instead of being the death knell, the congregation grew.


2015 began with one word spoken to Pastor John by God when he was in prayer, "EXPANSION." While the leadership continued to look for a permanent location, God continued to challenge Radiant Life to expand, not retreat...to move the stakes, not to give up....to press in to a closer walk with God, not live in discouragement. Throughout the year, Pastor John and the congregation began to embrace the mobile church God had led them to be, and the church moved more than before, establishing opportunities to reach people that would never darken a traditional church door. Even though the mobile set up and tear down can bring about weary bodies, God has blessed the congregation with a passion of prayer, of reaching the unreached and living out a Radiant Life. 

 

Where we are now


In March 2017, after ten years of ministry, God opened the door for Radiant Life to return to 2936 Lillian in Elkhart.   Currently we meet at that location while we renovate it to maximize the fullest.   Radiant Life just launched live streaming on Facebook.  Missions is still our DNA...and we are actively planning short term missions trips (we just returned from Honduras and a 2018 trip is scheduled).  Our newest ministries include THRIVE for widows and widowers, renewed emphasis in youth and new children's areas.  In 2019, Radiant Life is hosting its second trip to Israel.  This Christmas we will partner with NIBDA to present the drama, THE FATHER.  The future is brighter than ever....check us out this week.

missions is the mission

Even before Radiant Life officially launched, a group of people were preparing to travel to Ecuador to conduct a medical missions clinic.  Since then, we have traveled to Ecuador twice, Honduras four times and to the far flung regions of upper Elkhart.  Indiana, that is.  Missions is not what we do, it is who we are, built into our very DNA.  We have traveled with hundreds of people reaching thousands on our missions teams, and continue to look for ways to take teams to Elkhart, Michiana and around the world.  The mission is missions.