where we have been
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. Susan said, "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 people walk 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 walmart???
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.
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. That was the lowest number Radiant Life has posted (outside of two Sunday's where ice kept people away).
The first few weeks, Radiant Life met at Ramada, until Easter. Ramada had a very successful "EASTER BRUNCH" and asked Radiant Life to find another place to worship for Easter. So, three weeks after launching, we 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 20 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 twice, once to work on the Casa de Esperanza orphanage, and the secome 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.
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 soverign status.
During Radiant Life's short history, they have conducted outreaches continually. A food pantry that reaches hundreds every month was established in 2009 and continues. "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." This 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.
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 congreation. During most of the 2014, Radiant Life held services at the Event Center, but later in the year, moved to an Elementary School for two weeks, moved 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 don't follow a church on wheels...especially one that has been around eight years. Instead of being the death knell, the congegation 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 permenant 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. That's where we've been, and we can't wait to see where we are going...
where we are going
Everyone's future is uncertain. Even with the best plans, only God can bring about a purpose that surpasses our plans. Most of the time, we know where we are going, and when we need to find an alternate worship site. But, 'where we are going' is not just a buzzword for a mobile church. It is the heart of the journey God has called us to walk.
God spoke to Pastor John one word to embrace for 2015: Expansion. This word has proven both a blessing and a challenge. The challenge has been to keep from experiencing a one dimensional view of "expansion" and to embrace God's purpose. In the fall of 2015, Radiant Life is embracing "Expansion" by unpacking our core values and expanding what each core value means. First out of the gate is the core value of prayer. In August, the church has established WAR ROOM's of prayer, through strong life groups, early prayer emphasis and advancing prayer in every area of life...and worship times. Not just prayer...but war room praying with effective strategies to ensure victory. Radiant Life is also poised to conduct it's largest outreach ever, touching 2,000-5,000 people at the Family Fest Day at the Northern Indiana Event Center. This huge event promises to put thousands within reaching distance of Radiant Life and offering Radiant Life the opportunity to have fun and minister to people.
Journey is a key word to describe our DNA and the purpose God has planted in our hearts. In the fall of 2015, Radiant Life will take a journey with the people Israel as they experienced God on their way to the promised land. A journey that started with grace and ended with amazing. Every journey God calls us to is an opportunity for God to show up, and show His power. Most tend to miss the amazing as they continue to view the journey through eyes of doubt, instead of seeing an Amazing God revealing His character, power and love. This is not the only 'journey' about the people Israel we are about. We will also be gearing up for a tour to Israel in 2016, and an opporunity to show the people of Israel the love of Jesus. Our goal is not just to tell them we love them, but to show them too!
Our core values have not changed, but in the coming months, stronger emphasis will be placed on each core value: prayer, God's presence, personal growth, discipling others, and reaching people with the gospel. These core values can be put this way: Inward focus is personal growth, Outward focus is outreach, determining gifting, and sharing the gospel, Upward focus is worshipping, praying and living in God's presence. The coming months these core values will be experienced through morning services, strong outreaches, and