Radiant Life Church

This week I visited Radiant Life Church on Post Road in Dublin, Ohio. I don’t know what made me choose Radiant Life over a plethora of other options. I noticed when I searched for “churches near me,” I was starting to recognize all of the names. Several of them were churches I had visited already or churches I had read about and ruled out. So, I decided to see what churches Dublin had to offer compared to Columbus.

Radiant Life stood out on Google for it’s glowing reviews and tons of photos. Most churches have like one photo of the exterior or maybe an awkward picture of the pastor, but Radiant life had at least 10 images showing the church, the people, events, etc. Seeing all those images made me comfortable enough to go to their church by myself.

Radiant Life is nondenominational. On their website, Radiant Life says of their mission: “We are motivated to see people walking out their faith in the freedom, joy, and purpose that comes from relationship with God. We are created for relationship. We are dedicated to family. We strive to raise up leaders empowered by the Spirit. We will love, serve, give and reach more together.”

I like the idea of raising up leaders. I was actually (brag) the president of a leadership fraternity in college. That fraternity was mostly one of those honor societies where you applied to get in, paid $80, and then could put it on your resume and never show up again. For those of us that actually wanted to be involved in the organization, though, it encouraged us to take initiative and seize opportunities in our lives that we might have overlooked otherwise. I have always been more reserved – I’ll take any excuse to hang back or divert attention away from myself. But someone telling me (or in this case, my organization giving me the authority to) step up and make choices and have an opinion made me feel a lot more in control of my own trajectory.

I think my beef with organized religion, often, is that I worry it encourages the opposite. It is a big group with a few leaders, the rest are followers. Followers of the church leadership or of Christ or of the Bible. That’s one of the most calming aspects of religion, too. It’s a guide on how to live. You don’t have to make the tough moral judgement calls for yourself, and you don’t have to carry mortal burdens because you know you have this salvation in something steadfast. That’s so powerful and reassuring for people, but I also would think it gives a churchgoer the right to go with the organized flow and not have to steer the helm of their own spiritual development. It can contribute to people having opinions or beliefs about things informed by their church and not by their own heart – things not even about God but opinions and beliefs about very worldly things.

That was a long tirade to say: I like that Radiant Life seems to encourage leadership. I can tell the lead pastors are old, and have been with the church since its very beginnings in 1980. They are proud of what they have built, but they are clearly raising up a group of young pastors and giving them the authority to lead prayers or take up church-wide initiatives. They had a prayer session for one of their younger members starting an international mission, and another who is literally building a new home from the bottom up (with their own two hands). The sermon for the day was somewhat vague, which has its drawbacks, but in the case of Radiant Life I think it is more freeform for the listener to take and interpret in their own way.

I liked last week at the Presbyterian church when they really dug into the meat of the Bible and explained it piece by piece. I liked the educational aspect and finally being treated like the spiritual dummy I am, which was something Radiant Life lacked. However, based on who they are and their mission, it seems like they are trying to put the onus of spiritual education on the individual and not the church. Part of the sermon today focused on making intentional time for studying the Bible and taking the opportunity to learn from it instead of taking the other, sometimes more attractive, opportunities presented to us every morning (news updates, twitter, candy crush, etc).

They also had a really really long section of opening songs. Like, so long. 35 minutes of songs. What is it with contemporary worship music where they pick one refrain and repeat it into oblivion? They start in on what you assume has to be the closing line and then they repeat it for at least 90 more seconds. Anyway, that’s not relevant and a very trivial criticism, but I thought worth mentioning. If you’re trying to hit up Radiant Life, maybe arrive 20 minutes after worship begins.

 I’d like to do a bigger update soon on how I am feeling about my church journey so far. I have a lot to say, and not all of my thoughts are fully formed yet, but I do have one anecdote to share. Last night I had a really unpleasant dream. I was talking to a close friend and I told him that, although I am finding some part of Christianity to be more palatable than I had before, I still am not 100% in and I don’t think I ever will be. In my dream, my friend started telling me how disappointed he was in me, and how he thought I was making a huge mistake. I felt my heart sink, but held steadfast in my dream. I told him I was sorry he felt that way, but I was going to continue to believe in a way that makes sense to me, and that way may not be technically correct in the Christian world.

That dream was really funny once I woke up. First of all, that friend would never react that way in real life. He’s nothing but kind and supportive. Second, it was a manifestation of my biggest fear with this project. My biggest fear is that I give this thing a chance and it’s still not for me, and that people of faith will hate me for it. I can already tell there are some aspects to Christian faith I really connect with and will carry on, but there are other pieces I couldn’t want to practice less.  When I confront the reality of knowing I won’t be your typical Christian at the end of this thing, I feel like I’ve failed a little, and that everyone who is so supportive and encouraging now will turn on me.

This dream proved that even if that would happen, I can hold my ground. My heart may break, but it won’t force me to pretend to believe something I don’t. It also showed me how absurd that fear really is. The people I love and care about aren’t the kind of people that will cut me off for being honest. I’ve always known that in my heart, but sometimes my anxious brain forgets.

Have a lovely Memorial Day. To anyone reading who has served: Bless you.

Tory FieldsComment