One of the questions I’ve been asked as this journey begins of planting a church is how exactly did we come up with name Radiant Church? Did we want to be trendy? Were we trying to reach a certain target audience or age group? Did we just pull a name out of a hat and hope for the best?
While the answer to all of the questions above is a resounding “no”, what I can tell you is that much prayer and thought was put into what we wanted the name to be for our church. My feeling is that a church name is kinda like a tattoo. Once you choose it, you’re stuck with it. It says so much about you. In so many ways a name carries with it the vision, mission, and values that a church wishes to convey to the surrounding community. If the name is wrong, what kind of message are we sending to the surrounding community about who we are and who God is?
With this in mind, my wife and I spent many nights, car rides, dinner dates, and texting conversations going back and forth on something seemingly as simple as giving a name to the church God had placed in our hearts.
Do we have the word “life” in the name? We absolutely felt that we wanted to be a life-giving church but actually putting the word “life” into the name seemed a bit too “churchy” for us.
How about something with the word “city” in it? We felt a heart for the city for sure, but Macon is pretty spread out and doesn’t necessarily feel like a big city. I mean, Macon is still a place where everyone knows everyone in some way or another. (Those who have grown up here, like I have, know exactly what I’m talking about…….) And besides, there were a couple of other churches in the area that already had the word “city” in it and we didn’t want to cause any confusion by providing another one.
What about a church name with the word “truth” in it? Nah, too 80’s.
What about something with the word “extreme” in it? No! Sounds too much like a 90’s youth group event.
How about we build our name around the word “bridge?” Maybe, but not quite what we wanted.
(BTW – If you are reading this blog and are currently attending a church that has one of these words talked about in the above sentences in the name……and you are offended……please direct all your complaints to KimWinters1981@gmail.com. Ha!)
Round and round we went for hours, days, and weeks. Every time I felt like we got close to choosing we would take a step back, reflect, and realize that it just wasn’t who we were and what we wanted the church to represent.
Finally one day, my wife looked at me and asked an incredibly important question. She asked, “Drew, what do you believe the role of the church should be? Not just our church, but THE church as a whole.”
As I began to collect my thoughts before answering, I realized that I had been going about this whole naming the church thing the wrong way. See, I mistakenly thought that my job was to first name the church and from there build a mission statement, vision statement, and tie all of those elements into our values.
I should have been doing the exact opposite.
As I began to share with my wife what I believed the role of our church should be, I realized that those core values and beliefs were instead backing me into a name that fit perfectly. A name that would reflect what I felt God calling this church, and me as a Christ follower, to be in this day and time.
You already know the name we chose; now let me share with you the belief behind it:
In John 8:12, Jesus made an incredible claim about himself. He stated, “I am the light of the world, whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.”
Sounds pretty straightforward.
But then, in Matthew 5:14, Jesus said something rather curious. He said, “You are the light of the world, like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.”
Jesus being the light of the word, I get it. I mean, he’s Jesus. That’s his job.
Me being the light of the world? Now that’s a WHOLE different story!
That statement blows my mind that Jesus Christ would look to me to be the light of the world! I mean, it’s me. Me with all of my hang-ups, flaws, selfish moments, and bad days. With all of that, how could Jesus expect ME to be the light of the world?
I mean, isn’t the whole light thing supposed to be His job?
But then it hit me. Maybe Jesus calls me, yes me, to be the light of the world because He is less concerned about my perceived capacity to fulfill the role and is more concerned about my taking on the personal responsibility of fulfilling the role.
– Jesus being the light of the world? Yep, I get it. But how often do I take that truth and use it as an excuse for inactivity?
– People are hurting in our city? Oh, Jesus will take care of it!
– Truth is being distorted and values are falling by the wayside? What can I do about it?
– People all around me need hope and a real source of life? I’ve got my own issues to deal with, what good can I do for other people?
– Darkness is growing in our communities, city, and nation? Not my problem!
Can I be raw? At my core I have found at times that it is easier for me to curse the darkness around me rather than taking on the responsibility of turning on the light.
But in Matthew 5:14 Jesus takes all of my selfish excuses and in one statement throws them for a loop.
According to Matthew 5:14, Jesus offers a specific solution to the searching, hurting, suffering, world that I see around me. He has a method that will give hope to people harmed by poor choices and blinded by a rejection of the truth. Jesus Christ has a specific part He wants me to play when it comes to the darkness that I see ever increasing in our world.
According to Matthew 5:14 – Jesus doesn’t ask me to pretend that the hurting I see in our world doesn’t exist – that would be ignorance.
According to Matthew 5:14 – Christ doesn’t ask me hole up and focus on just my interests, values, and worldview – that would be selfish.
According to Matthew 5:14 – I am not to just stand on my truth and curse the darkness I see around me – that would be uncompassionate.
No, Matthew 5:14 gives me a much greater responsibility. A much bigger role to play. According to Matthew 5:14, I get to play a part in God’s redemptive story here on this earth.
As I follow Jesus, the true light of the world, I actually get to do as He does and BE the light!
Somehow, even though I will never fully understand it, Jesus Christ calls me to represent everything He is through the avenue of everything I am not. With His help, I get to see His kingdom come here on this earth. I get to see hope renewed to people without it. I get to play a part in seeing bound people set free. I get a role in helping to restore families, in showing love to the seemingly unlovable, and to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ change the hearts and natures of the people who believe it.
Wow! What did I ever do to deserve such high a calling? Jesus Christ invites me, yes ME, to be involved in His work here on this earth.
My job is never to be perfect. My job is to take responsibility to be the light! In my home. In my church. In my friendships. In my everyday life.
And if that is my responsibility as an individual Christ follower, to be the light, then I also believe that is the role of the church. Of MY church.
I believe that when a church body makes a commitment to stop cursing the darkness but instead turns on a light, we will see a revival happen in our cities and communities. The church was never meant to be a building. Instead it was designed to be a meeting place where individual people, who have each taken on the responsibility of turning on their light, can gather together and collectively allow their lights to shine brighter. It’s a place where we point to the true light of the world, Jesus Christ.
The church God has led me to plant will exist to turn on a light in the city of Macon!
After hearing the backstory, is it any wonder how we decided on the name Radiant?