The spiritual landscape in rural Kansas is changing, thanks to a seasoned Wesleyan church and the new one it recently planted.
In 2017, congregants at Lamont Wesleyan Church (LWC) voted to plant their satellite location (established in 2013) in New Strawn, Kansas. LWC, located in Lamont, a town of 40 people, planted Radiant Life Church (RLC) in New Strawn, that, combined with nearby Burlington, totals approximately 4,000 residents. Rev. Steve McVey, LWC pastor, said, “We are a very rural place.”
Radiant Life Church was originally planted as a satellite of LWC when leadership noticed approximately 100 people were driving 25 miles from Burlington/New Strawn area to attend LWC every week.
“As the satellite grew, we came to believe that the best way to make disciples was to release the congregation as a church,” said McVey. “This was concurrent with LWC shifting from being a ‘lake’ to a ‘river’ church. We changed our view of success from how many people we could accumulate to how many we could disciple and send.”
LWC sent more than half its congregation to plant RLC.
Rev. Ryan Akers serves as the first pastor of Radiant Life. With the help of LWC, Radiant Life purchased and renovated an old school building in New Strawn. In just five years of existence, RLC has grown from 70 to more than 250 in weekly Sunday attendance.
In June 2017, Radiant Life held its first baptism service. Twelve people planned to be baptized, but after their baptism, Akers invited anyone who wanted to give their life to Christ to come forward and be baptized. One by one, men, women and children walked to the front of the church. In all, 21 people were baptized that Sunday. Since that service, nearly 60 people have been baptized.
“Watching God move in rural Kansas has been nothing short of amazing,” said Akers. “People have been hungry to hear that Jesus loves them. They are looking for authenticity and truth. Every week God has brought new families who desperately need Jesus. We have some who are driving over an hour to church right now, which shows that rural church planting is still very much needed … we continue to be excited for what God has next, not just in our immediate area, but all over Kansas and beyond.”
Akers tells the story of some lives that have been made new through the RLC ministry. A couple struggling in their marriage came to RLC for some help. They eventually divorced, but later placed their faith in Jesus, got baptized and remarried each other.
“Radiant Life Church has grown significantly and is transforming New Strawn and Burlington,” said McVey.
LWC is focusing on planting Embrace Church in Emporia, Kansas. Together, LWC and RLC are forming a rural-church planting network. Three future church planters and two potential locations have been identified.
“We desire to become a multiplication movement that reaches every rural ZIP code in Kansas and beyond,” said McVey.
It appears both churches are well on their way to doing just that.