When you ask the world about the church, what you hear is often not complimentary. Christians are hypocrites is maybe the most common. In the past few years especially, the evangelical church’s drive for political power has proven to be divisive and disheartening to the point where we’ve lost our credibility with the world. In Radiant Church, Tara Beth Leach reminds us that there is a different way, that we can regain that credibility, and that we can again be a shining city on a hill.
The Interview | Tara Beth Leach
This excerpt has been lightly edited for content and clarity. Listen to the full episode above or search “Beyond the Page” wherever you get your podcasts.
Josh Olds: Let’s just begin with the first word in the book’s title, because it’s a word that permeates the entire book. If we don’t know what you mean by the word “radiant,” then we don’t really know what you’re talking about. When you speak of a radiant church, what does radiance mean to you?
Tara Beth Leach: Yeah, so to me, “radiance” is rooted in Scripture in the very beginning. We see God’s covenant unfolding, beginning with Abram when he calls this nomad, this wanderer. And he says, you know, “Abram, go to this land that you don’t know. It’s going to be new.” And then he makes promises and he says, “Abram, look at the stars in the sky, if you can count them, that will be your offspring. And we see this continuation unfolding of a multitude of people, that later we see that—in the covenant—they are to be holy people. They are to be a people that follows God. They are to be a faithful people. They are to love God and one another. They are to be a righteous people, righteous to God and righteous to one another. And in so doing that, in the Old Testament, we see that when they live in the ways of God with faithfulness and obedience, that the world would take notice, and they’d be able to say, “Ah, that’s what your God is like.”
And that is our call today, that we – the church of Jesus who promised the gates of hell will not prevail – that we would be the light of the world, that we would be a Sermon on the Mount community, that we would live in such a way that we will shine radiant, and that the world will be captivated by Jesus through us. – Tara Beth Leach
And then we see this entire story culminate in the person of Jesus. This great, awesome, epic climax, as Jesus comes in. He enters into the story, fully God, fully human. And he fulfills his entire story by being the Holy One, the new Adam, the new Israel, he teaches exactly what this obedience and faithfulness and righteousness is to look like. He teaches and he shows us exactly what this love is to look like. Not only does he declare himself as light of the world, but he declares God’s people as light of the world—that the people of God who live in the ways of Jesus, who imitate the ways of Jesus, would be light and radiate. That they would be like a city on a hill. That the world would take notice of their holiness and righteousness of their love and their beauty. And the world would be able to catch a glimpse of this in-breaking Kingdom of God that Jesus has come to establish, that they would be able to catch a glimpse of this radiant community, and that they would be drawn in and captivated. And that is our call today, that we the church of Jesus who promised the gates of hell will not prevail, that we would be the light of the world, that we would be a sermon on the mount community, that we would live in such a way that we will shine radiant, and that the world will be captivated by Jesus through us.
The Book | Radiant Church
Something is not right. The witness of the church in North America is eroding. Many Christians are alarmed by the decline in church attendance and seek a culprit. Too often, we point the finger away from the church, make culture the enemy, and build walls between us and others. But our antagonism and enemy-making are toxins that further eat away at our witness. Is there a better way?
Tara Beth Leach could easily be one of those millennials giving up on the church. Instead, she is a pastor who loves the church and is paradoxically hopeful for its future. In an era where the church has lost much of its credibility, Leach casts a radiant vision for Christians to rediscover a robust, attractive witness. We need to name the toxic soil we’ve grown in, repent for past wrongs, and lean into a better way to become the church that Jesus proclaimed we would be.
Leach casts down idolatrous false images of God to recover a winsome picture of a kingdom of abundance and goodness. We can be sustained by practices that will tune our hearts to God’s and form us into the radiant communities God intends for us and those around us.
The Author | Tara Beth Leach
Tara Beth Leach is a pastor, preacher of the Word, and a writer. She speaks widely at conferences, retreats, and universities across America on Women in Ministry, Church Leadership, and the call to be a Radiant Witness. She is a pastor at Christ Church of Oak Brook in the western suburbs of Chicago. She previously served as senior pastor of First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena (“PazNaz”) in Southern California. She is a graduate of Olivet Nazarene University and Northern Theological Seminary. She is the author of Emboldened, Radiant Church, and Forty Days on Being a Six. She has two beautiful and rambunctious sons, and has been married to the love of her life, Jeff, since 2006.