Radiant Church in Raleigh, once one of the fastest growing churches in the nation, was struggling. At one time the home of a growing congregation that approached 1,200, its sprawling 66-acre campus and ministry buildings started to echo in their emptiness as attendance had dwindled to well under 200. And then its pastor announced he was returning to his home state of Texas to take a pastorate there. Pastoral searches often take six months to a year to complete, the unspoken question: Did Radiant have six months to a year to give?
Mike Santiago and his wife, Ashton, had planted Focus Church in Apex about six years ago. The new church was a success, growing quickly and steadily over the years, with weekly services often seeing 350 to 400 people gathering in their high school theater home. But as Radiant Church’s challenges were years in the making, Focus Church’s crisis was full blown in just weeks.
“The school hired a new theater director and she didn’t want a church meeting in her theater,” Santiago says. “We were given two weeks to find a new home.”
The problem was, Apex had few options. Santiago and a friend of his drove throughout the area, calling any place that appeared to possibly have space the church could meet in — hotel conference rooms, community centers, ballet studios, gymnastic centers. Nothing. Finally, a country club gave them a home for three Sundays . . . and then asked them to leave as golfers couldn’t find parking spaces on Sunday mornings.
“About a month after we lost our high school home, we found ourselves meeting at 5 p.m. on Saturdays in a Baptist church on a temporary basis,” Santiago says. “By midway through August our attendance had dropped to 178. We met with our leadership team and we faced the reality that without a home, we would struggle to survive as a church.”
Two churches. Two very uncertain futures....