Excerpted from Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture:
Jesus was clear that his followers were the salt of the earth, a light to the world, and a city on a hill that could not be hidden. Being a visible city or a shining light does not mean that we should talk even louder when no one is listening to us or that we should wave our arms and jump around when we aren’t seen, just to get in someone’s face. When we are “salt,” saltiness is part of our very nature. If we are indeed “light,” we will indeed be seen in a dark world. Who we are can’t be hidden because light consumes the darkness.
These are images that define the nature of a community that becomes Good News to others. This is something we become because of what we believe, what we value, and what we do. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 that when people encounter such a community that they will “see” our “good works” and then ultimately “give glory to your Father in heaven.”[i]
In a post-Christian society, this is what the church needs to become yet again, salt and light to the world. The unchurched community no longer expects much from church; in fact, they often expect the worst. They are jaded. Wounded. And confused. Yet people are still looking for hope, and no one else can offer what we have to offer them. Our story made public, the visible witness of our lives together as a whole community, are integral to whether or not our message of hope becomes their message of hope.
To minister with influence in our current context, we must learn to locate the key differences between what our culture sees and what the Kingdom of God made visible has to offer them. The more the church lives in faithfulness to God and the gospel, the more visible God’s grace will be for all those who long for it. As Darrell Guder wrote in his book, Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America, “Churches that listen to sermons deploring crime may be faithful in attending to God’s call for right relationships among humanity. But the church that sets up victim-offender reconciliation programs and promotes equitable economic opportunities for communities where crime is the main escape route from financial despair is not only faithful but a remarkable light to the world, a city on a hill.”
Billy Graham, one of the most well-known evangelists of the twentieth century, understood that the cultural context was shifting. In an interview by author Gabe Lyons, Mr. Graham made this game-changing statement: “Back when we did those big crusades in football stadiums and arenas, the Holy Spirit was really moving- and people were coming to Christ as we preached the Word of God. But today I sense something different is happening. I see evidence that the Holy Spirit is working in a new way. He’s moving through people where they work and through one-on-one relationships to accomplish great things. They are demonstrating God’s love to those with love, not just with words, but in deeds.”