By Rob Futral
A Light Makes All the Difference
“If your church was removed from your community, would anyone notice or care?” This question from a pastor friend in another city gripped me. I realized this was not just a surface question—it was a question that would challenge me to probe and process more deeply.
When I was given the opportunity to write an article this month about how believers can be salt and light in today’s toxic culture, a slight variation of that question came to mind. Maybe the better question is “If THE CHURCH (representing the collective influence of followers of Jesus Christ across our state) was removed, would anyone notice or care?” How would you answer that question?
I believe with all of my heart that if THE CHURCH were removed it would be greatly noticed and missed. Before I tell you why, let me share my experience that has led me to this conclusion.
I have had the privilege to be a pastor in Mississippi for most of my adult life, having served in the Delta, the Southwest region, and in the Metro Jackson area. Before that, I spent my formative adolescent days—high school and college—in the Metro Jackson area. I know it’s not a perfect place, but I do know that THE CHURCH, in its many unique expressions, has made a difference and is making a difference in my life. For that I am grateful.
As a pastor in the Metro Jackson area, one of my favorite experiences was an annual weekend when churches across the city came together to serve on one day that was called SHINE! Those were incredible moments to see the influence and impact of not just a single church, but THE CHURCH. Those days of service gave me a partial glance of a powerful reality that is the reason I believe THE CHURCH would be missed, but also why THE CHURCH must keep being THE CHURCH today.
Followers of Jesus must take seriously the mandate of our Master’s words in Matthew 5:13-16. If you are not familiar with those words or need a refresher, take just a moment to read them again:
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it give light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven,” Matthew 5:13-16.
I believe many would notice and many would care because there are so many followers of Jesus who are living as salt and light in this decaying and dark world. Now I know the church isn’t perfect, after all the whole basis for membership is acknowledging that we are imperfect and in need of a perfect Savior. He is perfect, but we are not. There is more than enough evidence to prove our imperfections, but even in these our perfect Savior shines.
Jesus still calls his disciples to be salt and light. It has often been noted that salt has a preserving quality preventing or at least delaying the spoiling of foods. In Jesus’ day that was certainly true, as salt was the primary preservative for food. But Jesus’ words seem to suggest the usefulness of salt that we most relate to today, something that seasons our food. We are to preserve and to flavor.
Then there is light, the phenomena that scientists, philosophers, and poets have observed, studied, defined, and described; resulting in incredible insights and countless theories. Yet, with all of the theory, imagery, and symbolism, light is most easily understood by simply observing it. You know when it’s light and you know when it is dark. The difference is clear.
Both of these qualities are often noticed more when they are absent than when they are present. We all know what it is like to have a meal that looks great in presentation, but is lacking in seasoning. If salt is absent, blandness is present. While most of us have limited experience with personally preserving our food, we still know that if salt is absent, decay is soon to be present.
In a similar but visual way, when there is an absence of light, the darkness is so very present. The absence of light is often accompanied by the presence of impaired sight, and often increased uncertainty and anxiety. Dark parking lots are frightening. Even a seemingly simple walk across a familiar room in the house undertaken in the darkness can result in a throbbing toe or a bruised shin. A life lived in the darkness can be devastating—even deadly.
We live in an imperfect world. We live in a fallen, dark, decaying, and hard world. There is hurt, hatred, division, malice, misunderstandings, reckless words, hurtful actions, and dark motives. In a world of deep divides, Jesus called us to dispel darkness and preserve what is right.
Being salt and light will stand out, especially when the default of our world seems to be set on darkness, decay, and destruction. This world is far from what God intended from the beginning, but exactly why Jesus came the first time. Again, He was perfect and He lived perfectly, addressing the imperfections with His teaching, His healing touch, His personal interactions, His strategic service, and ultimately the sacrifice of His life.
Not surprisingly, He was and is described as the light of the world. What is surprising is that He calls us as well!
Every one of His followers is to be a representative and reflection of His perfect love. Each one is an example of how Jesus invites all imperfect people to discover a life-changing, life-shaping relationship with a perfect Savior. We aren’t perfect, but we are loved and led perfectly by Him.
In these dark and difficult days, my prayer is that we will do what Jesus called us to do—SHINE! It does make a difference.
Rob Futral is the lead pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church in Madison. He and his wife, Kimandria, have three children, Trea, Ridge, and Rivers.