Each month we’ll be hearing from one of our Regional Ministers, to encourage us along the way as we continue empowering missional disciples in our communities across the West of England.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house (Matthew 5:15-16). 

Do you use an alarm clock to wake you up in the morning? I do and I know that without it … well let’s just say I’d be late quite a few mornings! Of course, sometimes I’m wide awake and even up and at it before my standard 7am setting, although I work with colleagues (OK one colleague) for whom this would be considered a lie-in. If I’m asleep I need the alarm clock, on those days when I’m awake I wonder why I bother with it.

Recent years have been a wake-up call for the church across the UK. It appears we’ve been asleep, or at least a slice of the church seems to have been. The covid pandemic served to highlight the discrepancy between who we said we were and who we were seen to be. As churches and missional communities, we said we were light and salt, but the most recent Talking Jesus research (2022) tells us only 22% non-Christians would think to find out more about faith by going to a local church. Of course, we still believe the truth Jesus tells us:

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. but maybe we’ve forgotten the next sentence: Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 

… however, our shared life together, the public profile of us together, is not always shining bright enough for most people to notice to such a degree they are drawn to explore more.

Now the big issue: when someone does come within the orbit of our influence, whether personally, or collectively, what do they see? Is it the light of Jesus Christ? Because he has you and I in mind here, ‘You are the light of the world’. He says this immediately after underlining ‘You are the salt of the earth’. In Jesus’ day, salt would most likely remind people of its purpose as a fertiliser, or preservative, which raises the question to what extent we ourselves are good news not simply broadcasters of it! Jesus makes the point, both in relation to salt and light, the purpose of either can be denied.

The Baptist Union are currently consulting all our churches concerning our stance in relation to same-sex sexual unions which in itself reflects the times we are living through. The stand made by our forebears, which led to the global Baptist movement today numbering more than 50 million people, was not made with the intention of starting a denomination, but simply radical obedience of a life focused on following Jesus as Lord. Even a few years ago I doubt any one of us imagined we would be in a place where we were called to place our allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord before such powerful voices in our culture, but this is where we are.

We must remain as full of grace and truth in our responses as we can (as we live out the gift of our life and our calling to be salt and light) and I believe it is possible today to be gracious towards those who believe and behave differently, without adopting and consequently compromising who we are called to be.

We must fix our eyes on Jesus to more fully understand how to live a life fully aligned with the kingdom of God. If discipleship doesn’t lead us to a place where we are living distinctly for Christ; we have not followed him very far. Without living distinctly for him we shall always fall short of influencing others as salt and light.

Nigels Coles

Regional Team Leader