Like many of you, I remember Sunday mornings gathered around a kid-sized table with other little ones. Dressed in our Sunday best, we ate cookies (the ones with the hole in the center you could stick your finger through) and drank Kool-Aid while our teacher led us in song. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. . . . As our voices sang on, we declared (loudly and a bit off key) that we wouldn’t hide our lights, wouldn’t let Satan blow them out.
Now that I’m in my 40s, my cookie and Kool-Aid consumption has decreased, but some days I still hum the familiar childhood song. I appreciate its simplicity and biblical clarity, echoing Jesus’s words:
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt. 5:14–16).
The world’s darkness can be overwhelming. Our souls recognize the wrongness of fallen creation—broken homes, unwanted babies, sexual slavery, and more. But no matter how devastating the darkness becomes, there is One who has overcome it (John 1:5).
God is light (1 John 1:5) and has made us children of light (1 Thes. 5:5). Essentially, then, a church is a gathering of light-bearers. We plant churches to create more communities of light. We plant churches that plant churches to reach the darkest corners of the world.
Consider three effects of a church that shines.
1. Darkness Is Exposed
Evil thrives in darkness. One of the great evils of our time is abortion. On December 31, 2019, as people all over the world celebrated the coming of the new year, Disrn News reported that the leading cause of death worldwide in 2019—by far—was abortion. More than 42 million image-bearers were killed last year. To put this in perspective, approximately 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
Is your church devastated by the global slaughtering of unborn children? Then resolve to plant more churches.
Is your church devastated by the global slaughtering of unborn children? Then resolve to plant more churches. The horrors of this holocaust—and many other deeds of darkness—result from the sin of unbelief. “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). The only thing distinguishing us from the wicked is grace. God opened our eyes so we could turn from darkness to light and receive forgiveness for our sins (Acts 26:18).
As ones who’ve been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of Christ (Col. 1:13), we plant churches that expose sin by preaching the Scriptures. We invite rebels to repent and believe. Our bold proclamation—that Christ saves sinners—chases away darkness.
2. Goodness Is Visible
Our church plants must be communities of light that not only expose darkness, but illuminate goodness. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10), and his goodness is displayed when his people let their light shine.
When churches choose purity over pornography and care for victims of human trafficking, the world sees goodness against the backdrop of oppressive wickedness. When church plants include parents who treasure and train their children, and spouses who work through their differences to the praise of Jesus, our neighbors witness goodness.
The world’s appetite for wickedness grows daily. So when our obedience to God’s light-shining command likewise increases, we offer an alternative diet. Through our glad obedience, they can get a taste for something better. Something satisfying. With our good works we declare, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Ps. 34:8).
3. God Is Glorified
What do we want others to do when they see our good works? Give glory to God (Matt. 5:16). Our pro-life ethic isn’t based on misplaced aspirations to fit within a certain tribe. We don’t welcome the fatherless into our homes to create better Instagram stories. Our refusal to compromise our integrity to advance our careers isn’t so we can play the martyr at small group. We don’t shine for our sake, but for God’s.
Our ambitions are aimed at his great glory magnified among neighbors and nations.
Our good works are fueled by the desire to see our Father in heaven praised. Our ambitions are aimed at his great glory magnified among neighbors and nations. We work heartily for him (Col. 3:23), and he is glorified through our actions.
I’m no longer the little girl who loved to sing about her light. I’m a woman who follows Jesus, the light of the world (John 8:12), and I’m gonna let my light shine. Yes, darkness abounds. But even the tiniest flickering dispels the dark. And we don’t just flicker, we shine Christ’s light into the dark and behold his mercy toward sinners.
Do you see the effect your church can have by letting your light shine brightly? And how church-planting churches can further spread the light? Let’s courageously shine forth gospel grace, remembering that the darkness can never overcome the light (John 1:5).