Salt & Light

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Salt and light[Keynote address at BUC Ministers Council, Swanwick, 18 - 20 February, 2014]

When looking at the figures, many of us might think that these are figures we would die for...

Every Sunday, approximately 1 million people attend and participate in Church of England services. Another ¾ of a million people attend other services, I mean how many of our congregations see a Prayer meeting service attendance that is ¾ of the attendance of the Sabbath 11 o'clock service.

Some 3 million people participated in a Church of England service on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve.

The Church of England has the largest following of any denomination or faith in Britain today. More than 4 in 10 in England regard themselves as belonging to the Church of England, while 6 in 10 consider themselves Christian.

When it comes to Education, some of the latest available statistics indicate that one in four primary schools and one in 16 secondary schools in England are Church of England schools. Some one million children are educated in more than 4,700 Church of England schools.

At the end of 2009, the Church of England had over twice the amount of licensed ministers, clergy, readers and Church Army officers than the NEC has membership at 19,504 persons a figure which does not include over 1600 Prison, hospital and armed forces chaplains.

As we struggle for enrolment at Newbold College of Further Education, consider this, the Church of England recommended 491 future clergy for ordination training in 2009 a figure it has consistently held since the turn of the millennium.

And yet even in having these kind of figures which dwarf ours as the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the British Isles, a former leader of the Church of England, Archbishop Carey who was head of the Church with its 85 million Anglicans worldwide, stated his belief (November 2013) that his church in the UK is one generation away from extinction!

His church in the UK is one generation away from extinction!

Carey said that the Church of England faces fewer people in the pews to boredom among the masses and he believes these problems pose major threats to the future of Christianity. To quote Carey, "In many parts of Britain churches are struggling, some priests are diffident and lack confidence; a feeling of defeat is around.... The burden seems heavy and joy in ministry has been replaced by a feeling of heaviness.... So many people do not see the average church as a place where great things happen."

Carey's warning is one that we as Seventh-day Adventists in the British Isles would do well to pay some heed to, because the continued growth that some of us are experiencing in our congregations should not be taken for granted particularly in light of an increasingly unbelieving population. It has been reported that more people in the UK believe that life exists on other planets than believe there is a God. An estimated 33.1 million inhabitants in the UK believe that life exists on other planets, while only 27.5 million which is less than half the population - believe there is a God. Allied to this unbelief is an accompanied ignorance regarding the Bible as reflected in the following answers which were submitted on examination papers, please listen carefully

"In the 1st book of the bible, Guinesses, Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. One of their children Cain asked; "am I my brothers son?" and another answer of Biblical ignorance, "Moses led the people of Israel to the Red sea where they made unleavened bread which is bread made without any ingredients at all. Moses went up on Mount Sinai to get the Ten Commandments, he died before he ever reached Canada"

It would seem to me that the UK population is largely dismissive of Christianity irrespective of its branding and for these people Christianity generates nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders.... people don't care about the Church or Christianity!

However, there are signs of growth in Christianity, as the Evangelical Alliance reported "... the number of people going to church on a Sunday in London has leaped by 16 per cent..... (and these figures)... show that the growth is driven by London's ethnic diversity. The census, commissioned by London City Mission, found that two new London churches opened every week in the seven year period and two thirds of those were Pentecostal black majority churches (BMC) and a third catered for a particular language or ethnic group (such as Polish Lutheran or Ghanaian Seventh-Day Adventist)."
... The picture is not all rosy..... the huge growth that's been seen in the past seven years in London's churches will not necessarily continue as.... much of it is a consequence of migration patterns, which may change.

In other words, if the United Kingdom & Ireland suffers a serious economic downturn, we may find our churches emptying real soon as people move to lands of greater opportunity! Our church may have been bursting at the seams Sabbath gone, but now is not the time for complacency or smugness.

Time and responses of church leaders will reveal whether Carey's words about the extinction of the Church of England will occur in a generation, but I declare that God has not called us as Seventh-day Adventist pastors, evangelists, Bible instructors and leaders to perform the last rites of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United Kingdom! Last rites are a Roman Catholic tradition. God has not called us to oversee the demise and burial of Adventism in any part of the UK or among any ethnic group. You see, while we would do well to heed Carey's warning we would do even better to understand and apply the words of our Saviour who said,

(Mat 5:13 NIV) "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." (Mat 5:14 NIV) ""You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden." (Mat 5:15 NIV) "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." (Mat 5:16 NIV) "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

For the Seventh-day Adventist Church to prosper in the British Isles, we must never forget who we are.


For the Seventh-day Adventist Church to prosper in the British Isles, we must never forget who we are. As Pastors leading our members we must remember that we are SALT and LIGHT. We are SALT and LIGHT when we are the culmination in character and conduct of all that Christ has said we are to be in the Beatitudes (viz. poor in spirit, meek/gentle/kind, hungering, merciful, peacemakers, mournful as well as rejoicing).

Christ spoke of us as being 2 things to the world, SALT and LIGHT. Salt is a common substance and yet while salt and indeed light might be taken for granted yet we should never downplay their importance. Ancient historian Pliny wrote, "Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine".
[Natural History 31.102]

In ancient times salt was seen as a necessity of life and was one of the most highly prized minerals. In many societies it was so highly valued that it was used for money. The English word salary is derived from the Latin word Salarium which refers to the payments made to a Roman soldier with salt.

Throughout history, salt has had many uses for humankind such as to bring out and add flavor to food, but in the days before modern refrigeration, salt was found to be of great value when used as a preservative. Salt was to arrest or at to hinder the process of decay. The drying and salting of food is one of the world's oldest known preservation methods. Anyone who has eaten salt fish touches the past usage of salt which gives fish and meat a long storage life as it can preserve food from decay.


It is quite obvious, but sadly not always in practice, that for SALT to be effective it must have CONTACT or interaction!

Salt in a cupboard neither flavours nor preserves. Wed we must ask the question of ourselves is our congregation as SALT who meets on a weekly basis in our church buildings bringing any flavour or preservative influence to the community in which we are gathered? Unless SALT touches something the thing it is seeking to change, it is in effect redundant!

Whenever the church becomes a cupboard or a salt cellar, it has missed out on the lesson that salt must make contact to have an effect. Ellen White in commenting on Matthew 5:13 shared this insight

Salt must be mingled with the substance to which it is added; it must penetrate and infuse in order to preserve. So it is through personal contact and association that men are reached by the saving power of the gospel. They are not saved in masses, but as individuals. Personal influence is a power. We must come close to those whom we desire to benefit. [MB 36.1]

Salt has to come into contact with people on a personal level for it to be effective.
Salt cannot season or preserve if it does not touch.
Salt is of no effect if it does not leave the salt cellar, it is only a decoration on the table.

By refusing to touch and interact and mingle with people, we deny our purpose, our calling and our function as SALT. To deny the salt function is to deny the principles of the kingdom of God.

By refusing to touch and interact and mingle with people, we deny our purpose, our calling and our function as SALT.

And if we as SALT do not touch and come into contact with those whom Christ wishes to flavour and preserve, who is going to do it?!

Jesus emphatically said, "You are the salt!"

Now I am aware of the tension this brings to us as Seventh-day Adventists, but actually I do not believe there is a tension. Ellen White wrote,

It was not God's purpose that people should be crowded into cities, huddled together in terraces and tenements. In the beginning He placed our first parents amidst the beautiful sights and sounds He desires us to rejoice in today. The more nearly we come into harmony with God's original plan, the more favorable will be our position to secure health of body, and mind, and soul. [MH 365.2]

Now for some Seventh-day Adventists, being SALT is impossible because we are seeking not to be in contact with the world as reflected in some who in fleeing from the cities are doing so to escape the perils and wickedness of the cities. However, Ellen White spoke of fleeing the cities (but not in every instance either) and still being SALT....

It is God's design that our people should locate outside the cities, and from these outposts warn the cities, and raise in them memorials for God. There must be a force of influence in the cities, that the message of warning shall be heard.-- Review and Herald, April 14, 1903. [Ev 76.4]

We may live in the country but there we are still to be SALT to the cities and those close by! For some we are to live in the city to be SALT

We see the great need of missionary work to carry the truth not only to foreign countries, but to those who are near us. Close around us are cities and towns in which no efforts are made to save souls. Why should not families who know the present truth settle in these cities and villages, to set up there the standard of Christ, working in humility, not in their own way, but in God's way, to bring the light before those who have no knowledge of it? When the Church shall truly have the spirit of the message, they will throw all their energies into the work of saving the souls for whom Christ has died. [The Review and Herald September 29, 1891, Missionary Work]

It was not Ellen White's purpose that we form rural Adventist communities or ghettos...

It is not the purpose of God that his people should colonize, or settle together in large communities. The disciples of Christ are his representatives upon the earth, and God designs that they shall be scattered all over the country, in the towns, cities, and villages, as lights amid the darkness of the world. They are to be missionaries for God, by their faith and works testifying to the near approach of the coming Saviour. [RH, May 15, 1888 par. 12]

Whether we live in or out of the cities, we are called by Christ to be SALT, and touch the lives of those whom Christ has died for!

When the church becomes nothing more than a club looking after its own interests and refuses to make contact with the world, it becomes like the salt that is useless having lost its savour.

Christ is saying let your influence season people's life for the kingdom. Salt changes things; a little salt can flavour a big saucepan of soup. We are called by Christ to SALT touch season and preserve our communities, not merely share how bad our communities are to the gathered believers on a Sabbath morning! SALT can change our communities and the lives of those who do not know Christ!

If we are not engaging in this we are like the salt that has lost its saltiness.

Strictly speaking salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride is a stable compound. In the time of Christ one of the methods of deriving salt was extracting the salt from salt marshes, but this kind of salt meant it had many impurities. The actual salt or sodium chloride was more soluble than the impurities it came with and so when moisture came to the salt, the salt would leach out leaving a residue so dilute it was of little worth. It is said that even today, in some parts of the world (Israel) savorless salt is scattered on the soil of flat roofs. This helps harden the soil on the flat roof and prevent leaks and since the roofs serve as play grounds and places for public gathering, the salt is still being trodden under foot. [Deatrick, "Salt," p. 47]

The point is that, if we recognize that we are SALT then we must understand our role in be influencers of the world! As SALT we are not hiding from the world, ignoring the world, being alienated from the world, or having an "us versus them" mentality. As SALT we are to influence, season and preserve!

As SALT we are to arrest the decay of our world. As SALT we are to have a profound positive effect on the world.When we are SALT, that is tasted in our communities, we will promote a thirst in those we touch for Christ.

When Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of India, he was asked by some missionaries, "What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?" His reply was, "Christians."  

The purpose of SALT as indeed with LIGHT is to draw our communities to Christ. As SALT members of the body of Christ, we know that being SALT is about us, but it's all about God and His Glory.

It's not all about our name being spread all over the land, but it's all about spreading the name of Jesus who came to this earth, touched the lives of humanity and is still touching the lives of humanity before His Second Coming.

Being SALT is not about how many lives I or my congregation can touch, but it's all about how many lives can be touched by Jesus!

To be salt, we do not have to be spectacular
To be salt, we do not have to be sensational
To be salt, we do not have to be successful 
(by the world's standards)
To be salt, we just have to have an effect in our little corner of the world.
Christ said... You are the SALT of the world!

For more from the Ministers Council including a full report, photos and some video, visit our news page.


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Ian Sweeney'Rooted in real life'