The Church is to be God’s redemptive gift to salt and light the communities where God has placed it.
By “salt” I mean that capacity to spice up the experience of living in God—and all humans are living in God whether they acknowledge or deny that reality. Historically, salt’s seasoning effect was experienced as good. In addition to seasoning all it touches, salt preserves. Salt slows decay. In the arid middle east at the time of Christ salt kept meat from rotting. It was essential to survival. Everybody understood this.
“Light” illuminates. Light can point the way like a car’s headlights serve those driving, warn of danger the way a lighthouse does, and enable us to see when vision would otherwise be impossible. Light allows us to make helpful distinctions in thousands of beneficial ways that keep us from harm, make sense of our surroundings, allow us to read, to learn, and to respond advantageously. Without it, society is confined to grope in darkness, suffering needlessly, sorrowing greatly.
When churches fail to be salt and light in our communities, our congregations suffer—but, the unchurched around us suffer much more.