This article was written by Annette Griffin and published by Crosswalk
“Here is the church. Here is the steeple. Open the doors. And see all the people.” This well-loved nursery rhyme with its clever hand motions has kept little fingers busy for decades. The ditty was created as a fun and simple way to teach children about community within the church. But have those wiggly, finger-parishioners become too content amongst themselves? Are our well-lit sanctuaries becoming the preferred venue for believers to let their light shine?
What Is the Church and Who Are the People?
The sweet rhyme about the church will always be one of my favorites, but its message presents a theological misconception that should be addressed when little ones are old enough to understand scripture better.
The Bible never refers to the Church as a building. Believers are the Church. All those wiggly, finger-parishioners in the rhyme represent the blood-bought Body of Christ. Whether we meet in steepled buildings surrounded by stained-glassed windows or gather on a grassy hillside makes no difference. All born-again Christians are irrevocably knit together as part of one Spirit, one hope, one faith, one baptism, and one Body—where Christ is the head (Corinthians 12:12-14, Ephesians 4:4-6).
God’s purpose for establishing the Church here on earth was to equip His people for works of service, build them up, unify them in the faith, and grow them in the knowledge of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16). As long as this earth remains, Christ will be at work maturing, refining, and preparing His Church for our Heavenly role as His pure and spotless Bride (Revelation 9:7-9).
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
The symbolism associated with light and darkness reaches far beyond the Christian realm. Other religions, music, art, and even modern media have used the imagery to convey a message of good vs. evil. But there’s one major difference between God’s light and the light depicted in the world’s metaphors. Our God doesn’t just symbolize light—our God is the Light (1 John 1:5).
God sent Jesus into the dark, sin-laden world to be the Light—the source of all truth and life. When we accept Him as our Savior a major transition occurs. The consequences of sin had not only landed humanity in a world full of darkness; we were considered one with that darkness. The black sooty residue of sin enveloped us, filled us … was us.
But when the Light of the World saves a soul, He takes up residence within the believer and declares, “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8)
Contrary to popular belief, the light inside a believer has nothing to do with our own efforts to do good, be good, or spread good to the world. The Light inside every believer is Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5, Romans 8:10, Galatians 2:20).
Jesus has chosen to inhabit the weak human bodies of His followers to show that this surpassingly great power is from God and not us (2 Corinthians 4:7). This power enables Christians to live in a way that reveals His indwelling Light to the sin-darkened world. Jesus said, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
In this verse, Jesus did not say to “do good deeds,” so that your light will shine before others. The Pharisees practiced this flawed method daily, and we know how that worked out for them. Instead, Jesus puts first things first. He tells us to “let your light shine before others,” so that the world will “see your good deeds.” These good deeds originate from the light source and flow from Christ through us.
There’s a vast difference between good deeds done out of prideful or selfish motives versus God deeds accomplished through our own surrendered flesh. When that kind of light transfer happens, it astounds the world and makes people look upward. God gets the glory because He did the good.
How Can a Christian’s Light Become Hidden?
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:15, KJV)
Baskets, bowls, beds, and bushels—these terms vary in different Bible translations, but the truth remains consistent. Christ’s light was not given to believers to hoard or hide. Metaphorically speaking, a “bushel” is any barrier that keeps Christ’s light in us from reaching the lost world.
Sometimes bushels come in the form of fleshly barriers like fear, pride, complacency, or doubt.
Fear says, “I can’t tell others about Christ, I won’t know what to say. I don’t want to offend. I can’t risk my career, reputation, social status etc.” The Truth says—You don’t need wise, persuasive, or eloquent words. God’s wisdom is revealed through His Spirit and His Word. The Gospel may offend some and seem foolish to others, but the Holy Spirit will use God’s word to draw all who believe to the Father. Our job is to be His mouthpiece and to take up our cross and follow Jesus, who gave up His own position in Heaven to ensure ours with Him for eternity (1 Corinthians 2, 1 Peter 2:7-8, Matthew 16:24-26).
Pride says, “The world is evil, and time is short. Unbelievers get what they deserve. If I’m harsh with my truthful words, it’s only because I’m right. If people won’t listen to me, that’s their problem—they can (literally) go to Hell.” The Truth says—And such were some of you. Act wisely toward outsiders, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. And always offer your defense of the truth with gentleness and respect, in hopes that God will grant naysayers repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth.” (Colossians 4:5, 1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 2:25)
Doubt says, “Who am I to tell someone else that their way to God is wrong? If God is merciful, won’t He save everyone in the end, anyway?” The Truth says—Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)
Truth and light go hand in hand. When we’re walking in the truth of God’s word, no fleshly barrier can keep His light from shining brightly through us. But there are other bushels that can be less obvious to detect. Remember, Satan masquerades as an angel of light, and he’ll use every possible means to keep Christ’s light hidden.
5 Questions to Discover if You’re Hiding Your Light
Sometimes bushels come in the form of comfort zones.
“Oh how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) There’s nothing more edifying or exhilarating than when the Church gathers together, worships together, prays together, and works together—for God’s glory.
The spiritual electricity believers experience when we collectively live for God’s pleasure is not accidental—nor can the sparks be mistaken for emotional fervor. Christ’s light inside each believer finds a powerful conduit through His Body. That power strengthens and nurtures us. Together in Him, we find a home. But that conduit requires an outlet. God equipped His Body with His light for His purpose.
God’s people are called to go into the dark world, as His lighthouse—so that His beacon of truth can shine through our witness and guide the shipwrecked world to His Son.
Here are five introspective questions to help you discover if you’re hiding Christ’s light under the bushel of the Church:
1. Do you speak boldly about your faith with other Christians, yet censor yourself around others? (Mark 8:38)
2. When moral or ethical conversations arise in mixed groups, do you feel uneasy about using Biblically specific insights to shed light on truth? (Matthew 10:33)
4. Do you consider unbelievers “the enemy,” or do you view them as those who are being held captive by the Enemy? (2 Corinthians 4:3-5)
5. Apart from your interactions with fellow Christians, does your lifestyle look any different than it did before you were saved? (1 Peter 3:15)
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be using the Church as the only outlet to live out your faith. In other words, Christ’s light inside you is being withheld from those who desperately need it.
Yes, the world can be a scary, unforgiving, divisive place—but we don’t have to go into the darkness alone. Jesus is the light. He lives in us. And He has overcome the world.
We are the Church Christ bought at great cost. Let’s open the doors. And rescue the lost. He’ll lead the way. We’re filled with His light. The battle is won. Let’s fight the good fight.