The Church Isn’t A Lighthouse

The church has been described in many different ways for us to be able to picture it in our minds: a body of believers, family, bride, kingdom, nation, priesthood, fishermen, a lighthouse, a garden, and the list could go on. All of these are meant to shed light on a certain aspect of what the church is, who the church is, or what its mission is and how to carry out the Lord’s work.

There’s one description that is used which really doesn’t work when searching for the right lesson. That description is the “lighthouse” illustration. Now, generally this figure does remind us that the church is to shine the light of God throughout this dark world of sin. But it actually does a disservice to HOW the church is to shine that light. The illustration of a lighthouse can be deceiving and give the wrong impression. How so? Let’s take a look.

Picture a light house in your mind. What do you see? Of course you first notice the darkness of night and the blackness of the sea and any land mass nearby. Then you see an extremely bright light coming from a tower like building acting as a beacon to guide ships to shore or to guide them away from crashing into the land. As we watch, we can see how it successfully accomplishes the purpose for which it was built. When applied to the church what we see are the souls of all who are journeying through a world blinded by sin and void of God’s light. The church is to be firmly planted and shine brightly to show the world the way to God. But this illustration falls short when we talk about how evangelism is to be done successfully. The problem is that a lighthouse doesn’t move. It is built firmly upon the ground. It doesn’t go out into the sea to patrol for any and all ships that may be out there. There could be hundreds of boats and ships out in the dark ocean. But the lighthouse will never find them because it is stationary and will only help to those who happen to pass by; those who somehow drift through the darkness and get close enough to see.

When it comes to evangelism, the church cannot be stationary. It cannot simply stay put and wave its light at people. Now, this is not to say that a church firmly located will have no passerby’s. But the success rate for this kind of approach is very close to nil. There will be many who will never see the light of this beacon because they are out at sea wandering around out of sight. If the church sits still, then there will be many souls that will never be found because they are not within reach of the church’s building where Bible studies, worship, and gospel meetings take place. Lighthouses may be very bright, but it is of no value to those who are distant from it.

So if the church is to shine the light of God, then how do we best illustrate that? Although it may not sound as good in a hymn, the example that says it best is that of a flashlight. Indeed, the church of Jesus is to take the light of God into the darkness to guide people out. Jesus said that His church is the “light of the world” and that it is to shine before others, so that when they see its good works they will give glory to God the Father (Matthew 5:14-16). But how we go about shining our lights is the key. When Jesus was sending out His apostles to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the lost, He said, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Paul said in Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” Jesus also said one time when hit with compassion for the lost that we need to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).

The idea here is that of mobility. That of action. That of going out and searching. Portability of the Gospel. Taking the good news to all who are wandering in the darkness. A lighthouse is not portable. It does not move. It is stationary. A lighthouse waits for ships to come to it. All who are out of range will never meet the light. However, flashlights are portable. Flashlights are a source that generates light and can be carried anywhere. Those who have it can move about freely. If somebody is lost in a dark place, those with a flashlight can GO search for them, help them, and guide them. The church needs to be made up of flashlights. Mobile sources of light that move about in this world trying to find souls and show them the light. Jesus never intended for His church to be a lighthouse. Jesus never expected His people to be stationary. Jesus’ disciples are taught to move. To act. To seek. To go. To send. To bring the Gospel with them to give to all on the way.

The application of this lesson falls on you & me. If we are part of the body of Christ, His church, are we building a lighthouse? Or are we passing out flashlights? Are we stationary in our evangelism which would make it nothing more than waving at a passerby? Or are we actively walking, looking for lost souls? We are to follow Christ, not sit down and wait. There are an innumerable amount of souls lost in the darkness of sin. Are you sitting in a lighthouse? Or do you have a flashlight in your hand ready to move?


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