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John Stott on salt and light

A few weeks ago I read John Stott: a portrait by his friends. I was particularly encouraged to read this quote, from David Turner, a member at All Souls and a friend of John Stott’s since 1972.

I recall early in my legal career going to see [John Stott] to discuss the possibility of leaving the bar, at which I was just beginning to practise, to explore possibilities of ordination. He was gracious but firm in discouraging me from that route. “We need Christian lawyers” he said. The seriousness with which he took so-called ‘secular’ work was wonderfully affirming. There was no message that such work would be ‘second best’, there was no arena in which God’s people were not needed, where they could not serve effectively.

I know he reflected a lot on the ‘salt and light’ metaphors of Matthew 5. He liked to stress the radical difference that Christlikeness demanded. To that distinctiveness, however, there needed to be added permeation of non-Christian society. Salt did no good if it stayed in the salt shaker. Finally, he was powerfully persuaded of the capacity of Christians to change society. Salt hinders bacterial decay. Light dispels darkness. This was not a call to create a perfect society – John knew that was an impossible brief – but it was a call to be incarnated in society, to be ‘in it but not of it’, to improve it. That teaching, which I heard and read in many different strands from John, has proved vocationally steadying for me in what is by now nearly thirty-five years as a barrister and judge.

For Arthur and me, this is why we want to be involved in student ministry. Sure, there are people whom it is appropriate to call out from their profession to do vocational ministry but we’re keen to see students converted to Christ and devoted to him precisely because we want them to stay in their professions. It’s a vision for God’s people transforming God’s world that we’re keen to be a part of.

Categories: Tanzania University ministry Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

5 replies

  1. Thanks for this encouraging post, Tamie! Lauren and I have been talking about this quite a bit, particularly in light of Lennox’s visit, and reflecting at how effective he is, in being and working as a Christian in the secular world.

    It was not a message that we heard often, or with great emphasis, during our university careers. This is especially, I think, for Arts students, because there’s no “set career” following our degrees. And yet, how much do we need Christians in the humanities, and creative arts!

  2. It is good for people to stand against the crypto-clericalism that hangs about evangelicalism. Every baptised believer is in ‘full-time Christian ministry’. Ordination (or equivalent) is about taking up specific leadership and service responsibilities within the church, not entering into a career stream that is separate to or superior to the ‘secular’ world. There is an unfortunate article in the current issue of Eternity about a young guy who has left his long-time dream job of editing a magazine to pursue theological study and ministry, with the message that this was how he was getting serious about his faith.

  3. Hey Tamie,
    Really love this quote and in fact I think I’d like to use it in an essay I am writing on the priesthood of all believers. If you have the book still, maybe you could let me know what page of the book it’s from as I don’t have access to the book myself (it’s not hit the Regent library yet)…
    Love reading your blog!

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