Summary: A Challenge to churches to be a church that changes the world by both salt and light.
“A CHURCH TO CHANGE THE WORLD”
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an 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 5:13-15).
Today I want to challenge Thomas Road Baptist Church to be a church that changes the world by both salt and light.
Let me tell you about the Clapham Church, an Anglican church in the Clapham District of London during the early 1800s whose “salt” influenced the entire world. It was pastored by John Venn who was the Rector. Nothing much is known about him except the great results of his parishioners. The church was influenced by the Evangelical Revival of John Wesley. Whereas most of those converted under John Wesley left the Anglican Church to join Methodist churches, those in Clapham Church were wealthy and titled nobility; many of them were members of the House of Lords. They stayed in the Clapham Church.
Granville Sharp, a church member, was moved to do something about the slave traffic when Jonathan Strong, a black slave, showed up at his door—beaten almost to the point of death. Granville Sharp put the black man in St. Bartholomew Hospital and it took four months to heal Jonathan Strong. When he got out of the hospital, David Lisle, the slave’s original owner, re-captured the slave now that he was not going to die. Lisle thought that he had pistol-whipped his slave to death. Granville Sharp sued in court for the release of Jonathan Strong, and three years later in 1767, the slave was given his freedom. This was only one slave freed. Still, slave ownership and slave trafficking were permitted in the British Empire.
William Wilberforce was converted to Christ at Clapham Church and used his power as a member of Parliament to bring an end to slavery. During his lifetime, he first got a bill passed that made it unlawful for any British ship or citizen to transport slaves. This was only the first step. Because of his efforts, a month after he died in 1833, Parliament passed the Slavery Abolition Act that gave all slaves in the empire their freedom.
Lord Ashley, another believer from the Clapham Church, used his position in the House of Commons to pass a bill; the 1833 Factory Act made it illegal for children under nine to work in the textile factories; and those between the ages of 9 and 13 could not work more than eight hours a day.
In 1840 Lord Ashley led the parliament to approve the Coal Mine Act to prohibit women and children from working underground.
These people from the Clapham Church were nicknamed, “saints” for what they did for England, for the Church and for Jesus Christ.
Elizabeth Fry became an ardent friend and supporter of the “saints,” however she was a Quaker minister who rallied support among the popular people for the efforts of the “saints” as they worked in Parliament to get bills passed. Elizabeth Fry visited the prisons and was overwhelmed when she saw the plight of women in prison. She began a crusade to upgrade their living conditions and she began schools for the children of women prisoners. Finally, because of her influence, Parliament passed the Female and Children Prisoners Act.