You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-16, ESV
"You are the light of the world," Jesus told his followers, then pictured two everyday scenes to show what he meant.
When they lit a lamp at home, they would put it on a lamp stand to give light to everyone else in the house. Each of us can be a light to others, especially to those we live among every day. This concept is easy for individualistic American Christians to grasp.
But the other image, the city on a hill, suggests another idea. Jesus' listeners all had memories of coming to Jerusalem at night. Because Jerusalem was on a hill, no matter which direction the traveler came from, the city would light up the night sky with lamps burning in thousands of windows. A lamp might get hidden under a basket, but there was no way to hide a whole city. The light of the city on the hill is the witness of the Christian community, the witness of many disciples living out their faith together. An individual witness might get hidden, but the witness of a family of faith, like a city on a hill, is impossible to hide.
Our little ditty, "This little light of mine" may come close to the meaning of the lamp on the lamp stand, but to capture the meaning of the city on a hill, of "let your light shine before others," we're going to have to sing something more like, "This big light of ours."
Each local community of Christian disciples is a city on a hill, charged with together doing good works that inspire others to give glory to our Father in heaven. This is a radically different vision of church than the one we have too often settled for--a religious institution that mostly provides services for its members.
We chose the name Cities on Hilltops because we envision a network of missional communities, a fellowship of churches who share this vision of each being a city on a hill, and who come together to learn from each other, to share with each other, to encourage one another, and to do together things that we could not do separately.