Most of us have at some time or other had a problem with a salt shaker. You know the time when at dinner you go to sprinkle some salt on your meal and nothing comes out. This is not because there is no salt in the saltshaker, it could even be full, but because the salt has become moist and clogs up the dispensing holes. It strikes me that the blocked salt shaker image can well serve as a metaphor for the church today.
Salt is a very valuable commodity with numerous uses. It can be used to improve the flavour of food, as an antiseptic, to prevent food going rotten, which was the reason why, in pre-refrigeration days, beef carried as food for ships crews was salted on vessels that would be at sea for long periods.
So, when Jesus said to his disciples-
“You are the ‘salt of the earth’. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out” (Matthew 5:13,14).
He, and his hearers, probably had at least some of those uses in mind, perhaps particularly the idea of preventing ‘corruption and rottenness’. His point was, and is, that his disciples are to be agents of ‘Kingdom Salt’, opposing ‘corruption’, in all its manifestations, in human life and society, and particularly the spiritual corruption of the human soul by the ‘sprinkling’ of the gospel.
However, when we look at western churches today we mostly see them much like blocked salt shakers, much salt stored inside the four walls of our church buildings on Sundays but very little of that ‘salt’ flowing into the community. This is contrary to Jesus intention for disciples to be sprinkling gospel salt throughout society as corruption fighting and ‘taste-of-life’ improving ‘Kingdom Salt’.
What seems to mostly be the case however is that we see church members flowing out of Sunday church into life more as the “salt that has lost its saltiness”. For there is little ‘salting’ going on, particularly in the area of mission, as is evidenced by surveys showing around 60% of non-Christians don’t even know an active Christian.
One of the dimensions of the ‘Unbounded Church’ concept is that it can spawn networks of missional communities that are in effect spiritual salt shakers. To be effective however they must lose Sunday-Centricity and be sprinkled both throughout the week and across the landscape, as the result of ‘Go and Stay’ (in the community) missional strategies, dispensing ‘Kingdom Salt’ into the ‘Live, work and play’ universes where the unchurched now dwell, and where the salt of the gospel is a scarce commodity.
We have churches theoretically well stocked with salt, their members will go to bible studies and hear Jesus words that they are salt, but there is little evidence of it in society.
It’s time to unblock the Salt Shaker!