Out of the Saltshaker
Out of the Saltshaker
Matthew 5:13-16 ~ January 31, 2021
(These are Pastor Rob's notes, not a transcript)
I came across this paragraph from British theologian John Stott and I found it to be interesting food for thought as we were preparing to regather in person:
God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: Where is the salt?
I can’t help but wonder how God’s family might grow if we continue spending time out of the saltshaker. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating that we go back into some kind of lockdown, but I wonder how God might use us if we put as much emphasis on loving our community out there as we do on getting people in the building.
I think being out of the saltshaker has been good for us. Hopefully, it’s taught us much about the value of connecting with God’s family in the building and the value of connecting with our community out of the building.
The idea of being salt did not originate with John Stott; Jesus gave us that description about 2000 years ago. Matthew 5:13 (NIV) – You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
We become the salt of the earth when we come to know Christ as savior. The question for us now is, are we still going to get out of the saltshaker? The answer needs to be yes! We still need to get out of the saltshaker because people need to know Jesus. This is the most important need in every person’s life but before we can meet that need, we need to start farther back than we might think.
Karl Vaters pastors a small AG church in California. He also writes a blog for Christianity Today. One of his entries is titled, “11 Ways to Be the Church for Those Who Don’t Go to Church.” He started it with these words:
Helping people come to faith in Jesus used to be as easy as 1-2-3.
- Invite a friend to church.
2. The friend comes to church.
3. The preacher closes the deal.
He points out that the most important part of the first step is not the invitation but having a friend who makes the invitation. This means the most important part of being the church doesn’t happen on a Sunday morning or during any other church event. It starts with befriending the people in our community.
Vaters writes that people become willing to consider Jesus when they like and trust the Christians they know. People need to know us before they can trust us, and they need to trust us before they’ll go to church with us. We have to be the church before they’ll go to church.
Think about this.
- The salt sitting in the pantry or cupboard at home isn’t performing any of salt’s functions.
- The salt in the shaker next to your stove isn’t performing any of salt’s functions.
- The salt in the shaker on your kitchen or dining room table isn’t performing any of salt’s functions.
In all those cases, the salt is sitting there, ready and able to perform its function but to do so it must get out of the saltshaker. That doesn’t happen on its own, you must get it out of the saltshaker.
What if God part of God’s work over the last year has been reinforcing our need to be out of the saltshaker even as we’ve longed to be back in it.
We’ve got to explore meaning and helpful ways to stay out of the saltshaker and in our community and we can’t only do it on a few special occasions a year, we need to do it as part of our normal, everyday lives.
The question becomes, how do we do that? How do we get out of the saltshaker? How can we be the church?
Instead of listing all the possible activities we might be involved in, let me go back to Vaters’ blog entry.
- Pray for them.
We need to make it a priority to pray for our unchurched family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. All the strategies and friendliness in the world won't make any difference without this.
- Build relationships with no strings attached.
No one wants to be a project. People know when they are. When someone doesn't want to be recruited, stop recruiting and just love them like Jesus did. He’ll take care of the rest.
- Play the long game.
Overcoming apathy doesn't happen overnight. It takes years, sometimes decades. But in the light of eternity, it's more than worth the investment.
- Live with integrity.
- Integrity may be the most-needed, but least-evident character trait in society. People have less faith in our major institutions, including the church, than ever. Why? Lack of integrity.
- We need to live upright lives. Holy lives. Honest and transparent lives.
- Trust is easy to lose and hard to earn. And it’s even harder to earn back. Again, it’s about the long game.
- Talk about life, not just about church.
- Real life is never just about one subject.
- If Jesus influences every area of our lives (and he should) then we must connect with people in every area of our lives, including the non-churchy parts.
- Don’t connect faith to politics or denominations.
- The gospel is bigger than our political parties, national pride, denominations, and creeds combined.
- We need to stop talking as if every Christian shares our political view or denominational distinctives.
- When we assume that every Christian is a particular political party, we cut ourselves off from people who might be interested in Jesus, but don’t want to be in that party.
- Be more joyful and less mean.
- “Blessed are the nice” is not one of the Beatitudes.
- Jesus didn’t come to make us nice. He came to make us holy. To redeem us from sin. And he was crucified for it. Nice guys don’t get crucified.
- However, there are too many mean Christians around us. Why would people want to sign up for that?
- Live joyfully. It’s deeper than niceness, stronger than meanness, and rabidly contagious.
- Live a life of scandalous generosity.
- Generosity without agenda defies everything our culture stands for.
- It's time for the church to be known as the crazy people who are always giving things away. Let's show people that faith in Jesus is more about giving than receiving.
- Be authentic, even if it means being different.
- Don't hide your quirks, embrace them. If Jesus doesn't cause us to live differently, what's the point?
- But here's the challenge: we need to live differently without coming across as "look at me, I'm better than you." Because we’re not.
- Be available.
- Most people who come to Jesus as adults do so because of trauma. God hard-wired us to reach out for help when bad things happen.
- People don't reach out to a church when they're hurting, they reach out to a friend. And if that friend is also a believer, then that friend can bring Jesus in just when he’s needed the most.
- But we need to resist the temptation to switch into recruitment mode. There are few things more inappropriate than leveraging someone else's pain for our own agenda. Even if that agenda is a good one.
- When people are hurting, be available and let Jesus do the rest.
- Make fewer statements, have more conversations.
- The best way to show people you care is to listen to them.
- But we like making statements. We like to get the social media echo chamber humming. We like to have our say even though it doesn’t help or move the conversation forward in any meaningful way. In fact, we usually don’t care about that. We care about making our judgmental pronouncements instead.
- There’s a time and place for big truths to be declared with big, bold statements.
- Jesus did it, so should we.
- When all of our communication is about making big statements we lose the chance to have small conversations.
- Jesus had small conversations about big subjects.
- That’s where he earned people’s trust. That’s where we’ll earn it, too.
Again, how can we get out of the saltshaker and be the church?
- Pray for people
- Build relationships
- Play the long game
- Live with integrity
- Talk about all of life
- Don’t connect faith to politics or denominations
- Be more joyful and less mean
- Be scandalously generous
- Be authentic
- Be available
- Have conversations
Folks, for those of us who know Jesus as our savior, we are the salt of the earth. The most important question is whether we’re going to keep getting out of the saltshaker or sit idly by and do nothing at all.
What’s it gonna be for you. In the saltshaker or out of it?