It’s a strange picture isn’t it? Sue and I were staying in a hotel room with a fully outfitted kitchen. We sat down to eat our breakfast and I reached for the salt. I just stopped and laughed. I thought, “Someone is not clear on how a saltshaker is supposed to work.” True, a saltshaker is designed as a place that gathers and holds salt … but only until it’s needed. The shaker was originally designed with rapid deployment in mind. A little shake and the individual crystals jostle together in a mad rush to get through the tiny holes. One crystal goes out this hole … another exits through the hole on the opposite side. The fact that they are scattered widely is a good thing because their flavor is distributed to all areas of the meal. Every bite is enhanced.
The shaker in my picture has been rendered almost useless. No amount of shaking will free the salt. Something radical has to be done before the salt can get out and do its business. I took the top off … I shook it … still nothing. I had to reach in and pull the salt out. I had to tear its secure little environment to pieces before it could be deployed to release its flavor.
There’s really nothing wrong with the shaker. It’s simply being used in a way that was never intended. It’s become a holding place for the salt. It’s not impossible for the salt to get out, but the shaker is no longer responsive to the gentle shaking of the user’s hand.
Maybe this just happens to pastors, but within milliseconds of picking up that shaker, I thought … “Is this what the church has become?” Jesus called his disciples the “salt of the earth” (Matt 5:13). If the salt loses it flavor … its ability to influence … it becomes useless. Putting salt in packet … inside a shaker … is akin to lighting a lamp and covering it with a bowl. Jesus said … “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Salt must leave the shaker … light must shine. Churches are useless unless they are able to rapidly respond to the gentle movements of the Master and strategically spread salt and light to where it is needed the most.
Take another look at the saltshaker. The salt is so wrapped up that I could put food inside the shaker without its flavor being changed. That’s sad! I don’t know what all the causes are, but I can clearly see the problem. Churches are constantly in danger of becoming too inward focused. It’s far too easy for Christians to become insulated from the world we were meant to affect? The struggle of living as aliens and strangers turns fellowship into circles that exclude the lost.
Outside of our doors (sometimes within our doors) is a world badly in need of flavor and light. This is more than just a matter of taste! Apart from the transforming and preservative effects of the Gospel your neighbors, family members and coworkers are going to rot in hell. It’s more than just a matter of feeling their way along. The darkness in which they walk is the first deep gray shades of eternal, outer darkness. If we do not blaze forth with the light of the Gospel, they will live out eternity cut off from the light of Christ!
Pastors of international churches have told me that one of their greatest challenges in ministry is the transience of their congregation. They have also spoken with great excitement about how this transience means that the people you disciple are constantly flowing out of your church and into other nations. One of the greatest challenges of the international church is also its most strategic characteristic. A healthy, disciple-making, international church is constantly being shaken, constantly being forced to scatter abroad salt and light!
Jesus Christ knows exactly what the English speaking international church should look like in Panama City, Panama. Please pray with us that we find His vision for His church. Lord, grant us a church that is always responsive to the gentle movement of your hand.