I have always believed that God calls the church to serve the world and that every disciple is privileged to be part of that call. When in high school, I was convicted by just the title of Rebecca Manley Pippert’s Out of the Saltshaker & into the World: Evangelism as a Way of Life. I knew that salt cannot make the world salty when it stays in the shaker (when Christians never associate with any non-Christians).
Ever since, I have struggled to get out of the church cocoon and actually get involved with my neighbors. My church friends and church meetings are important to me. I felt almost as though I’d have to clone myself to have enough time to meet people outside of my church circle. That is why I rejoiced when I stumbled onto an article by Tim Chester, “10 Simple Ways to Be Missional…Without Adding Anything to Your Schedule.”
For instance, Chester suggests: “Adopt a local café, pub, park, and shops so you regularly visit and become known as a local.” I matched this with my love for morning coffee. For a year, I stopped by the same espresso shack three times a week on my way to work. The goal was not caffeine addiction, but to befriend the owner of the espresso shack.
All it took was alternating between sharing tidbits about me (Oh no, I’m late to work again), and asking simple questions (How is business today?). Within weeks, my new friend began to ask me questions about my life.
After a month, my barista buddy confessed, “My grandma is sick again; I don’t think she’s going to make it this time.” I felt honored to pray from my car into the shack, asking that God would prepare my friend for what faced him. As another missional Christian and I tag-teamed our friend, he started attending a Bible study and eventually surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.
A second suggestion the article makes: “Eat with other people.” Eugene Friends members Gene and Naomi Brown have been going to the local pool for exercise three times a week. After a while, they noticed that several of their fellow exercisers met at a nearby McDonald’s for coffee after each session.
Gene and Naomi gladly accepted an invitation to join the post-swim coffee klatch. After just a few weeks, God gave them their first opening for ministry. One of their friends expressed concern about a family member 90 miles away whose health was failing. She wanted to visit this relative, but had no form of transportation. “Well, let’s pray that God gives you a way to get there,” offered Naomi. “Uh, I don’t believe in God,” replied the friend. “Well, we do, and we believe God wants to show his love to you this way,” Gene and Naomi responded. Can you imagine their joy a couple of weeks later when the friend reported, “I got my ride, and I’m thanking God.”
I know several people who practice another one of Chester’s ten ways to “get out of the salt shaker.” They walk around their neighborhoods, praying that God would bless each household in such a way that the inhabitants would know God loves them.
Obviously, this combines good physical health with good missional health. When you walk around a neighborhood on a regular basis, several things happen. First, people become comfortable with you. Second, you are out where it is natural to strike up conversations with a wide range of people. Third, you begin to notice changes that give you openings for conversation and ministry.
No one knows better than I do how hard it is to make significant contact beyond all my Christian friends. But I’m working at changing bits of my routine to place myself where I can truly become “salt.” It takes concentration, but I’m finding it’s also fun. And I find that when I open just a small window of missional effort, God shows me a whole world of people I already contact who yearn to share their lives with a caring person.