In my student days (first time around in the early 1980's) one of the 'must read' books seemed to be Rebecca Manley Pippert's 'Out of the Salt Shaker.' It sticks in my memory because of its frank comment on how we tend to feel about evangelism - along the lines of it being 'something you wouldn't do to a dog, let alone your best friend.' Not sure what the RSPCA might make of that, but it does have a ring of truth and it's stuck with me for two decades.
Recently the phrase 'out of the salt shaker' has featured regularly in emails from one of my deacons who feels we are now, finally, starting to engage with the community around us. Bit drastic having to actually smash the salt pot first, but there you go.
Of course 'salt' is a metaphor which is no longer entirely helpful in a British context since we are being advised to use less and less of it. Indeed, along with sugar, it's one of those things I buy about once in ten years (literally). We no longer salt meat to preserve it or use salt to cleanse wounds, instead it seems to be used to kill slugs and melt the ice on our paths or driveways. A little bit of salt might enhance the flavour of food, but too much could kill you.
So, can we still use the Matthew 5:13 'you are like salt for the whole human race' (GNB) text related to mission? I think we can, because our contemporary understanding of salt and its risks if overdone provides a helpful check in our approach to mission and evangelism. We need to judge how much 'salt' we add - too little and the distinctive flavour of Christian hope is absent, too much and our evangelistic zeal becomes poison.
Without the safety of our salt pot, we find oursleves automatically sprinkled more liberally (and evangelically!)(pardon the puns) in our community. We have to build relationships with the staff of the premsies we book for worship or the 'mobile lunch club.' We have to go out to where people are rather than waiting for them to come to us (a very long wait). At the moment we are trying to work through some of the challenges this brings - some folk are concerned that as I get more involved with community roles my 'proper' church work will suffer; others see that the distinction is a nonsense.
As we are forced out of our saltshaker, touching dogs, people and anyone/thing else in our path with the love of God, I feel that the 'salt' image is still valid. I guess the next challenge is work out whether the salt should dissolve into its context or remain in granular form. Answers on a postcard to the usual address!