1. What is Salt culture? In Mark 9:50 Jesus is speaking to his disciples and he say’s, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” This follows his observations about salt loosing it’s saltiness and hence becoming inert and good for nothing. I have heard endless messages that make reference to this salt metaphor. They all anecdotally suggest our great need as Christians is to remain seasoned and potent in a wayward society, flavour in a flavourless and lost world. There is an appeal to character and integrity to the message of Christ. Whilst there is a kind of truth to this metaphorical adaptation, it seems trite and cute, rather than compelling. What is of greater interest is this verse above that proceeds immediately from the metaphor; have salt in yourselves or in another translation it may read, “have salt between yourselves.” In ancient cultures to have salt between each other was to speak of covenant, agreement, and lasting relationship. When people entered into life transactions with each other they would symbolically share salt with each other. This reflected the culture of the day that had hospitality at its core. People would consecrate their business activities by inviting the reciprocal person to their home and they would eat together. The one essential ingredient in all food was salt, and as they shared a meal seasoned with salt, one person was offering the other their home, their food and wine, their substance and essence. From that time on they could say, “we have salt between us” meaning you have seen me and experienced my life at the core; you have shared of my substance - we are connected. When this idea is understood and the double injunction of “have salt between yourselves” and “be at peace with each other” is spoken to the disciples, we have a beautiful picture of what Jesus was looking for his disciples to have in their relationships with each other. They will indeed go on to change the face of the world with their revolutionary message of the Kingdom of God, and behind that message was a salt culture—a salt community; A community of shared essence, of shared substance, of friendship and covenant bonds, of meaningful and intentional relationships. Salt culture is around this dynamic. It is the realisation that you cannot have salt culture around programs and weekly meetings, you can only have it as you embrace a series of values that provide opportunity for both God and people to really connect. Salt culture is a spiritual way of living; it values being at peace; it is not driving an agenda; it is loving and embracing those around us—both near and far, both locally and within the global village we inhabit today. Salt culture is a journey with others—not an individual quest, but a communal journey; not a destination, but a way of being in Christ and part of the Kingdom of God. 2. Why do we want a Salt Culture? Our social orientation is towards community! This is a fundamental fact of our humanity. We actually need each other as a matter of real necessity and overall wellbeing. Paradoxically, we find ourselves in our modern world, profoundly and damagingly isolated from others and trapped in our self-imposed individualism. Many community structures provide little relief from this isolation, as we tend to access the world we inhabit as consumers, not as companions and fellow sojourners. We have tended to develop very driven, programmatic, flat, linear lifestyles. Unfortunately we are not inwardly so disposed! We are complex creatures. We have emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual needs that do not get adequately attended to in today’s social societal fabric. We look to work, church, clubs, family and friends for deep connectedness and find that these people and communities cannot fit into our schedules or lifestyles. Our unchecked individualism continues to destroy and diminish our overall wellbeing. Frequently, even when we are in public gatherings surrounded by people, we still feel alone and singular, disconnected and shut off. Our non-relational remedies have largely missed the mark – self-help, acquisitions, possessions, progress, status, title and kudos are no palliative for our fundamental need for intimacy with others. For some, family or even the promise of family is a remedy to this isolation. Within the precinct of the family we find acceptance and real connectedness. The family in essence is a Salt Community: Lives are shared, membership is irrevocable, acceptance is a given. Tragically, family is not the norm for many of us. Family as a platform for spiritual formation is not the dominant paradigm in today’s society. Heralded eastern mysticism, so popular in western culture, has been imported minus the family. Communities and spiritual expressions which in the east have no meaning aside from the family as a deeply extended generational community, are popularised in the west as methodologies for self- actualisation, self-realisation and individual awakening. The western church suffers a similar fate as consumerist theology is trucked out in all manner of biblical self-help literature. Or, in stoic opposition to the entertainment houses promising personal blessedness, the fundamentalist clings to traditionalism and institutionalism—relationally bereft forms that promise correctness, but not connectedness. Kingdom living with people I regard as family (irrespective of blood ties) is not the normative community template. In fact, the classic reaction to the suggestion that Kingdom of God community may indeed be an extended family—not an institution or corporation, is a reaction of scepticism evoking images of scandal, manipulation and dangerous insularity. Salt culture is however a family culture. It is a culture of belonging; a culture of acceptance; a culture of ever growing honestly and integrity. It prizes intimacy, heart, and depth. It accordingly validates all struggles towards these things because in such a movement, we break out of our crippling isolation, and the promise of cure for our personal inadequacy is found in the collective. Here Salt Culture responds to the fundamental human condition, the need to need to others and the need to be needed by others. The question now changes from “Why do we want a Salt Culture?” to “Why do we need a Salt Culture?” Honestly we want because we need and need deeply. What are our current models accomplishing? The short answer is – much! It is pure ignorant arrogance to suggest otherwise. In reality people all over the world are in churches that do great and meaningful things that contribute significantly to healing this world and presenting Jesus to the world and the Kingdom of God to seekers. The Church—experiential, liturgical, evangelical and social covers thousands of years of kingdom spirituality and forms a rich heritage. Currently, consider the mega-church’s ability to focus large masses of people around a vision, a cause, a leader and a God idea! I think of the evangelical passion for biblical integrity; the liturgical wing their appreciation of the esoteric; the mystical and the symbolic, profound truths expressed creatively and historically. I love the sense of immanence and immediacy in the experiential and charismatic worship. So we could continue noting these ecclesiastic expressions – all validly kingdom expressions, none complete in themselves but definitely facets of the Gem called the Kingdom of God. What is not happening and what is missing? Tragically, these kingdom expressions have become something they were never meant to be. They have ceased being facets of a grand and glorious gem; rather they have become battle lines. They have become trenches, dividing lines, fronts for carnage and dishonourable warfare. Instead of learning from one another and embracing the opportunities to grow and learn from each other, we have been made to choose sides. The modern press has been to advocate and separate, the intent—to secure people as a market commodity and sign their continued patronage up to ensure party success. The damage this parochialism has caused has not simply been corporate as if just the church in general has been damaged. No, individual’s lives have become collateral damage in this unholy modern ecclesiastic warfare. People, really good, genuine, truth seeking people have felt that they needed to go to war in order to be truly “on fire,” “on the cutting edge,” “faithful,” “biblical” or “holy.” The cost has been devastating for nonconformists, and traumatic for conformists, who either experience or routinely witness separations and splits, power plays, and put downs. With this modern drive for institutionalism and competition, we have cut the heart out of our Kingdom testimony, diminishing our social effectiveness. Accordingly we’ve driven masses of hungry Kingdom seekers into confusion and the search for other alternatives. Attempts at ecumenicalism are token—not due to lack of time spent finding ground, but due to the fact that we approach unity without a kingdom focus. We try to marry doctrinal interpretations, align structure and programs – inviting each other to our latest event, seminar or convention. Deference is paid to one another but independence continues to be our fundamental modus operandi. Salt Culture is not about advocating a different facet of the gem. Salt Culture calls us to value the whole stone, facet by facet, knowing that each facet is a window through which light is shed upon all parts of the gem. Salt culture also believes that the “Gem,” the “Kingdom of God,” is for all people. It is not a narrow cutting edge occupied by an elite group of super hero’s; neither is it an academic opinion accessible only to the highly educated. In fact, religiosity is the only toxic element that Salt Culture will not abide. For any part of the body of Christ to be truly inspired requires a fresh belief in value. By this we mean to say that whilst we have learned the art of devaluing others through clever critical analysis, this serves no higher purpose or Kingdom dynamic. Salt Culture is a movement toward valuing other—including those who differ. We are aware of our own polarities and colonial tendencies, something we try to deconstruct through adopting Kingdom values. To be specific, Salt Culture is not about critiquing ecclesiology at any level. What we are doing is checking how aligned we are to Kingdom of God definitives. By this we have developed a different criteria for success. We have seen our need to engage in ecclesiology with a view toward the end - not just with eyes on structural methodology. The end is: the Kingdom of God. As such simple things must be apparent—things like humility, servanthood, forgiveness, advocacy of others, sacrifice, prayer, worship, hospitality, relationship, love, patience. Salt Culture wants to creates at its core inclusiveness, and break away from our tendency to self protect in exclusivity. Salt Culture wants to measure itself with new success schedules that are Kingdom values, not modern corporate key performance indicators. Salt Culture seeks a current reality, not a distant projected promise. We want to occupy the space God has given us now, not just hope for grander things tomorrow. The Kingdom is not well embraced when it is constantly projected. The Kingdom is not about a future corporate windfall, it’s not about a narrow cutting edge, it’s not about stepping up, and it’s not about a great compelling individual life purpose! It’s a divine family. And our opportunity is to live the way of this family and engage in the community now. Why do we continue to do church the way we do church? We continue to do church the same way because the alternatives are simply not obvious to the modern mind. We have been trained to think sequentially, in linear, didactic and polemic fashion. Our faith has come to us as a series of blocks, as independent systems. Catechism, teaching, Bible, worship, sacraments, tithing, missions, evangelism, ministry, women’s/ men’s/ children’s/ youth … When we come together we feel compelled to line up the blocks and work through familiar pathways of attending to each unit sequentially, some blocks we value more and are more comfortable with, and so we develop liturgy around our comfort zone and familiarity. Our sense of wellbeing resides in our ability to attend to multiple blocks sequentially. Our sense of success resides in our ability to do this with as many people as possible, in a purpose built facility, and (because we are busy) within an appropriate time frame that is not drastically intrusive to the rest of our life. To be ‘connected’ is to do the sequence continually week in, week out; to be ‘committed’ is to serve and facilitate the procedure week in and week out; to be ‘core’ is to lead the procession week in week out. Outside of these three—connected, committed, core—is the periphery. Many beautiful people are on the periphery. Many leaders are part of the periphery and they play the procedure because the options aren’t obvious and there is resistance to change and fear of loss. We have been so focused on the blocks and the individual units that we’ve lost any sense of organic integration. We see micro aspects of whole systems but we don’t see the system. When we do create systems they are not organic, they are rigid and contrived, they are static and need enormous amounts of inertia to drive them forward. This way of operating is consistent with the way we have treated any number of social and environmental issues emerging in western modern society. We have for example a water crisis, so we dam a river system and destroy water flows down stream, fish stocks upstream, and forestry in the entire surrounding area. We want timber stocks for construction so we clear fall vast complex and diverse forestry, only to plant the clear land out with the desired timber species. We solve our need for timber, we boast that we have replaced the forest but in reality we have destroyed a complex system and replaced it with a monoculture. In the forest, this means diminished fauna as natural food stocks fail, and extinct flora because the organic system required to sustain a diversity of plant life is gone. In the social arena we seek to solve complex problems and social issues legislatively. We underestimate the organic, and overestimate the linear, flat, departmentalised solution. We are driven by our own immediate, consumer, cause and effect mentality. Locked in and locked down to the micro linear causes us to resist the break out of the organic, simply because it will take us into the unfamiliar, and we can’t adequately control it. Ecclesiastically we have all the pieces. We have them all lined up. What we have insisted upon is that all these elements, blocks and units remain distinct and friendly to a culture of containment and control. We have created a monoculture, and in such a place organic development simply isn’t possible. The singular culture produces a singular product—a consumable, marketable, defined product, but it cannot sustain anything beyond the standard, programmed outcome. Are we currently fulfilling the commands that Jesus left His disciples? In monoculture ecclesiology we cannot fulfil all the commands that Jesus entrusted to his disciples. The fact of the matter is that the accepted program will not let it happen! To let one block grow organically means it may violate the space of other blocks. We don’t have an interdependent system we have individual aspects or parts of the whole that we artificially link together by programs and clever entertaining bridges. To fulfil Jesus’ commands we would have to allow the chaos of natural development. We would need to see some things branch out, and other things die off in order to re-emerge in a natural integrated fashion. The mentality of Mission or Missionality provides a template for consideration here! Do we do missions activities or are we meant to be missional? Does God do missions or is the Godhead missional? Is mission’s a function of what divinity does or is divinity missional in essence? One approach is to make the unit or block (in this case “missions”) something God does and adds to kingdom life. But in the organic sense, missions is not what God has added, it is God’s personhood. God reaches out, self-divulges, relates, speaks, condescends and incarnates. God organically and naturally is mission! Philanthropy, love, community, hospitality, friendship and intimacy can be bundled here also! Do we add these things to our life or are these things the very essence of life? Is generosity a prescribed 10% of my gross income or a disposition of my heart towards God and others? One can be assured that in the absence of willingness to be generous any % is inadequate before God, He isn’t interested in a figure—He’s looking for a being expressing itself in generosity as just one natural break out of divine life realised. Worship: is it a connectedness with God and others, or an individual exercise performed in a room or an arena of people, with eyes closed fast, singing in an act of collective individualism and corporate separateness? Forgiveness: is it a leadership principle and a key for self- actualisation, or is it a way of life—the only way of living on this planet with any degree of beauty and freedom, not just for self but for humanity at large? Service: is it primarily towards a church, a denomination, a leader, or a great statesperson? Or is servanthood the only way of living in a world where so many people are broken and crippled inwardly; where one servant personality can unlock the treasures of joy, love and wholeness? Is a servant being the highest order of life and the hope of the world? Will a servant being serve only those who are the same, those who are my people, or will he serve the need and brokenness of the outsider? These are the simple things that Jesus left us to do and they are unattainable in a mono- system. To fulfil what Jesus commands is about having a way of being which is organic, natural, wild and untamed. In this, divinity gets drawn down over your being, your essence, your core. To allow this we need to seriously negotiate our ways of being, not just our manners of doing! We may have frequently come short of breakthrough into kingdom life because as suggested, we renovate regularly what we do, but refuse to allow who we are to be touched. God comes to us in the person of Jesus and the Spirit to radically alter our being. We allow him to change our program – just not our personhood. This creates dissonance and religious form with no fruit! How could we build a Salt Culture? Salt culture must embrace statesmanship! – MISSIO DEI Statesmanship is about giving things away. A statesperson has ceased advocating for themselves and centring their worlds on themselves and their kindred. They live to bless and benefit others. You do not have to become a great in order to be a statesperson; you simply give away what you have! What is it that we have? Our time, out substance, our privatisation and individualism, our resources, etc. are all that we can surrender and bless others with. Salt Culture must embrace narrative and dialogue! – FRONT PORCH DISCUSSION The stories are essential, our stories and the stories of our community and culture. We seek in Salt culture to recapture the art of listening. One of the greatest validations of our humanity is that God actively listens to us and regards what we say. This has ever been a great mystery of divinity; “What is man that you are mindful of him or the son of man that you care for him.” Psalm 8:4. That we like God would listen and be mindful, listen and take care of others is a massive gift of love! We have been so compelled to preach our message, so intent on being heard that we have forgotten to listen. We love to hear those who regard and cherish us and we regard and cherish those who speak our message. Beyond this however we have been engaged in a continual polemic. We have cultivated parochial and adversarial ways of communicating to our world, and all the while much of our agenda has been acquisition oriented—to recruit as many advocates as possible so we don’t feel inadequate and failures. It’s all very self-serving. The act of listening to another is to Salt Culture an act of worship; the discovery that God has been present with a person in a form and manner different from myself. This becomes penetratingly obvious and beautiful when it is identified with a listening ear. God is everywhere – not just in our message – but embedded into the fabric of everyone’s story, waiting to speak out to us all if we would only listen attentively and hear his voice. Salt Culture listens and it dialogues; it is in continual discussion. This discussion is more than the search for a meta-narrative, an encompassing story to define all of our beings. It is the mosaic of the life in God’s Kingdom that we discuss; it is to speak of joy and sadness, victory and defeat, life and death. We have no need for continual winning and no fixation with being the underdog – accordingly the dialogue should be truly free. In Salt Culture there are many stories, many storytellers. The collective experience and expression of all is what is important. For one person to dominate and dictate the story is both false and limiting—not only of others in the culture, but of God who works not just through one but many. Salt culture must embrace Kingdom-Messianic theology – KINGDOM FACILITATIONS The development of a truly Kingdom of God mindset is very simple, but for some reason allusive at the same time. We have been accustom to our theological foundation from the reformation premises, and ignore the Hebraic nature of our faith. Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection informs most of our orthodoxy – but what about Christ as the “anointed one,” Christ as the “incarnate one,” Christ as the “healer,” Christ as the “pacifist,” Christ as the “social reformer” or “rebel,” Christ as the “mystic” or “poet.” To understand the Kingdom is to see more than just one aspect of Christology. Salt Culture endeavours to explore the primary proclamation of Jesus, not just an aspect of His life or more normally – His death. We want to be informed by His whole incarnation and life which was an embodiment of the Kingdom of God as he was the Son of God meaning he was the God /man. Salt Culture must embrace relationship – SOUL CARE This is called being balanced and holistic. The development of a complete person is achieved in free relationships. We must emphasize the point of freedom here. Salt Culture is not an imperative to any but the willing. Salt culture is a choice not a standard, never a club, and not a secret society. When we speak of relationships, the only ones that work are those of integrity and those with Christ at the centre. Simply, as we embrace Christ, it must express itself in the embrace of others, not selectively and shallowly but really. Salt Culture must embrace rest – SHABBATT To our own disadvantage we live lives that don’t have off switches. We are time scare. We have become unable to wait, be still, reflect and recount. Filled with false self-importance we rush from one event to another, from one important meeting to the next, and in so doing, instead of becoming important and imperative, it all becomes ordinary and forgettable. We are not making our lives more meaningful in our incessant busyness – we are making them trivial and silly. This is why in Salt Culture we rest. Rest is serious work—it is commanded by God! What an amazing revelation is Jesus on this issue! Nobody has ever had a bigger portfolio than Jesus: usher in the Kingdom and redeem humanity. When you look at his life he frequently retreats, frequently rests, prays, celebrates and spends time seeking out the stranger or sharing life moments with friends. Shabbat is not a God idea to try and appropriate; it’s a complete way of life, which makes moments sacred because not everything is relegated to the important, imperative irrelevant!