LEAD

Movers and Shakers

Every neighborhood has its assets. Caring about families and neighbors is a tremendous asset. Do people share in community by helping each other in times of trouble? Do they embrace and facilitate change as people find new jobs, welcome new family members or graduate from school? Can they imagine what “better” looks like for them and their loved ones? Can they embrace hope, the most crucial asset of all?

Through the practice of SALT,* the Salvation Army’s neighborhood outreach strategy, soldiers have found these and other strengths in neighborhoods. They get to know the ordinary people who make a neighborhood vital and strong. They see God at work. Salvationists espouse John Wesley’s doctrine of prevenient grace, which basically holds that God is already at work in people’s lives—even before they come to a saving faith.

Consider these biblical foundations: “No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44 ESV); “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4 ESV); “God works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 ESV); “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 ESV). Each verse portrays God as the initiator of relationships.

SALT practices, which are becoming more common among Salvationists in the USA East, are predicated on prevenient grace. One implication is that Christians don’t need to devise a preset agenda for talking with people about faith and conversion. We can assume that God has already been active in the lives of each person we encounter. The task of evangelism, then, involves prayerfully discovering what God has been doing and then participating wholeheartedly in that endeavor.

The process is formative for everyone involved. Soldiers, “armed” with such gratitude for God’s grace in their lives and with a grasp on God’s grace toward others, walk through neighborhoods assuming that grace–filled encounters are just waiting to happen.

SALT teams are composed of people with diverse backgrounds. Formal education, socio–economic status, and other tokens of prestige have little value compared to divine grace. A soldier’s presence and social connections in the neighborhood are the currency of greatest worth.

Take a recent SALT outing in Portland, Maine, for example. About a dozen people divided themselves into small teams and moved through one neighborhood. Some of them, by virtue of their relationships with neighbors, had doors, conversations, and lives opened to them. Relationships are what made people more receptive, rather than high social rank, personal wealth, or clever techniques.

In practicing SALT, people emerge as true leaders and as team assets. A scrappy young adult in Portland, Maine; an elderly man in Lexington, Ky.; a teenage girl in Geneva, N.Y.; a quiet grandmother in San Juan, Puerto Rico—such people become MVPs when the mission is disciple–making (“The Great Commission” of Matthew 28:18–20). Praying quietly while walking closely, they recognize each other’s immense, God–given value. Rather than sizing team members up by their education, income, and appearance, they discover and participate in the ongoing movement of God’s grace.

by Isaiah Allen

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STORY Listen to your neighbors’ stories. Ask yourself, “What is happening in their lives?”
(Struggles, concerns, joys, griefs)

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AFFIRM, Acknowledge, Appreciate, and Ask questions.

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LISTEN to what people are sharing. Doing so affirms their personal value.

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TEAM effort is a major component. We are taking these steps together!

*To learn more about SALT or to invite a team to your area for training, email Major Ismael Correa at ismael.correa@use.salvationarmy.org.

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