12 September 2016 - clay

What defines church, part 2 – Third spaces


Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. – I Corinthians 12:27

First, I want to clear something up from the last post that I think I muddied a bit. No, the church is not defined by a building. The church is the body of Christ and as such is not restricted to a particular building. When we really “be the church” it takes place outside of the building, since the majority of our waking hours are not spent in the church or at church activities1Unless you are a church staff member, then most of it takes place inside the building. That may be another interesting topic for later.. The point I’m trying to get at is when the author of Hebrews talks about not foregoing the assembly, where can that assembly be? When we use “church” as a noun, what does that include?

I spoke in the last post about third spaces. This could be a coffee shop, a restaurant, the gym, or any number of other locations where people tend to meet together to perform a certain task. I remember growing up that one of the most popular spots in town for men to just hang out and talk was at the John Deere lobby. There were a few chairs, coffee, a soda machine, and a few snacks available. When you would walk in to buy parts for a broken down piece of equipment, there was a natural pull towards the corner where the coffee machine was. Men would talk about their day and find out what was happening in the lives of other men. Did the John Deere dealership intentionally set it up this way? Maybe not, but it worked quite well.

Our church in Orlando recently renovated the lobby of one campus in order to accommodate this as well. There is a large space with some high tables where people can talk and grab some coffee before and after services. I’ve had meetings there a few times and often just impromptu conversations. That’s what that space is designed to do.

What is valuable about being the church and meeting in third spaces is that people tend to be a bit more disarmed there. They will talk more openly about their concerns and their failures, and celebrate more vocally their victories and praises. When people feel comfortable with their surroundings and safe in their company, they will open up and become part of the group. This isn’t done accidentally, though. It must be intentionally created, intentionally set up.

For the church, a third space can be the lobby, but it can also be the coffee shop down the street. More importantly, I think a home group that is actually held in someone’s home is a vital third space for the church. This is where people really grow in relationship with others and find the kind of support structure needed to navigate more difficult periods in life. This is also where they can provide support to others when they are in a more comfortable stage.

Third spaces can be quite difficult to maintain. There are fewer boundaries there, which means that the possibility of hurt feelings and damaged relationships increases. Leaders must be intentional about management of these third spaces to minimize the possible issues.

For next time, what about virtual third spaces like Twitter or Facebook?

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Unless you are a church staff member, then most of it takes place inside the building. That may be another interesting topic for later.

I Corinthians / Uncategorized

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