Our elders are reading through Exiles, by Michael Frost, which is stirring up some good discussion. On Monday, we reflected on Frost’s explanation of the “third places” in our lives. Our home/family would be considered a first place. Work is a second place. Third places are those settings in our culture where we connect socially with others. In many rural areas, it’s the local coffee shop or Tim Horton’s. In urban settings, it’s the cafe, Starbucks or a local pub or bar. Shows like “Friends” and the oldy goldy, “Cheers” are classic examples of third places.
For Christians, the church becomes a significant third place in our lives. On one level, this is a good thing. We are encouraged and nourished by the community of faith. But for so many of us, our church involvement also pulls us away from building friendships outside the church. Frost comes down hard on this and says that Christians ought to get out of the church into those third places and build relationships. He gives some pretty creative examples of how Christians are doing this (I like the hip little restaurant called “Hot Dogma”).
I’m intrigued by this concept of the third place, but I have still have questions. I wonder: is it possible to have multiple third places in our lives? What would it look like for a church to be a much more effective “third place?” Is it possible for a church to be both out in the third places of the community but also serve as an effective third place for the community? Like you, my life is already full–what changes would we have to make in the church to encourage relationship-building? What changes would I have to make?