Archive for July, 2010

The Fourth Place

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Recently the idea of the “third place” has become popular in ministry circles. I’ll try to give a quick definition of the concept here. In the US, we live in three places; home, work, and the third place. There are a variety of expression of the third place; the local coffee shop (think Friends), the corner bar (think Cheers), the local lodge (think The Flintstones). The third place is where people go to socialize. It’s the hub location for their “tribe.”

In ministry circles there have been a lot of conversation about how we should make the church the “third place.” This, theoretically, is a good idea. If people are spending their “third place” time at the church they can connect to the community and grow spiritually.

I’m a little leery of this idea. If I’m spending all my time at home, work, and church, when do I engage with people who aren’t Christ-followers? Yes, I know work is a good place to do that. The people there are stuck with me. I will also concede that the workplace is part of our “mission field.” But is it the most effective place to share Christ? I find the conversations that most often turn to spiritual things are not at work. They’re at third places with third place people. If the church were to become my third place then when would I have these conversations?

I think maybe the church should be the fourth place. We should carve time out of our schedules to engage at church and in church activities but not let it monopolize our time outside of work and home. Prioritize church but don’t make church your third place. Find a place where you can naturally build relationships with people who don’t know Christ and use that “third place” time as mission time. Here are a couple of examples:

• Coach soccer (or whatever)
• Study martial arts
• Join a book club

Don’t make church your third place. You’ll miss way too much of what God is doing outside the walls of the church building. Besides, if the church is people, can the church really be a third place or any place at all?

What are some other third places where you’ve been able to share Christ and see God working?

Risk & Reward

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

As a guest speaker it’s always tough to choose a topic. This past weekend I felt God leading me to take a more of a risk than I would normally. I was speaking at Bethany Bible Church in Bellville, MI. This was my fourth time speaking there this summer. The church is in the middle of a big transition right now. They’re senior pastor recently resigned and they are now in the middle of a search for a new pastor.

The safe choice of a topic would have been to talk about prayer, or community, or a well-known beloved Bible passage. Originally that was my plan. My original list of topics included all of those. As I prayed over the list asking for wisdom and guidance none of those topics seemed to work.
I felt God guiding me to talk about leadership. I felt that I should give the church tools to help the search committee identify their next pastor, guidance for the church to pray, and a challenge to everyone there on how to be more effective leaders. I shared the Essential Characteristics of Effective Leadership.

So, why was that a risk? Well, it’s not likely that a talk on prayer or community is going to fall flat. Those are easy topics to preach. Everyone likes to say “amen” to a talk like that. Leadership, on the other hand, doesn’t preach as easy. Not everyone gets excited about leadership. Moreover, most people don’t find leadership lessons immediately applicable. It’s really easy for a talk like that to fall flat on a Sunday morning.

Yet, no risk no reward right? God blessed the message and the worship service in huge ways this weekend. The congregation responded incredibly well to the talk. I have several people come up to me and share how God used the talk to impact them. To top that off, one of the members of the search team told me that the team was meeting that night to discuss the position and review resumes. God’s timing is awesome! It’s a privilege to be a part of what God is doing.
Please pray for Bethany Bible Church as the continue they’re search for a new pastor.