The term ‘Third Place’ was coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book
‘The Great Good Place’. He describes the first place in society as home, the second place as work, and the third places as those environments where people meet to develop friendship, discuss issues, and relax.
Most of us will spend some time each week in a third space, whether it’s the gym, a coffee shop, after work drinks, or even at the hairdressers! Being in third spaces with the intention of practically loving the people you meet might not be something you’ve thought much about. In the busyness of life it is easy to miss these opportunities to develop friendship and share Jesus’ love in the day to day.
Yet we have found that in third spaces, people are less distracted and more relaxed. In taking time out for themselves, they are often open to sharing, and intimate conversation flows more freely in these environments. Over time, as friendships develop, sharing the love of Jesus in practical ways, thoughtful words and prayer becomes a natural part of our time there.
There are three reasons why we think Christians should be in third spaces….
Firstly, it’s where we are! It looks different for all of us but most of us have a place where we go to unwind and recuperate; chats over coffee and cake with mums after the school run, ambling conversations on the golf course on a Saturday morning, mutual appreciation of a gruelling workout after a spin class, or popping to the local for a pint or to watch the footie.
Secondly, it’s where people are! In third spaces we are thrown together with people we probably wouldn’t meet at home or at work. People who for the most part are also unlikely to go to church. It is often the last place people expect to have a God encounter. And yet, we find as people open up about their circumstances and struggles, they are often searching for spiritual meaning in their lives. These are opportunities to be a compassionate listening ear and to love people in radical ways.
Thirdly, it’s where God is! We have had people say to us,“I can’t imagine God would love a place like this!” But we believe that it is our role as disciples to ‘bring out the God colours and flavours in the world around us.’ (Matthew 5:13-16 The Message). There is no place that God is not present and as we meet people on neutral ground, sow the seeds of the Good News, something begins to shift and people become aware of His presence. We believe Jesus is in these third spaces and is asking us to join Him. To reflect His presence to those who have yet to encounter His love.
Over the coming weeks various members of the Third Space Ministries team are going to be sharing in greater depth why we do what we do. Every week in third spaces, we meet people from all walks of life and see God meet them in wonderful and unexpected ways and we look forward to sharing some of these stories.
We hope that you find them encouraging, that they inspire you as you share Jesus’ love in your third spaces.