Please find below my teaching notes for GCC’s Church in the Park event. “Jesus in the Third Place!” (c) 2013, Terry Broadwater.
This is not the usual “place” we gather. This is not a place where you have “church!” This is a place where you have a picnic, play ball, enjoy the playground… But this is most likely the kind of “place” Jesus shared food, fellowship, and the Gospel with large crowds and with his smaller group of disciples! Think of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7…
This is a THIRD PLACE! Let me explain. Ray Oldenburg, in his 1989 book, “The Great Good Place”, proposed the idea of the “third place!” It is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home and the workplace. In our case today, our church building on Clinton Dr. in Centennial!
Oldenburg gave 8 characteristics of “third places”:
Neutral Ground- Occupants of Third Places have little to no obligation to be there. They are not tied down to the area financially, politically, legally, or otherwise and are free to come and go as they please.
Level Playing Field- Third Places put no importance on an individuals status in a society. Someone’s economic or social status does not matter in a Third Place, allowing for a sense of commonality among its occupants. There are no prerequisites or requirements that would prevent acceptance or participation in the Third Place.
Conversation is the Main Activity- Playful and happy conversation is the main focus of activity in Third Places, although it is not required to be the only activity. The tone of conversation is usually light hearted and humorous; wit and good natured playfulness are highly valued.
Accessibility and Accommodation- Third places must be open and readily accessible to those who occupy them. They must also be accommodating, meaning they provide the wants of their inhabitants, and all occupants feel their needs have been fulfilled.
Regulars- Third Places harbor a number of regulars that help give the space its tone, and help set the mood and characteristics of the area. Regulars to Third Places also attract newcomers, and are there to help someone new to the space feel welcome and accommodated.
A Low Profile- Third Places are characteristically wholesome. The inside of a Third Place is without extravagance or grandiosity, and has a homely feel. Third Places are never snobby or pretentious, and are accepting of all types of individuals, from several different walks of life.
The Mood is Playful- The tone of conversation in Third Places are never marked with tension or hostility. Instead, they have a playful nature, where witty conversation and frivolous banter are not only common, but highly valued.
A Home Away from Home- Occupants of Third Places will often have the same feelings of warmth, possession, and belonging as they would in their own homes. They feel a piece of themselves is rooted in the space, and gain spiritual regeneration by spending time there.
Jesus spent most of his time in the “Third Place!” The “third place” is where the best opportunity for cultural and conversational interaction can take place! It’s the local coffee shop, the local rec center, the local bookstore… but it’s not the local church, nor should it be!
Regrettably, the local church believes it is a “third place” but it’s more like a MySpace! Let me explain…
WHY MYSPACE WENT NO PLACE!
Who still has a MySpace account?
Most of us know that Social Media has revolutionized our lives!! There’s Instagram… Pinterest… and it all started with… MySpace!
MySpace, at it’s peak had 75 million users and was worth $12 billion! Now it has less than 25 million users and was purchased in 2011 for $35 million.
MySpace, according to just about every social media expert, is proclaimed to be DEAD! Why? Two reasons: 1) It was too limiting, and 2) It really didn’t change despite “pretending” to change all the time!
Perhaps another reason- MySpace is all about you! We can easily make the case that we live in a culture where no one is really interested in “your space” but only in “their space!” Church can become “my/our space” and that’s probably why no one is interested!
Jesus had a MySpace… but he left his space to come into myspace… Phil. 2: 5-8 (The Message) 5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Jesus came to the “third place!” Our “place” Took our place! We need to bring “Jesus” into the “third place” again, into everyone else’s “space!” Then there’s Facebook!
MY FRIENDS ACCORDING TO FACEBOOK!
Facebook has 1.15 billion users!!! And I’m one of them!! I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that I currently have 2590 “friends” on Facebook… 2500 of which I do not really know personally! I also confess I’ve “unfriended” a few of them too!!
Honestly, I do enjoy Facebook… most likely because it allows me to be egocentric! Facebook is really just that- ME and MY FRIENDS! Because my friends want to see all my pictures and hear about my morning (“The sun is shining today…”)! And my friends can respond and if I don’t like what they say, well I can just delete it… Love Facebook!
Plus, I can stalk people and see what they’re up to without them ever really knowing I’m there… That was weird, right? Yeah, but you do it too!!
Facebook really isn’t a “third place” where there’s a level playing field and people can choose to be “your friend”- just the opposite, I set the “field” and I CHOOSE MY FRIENDS… and I’m selective about it, and so are you.
Please don’t think this is corny, but IF Jesus had a Facebook, he’d invite every person in Denver, every person on this planet, to be his “friend!” Not everyone would accept his invitation, but they are all invited!! And not only that, Jesus has NEVER turned down a “friend request!”
WHY? Because Jesus is the “Friend of Sinners!” And who are sinners? We all are!! Interestingly, Jesus got this title from his religious enemies! Matt. 11:19 The Son of Man… feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” Also note John 8:1-11.
Arn’t you glad Jesus has “friend requested” you?? Let’s bring our Friend, Jesus, into all these “third places” and be friendly so people can meet our Friend! Then let’s put it on Twitter!
TWEETS OR TRUTH?
Twitter!! How people can you get to “follow” you so you can “tweet” messages of great importance of 140 words or less out to these followers! Here’s some great tweets!
- Paris Hilton- “No, No, I didn’t go to England, I went to London!”
- Someone named Stephanie tweeted: “I wanna do something that’s 90% mental and 40% physical!”
- Mr Exposed asked: “Who painted the Mona Lisa?” KeithsTrivia answered, “Leonardo de Caprio!”
- KayJizzle asked: “How far is Georgia from Atlanta?”
- Julie Mason tweeted, “Whoa, the twins are both having their birthday on the same day!”
- Ryan Loco tweeted, “Hard to believe America is 2013 years old!”
- Andrew Boygurne, with a picture of Morgan Freeman, “RIP Nelson Mandela! What a great man!”
- Madame4 tweeted, “Beyonce was born in Houston, not in Texas!”
I DO have a twitter @terrybroadwater, but I do try and get my information correct. And apparently my 255 “followers” are very interested in my 140 words or less of philosophy and other tweet tid-bits! So, how many of you follow me???
That’s Twitter! It’s all about who’s following me and who I am following! In 140 words or less we expound on our life and philosophy to our “followers”! We call them “tweets!” And honestly, as you’ve already heard, most “tweets” can sound like they came from “twits!” “My dog just belched.” “I’m eating chicken right now!” Most of what is tweeted really has nothing to do with anything…
And who wants to “follow” someone who really doesn’t have anything to say?? Could this be why our culture has decided to UNFOLLOW the church? Because we just don’t have much to say that’s more than being simply superficial or hyper-critical??
We waste our 140 words… We need less “tweets” and more “truth!” Jesus “tweeted” one of the most powerful statements and promises ever- he didn’t even need 160 words. In our translation, it only took 29! “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Jn. 3:16
Perhaps we need to follow Jesus simply so we have something worth “retweeting!” If conversation is the main activity of the “third place” then let’s have something worth sharing that will hopefully motivate more people to want to follow the one we’re sharing about!
Jesus in the third place?? Don’t make it MySpace, make it His Space. Don’t make it about my friends, make it about making friends. Don’t make it about sharing tweets, but make it about sharing truth!