During our evening service last Sunday we listened to Dr. Alvin Reid encourage us to have gospel conversations instead of making presentations. During his talk, he mentioned the power of meeting in a third place. These are coffee shops, trendy sandwich boutiques, or the corner drug store with some booths. The third place is just that. Somewhere you go that isn’t your home (first place), your work or place of worship (second places).
A few nights ago, I went with Christy to Nashville so she could visit some of her students. We stopped at Panera for a salad in between hospitals. Sitting to the right of me were two groups of young ladies. One group of four had their iProducts open and their earbuds in; each listening to their different shows, musical tracks, or school projects in Garageband. They didn’t say a word the whole time we were there, yet they appeared to be happy.
The other group of six were having a Bible study. Each had their Bibles open to a passage and were deeply engrossed in study. Their silence amongst the noise of the restaurant was intriguing. For what seemed like ten minutes, but was probably only two, the group quietly read and contemplated what must have been some sort of question that had been asked prior to our arrival. I listened as one of the young ladies asked questions designed to simulate conversation. Their answers were peppered with humor, seriousness, and contemplation. They too appeared to be happy.
I commented to Christy that the girls seemed to really be enjoying themselves. She agreed. I told her that I really liked the third place. I like meeting people in loud, crowded coffee shops. I enjoy the smells of brewing coffee, freshly baked pastries, and the sound of the chair sliding back and forth as people come and go.
It smells like relationships. It is the sound of life. The coming and going of people reminds me of the enormous task the believer has in sharing the gospel.
The third place allows for a spouse to not worry if the clothes are picked up. It enables one to drop their guard as two people simply talk about life over a cup of coffee or a bread bowl of potato soup. It gives a new believer the sense of security as they meet with a wiser, more mature believer in an environment other than a church facility, a pastor’s study, or a busy home.
The third place brings a sense of normalcy to a fledgling discipleship relationship and it abounds in evangelistic opportunities for both the Paul and his/her Timothy. It allows opportunities to practice the discipline of prayer; both with another believer and for the lost around the two of you or your group. The third place also provides a gospel witness. As you sit with your believing or seeking friend, those around you will glance over at your open Bible, journal, or study material with wonder and may be thinking to themselves, “I wonder if someone would join me in a study like this?” or “If what they are talking about is true, should I consider talking to that pastor down the road who stops by once a year?”
Are you meeting someone in a third place? How has your experience been? What type of third place is best for you? Is this something you would like to try? Find a believing friend and teach one another to disciple a new believer using Billy Hanks’ material entitled A Call to Joy and then A Call to Growth. He has an 8-session guide that’ll take you through the material in a training fashion. Another great resource is the discipleship material from CGI. Start with the red book, move on to the green one, followed by Galatians. Any kind of material used to multiply yourself, enjoy fellowship, and learn effective evangelism is great with which to begin. Contact me and I’d be glad to share with you the experiences I’ve had in a third place!
We love social media! Facebook and Twitter for people my age, and instafeed and snapfish for the younger folks. (Just kidding. I try to be consistent with my purposeful mess-ups with these for my daughter's benefit.) Social media tells us what is important to our friends, gives us school and weather updates, and encourages us to share articles and news stories. It also lets us know who fell for the latest fake news article, who thinks Jesus will be upset with them if they didn't share with 25 friends, and who among your Christian friends have a potty mouth.
Today, I was excited to see that it was #nationalroastday with @wendys. They are hilarious! I also learned yesterday that a ministry I was interested in following likes to repost a popular heretical pastor, and a senior adult friend likes to post "flattering" pics of themselves online for us to enjoy.
Social media is fun, informative, and helpful. At the same time it can be addictive, personally harmful, and disappointing. I'm of the generation where the computer was introduced to us probably in middle school. No Internet, dot matrix printers, and rounded screens with pixels you could actually see. My computer skills have "evolved" over time. In college I was laughed at because I didn't know how to turn my computer on in the lab. We were late to the scene with smart phones. But here we are. I've made it after all!
I've also learned many lessons about social media. Many the hard way.
I've dialogued with people on Facebook in an unhealthy manner. I've allowed people's posts to change my mood for the day. I've posted things I wasn't proud of later. But I've learned some lessons that I pray I don't have to learn again.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.