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SGtoDC: Location, Location, Location

February 13, 2010

Just enjoying some Journey. The authentic Journey. You know the Steve Perry Journey. Not the Steve Augeri Journey or the Arnel Pineda Journey. No the real band. I really think they were an under appreciated band in the 80’s. I mean I just don’t think they get the love of Foreigner or Boston.

I had planned this post for yesterday to end the week but a three hour stay at the Doctor’s office killed any chance of that happening. Not me or the family, just someone who had a need. (Don’t get me started on government ran healthcare…)

Anyway, let’s continue on this journey, get the play on words there, with a little shift in gears. It is at this point I’m probably really going to get myself into trouble. You see there has been a lot of talk in Christian circles about places. You know what I’m talking about. The third place? That place that isn’t home or work where we build community?

Much is said in the church today about these places. Places to be church in different and unique ways. Much has been made about this shift in thought. My question would be is it really a shift in thought? Are the objectives really that different? Aren’t we really just talking about how to be attractive to a different group of people?

Aren’t all churches trying to BE people’s third place? I know I know, people would say the church is doing a poor job of it. Okay, but we still have not proven that this new way will do any better. It is easy to say, something else to actually do.

I understand the thinking and my bookshelves would tell you I’m inclined to agree. My only point would be that the choice of place is a classic example of what happens in The Princess Bride. Both sides really want to attract, they just have different ideas on how to get that done. Both have there own set of problems. I mean no amount of saying iocane powder comes from Australia will help.

I have recently reconnected with my little from back when I was involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The joy of Facebook. He was bringing me up to speed with his life. What I find interesting is one of the first things he shared was that he had a third place. I didn’t ask, he simply offered. Now he didn’t put it that way but in the end it is exactly what he shared. He has community. A set of beliefs that he feels are true. Good friends and good times. He is not looking for a third place and in fact to be considered a part of his third place you must bow to what they believe to be true.

I personally think we make too big a deal about this. I think we have to be careful that we don’t worry so much about place that we forget it is still about person. The person of Jesus Christ and the people who are lost.

There is irony involved in this place obsession. I once new a group that targeted a certain place. You know one of those cool hip places that seem to fit the place bill when people are looking for a third place. They went to be out with the people until it went out of business. I guess not enough people liked that place.

I know of another place that draws a lot of people. It just seems that many of them all have the same idea about third places. Maybe they all read the same book. It turns out that there are times when the majority of the people in the place are different groups of believers. They are all out there with a bunch of other believers trying to be out there.

A non-believer I know was sharing his experience at the place. He didn’t like going anymore. Said it was overrun with Christians. So all these believers go to this place and they inadvertently turn it into the place they are trying to get away from.

I have another friend whose church started in a quality third place. They started in a bar. Hip hip hooray right? In fact so many people started coming to Christ that they went and built a building. Wait, stop, what about the third place? They have gone so far that today they are even a multi-site church. How could they fall so far? Started at a third place celebrating micro only to build their own place and go macro.

That is just it. How can Christian gathering anywhere not turn such a place into such a place? if we gather for that purpose in that place, to be like Christ something will change. Do we not understand that? As long as we are willing to go to a place and meet on other peoples terms everything is fine, but do we not see that when we change the place to fit our terms that fundamentally changes the place? They could have kept meeting in the bar but at some point something had to give. Either the bar or the church. Third places are a great start but at some point people will either not be interested or become a part of the third place called church.

Years ago when I became a Christian I tried to keep all of the same friends. We certainly had our third places. I found truth in Jesus and I wanted to share it. So I continued to hang out them to all of those same places. I just lived differently. I acted differently not in some judgmental way but still in a very different way. While I tried to be the same guy I was different. Things that I had considered funny at one point I didn’t anymore. Eventually my friends stopped inviting me to those places. They didn’t want me to come. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be with my friends or had some problem with the places. I wasn’t the one who felt uncomfortable.

Yes Christians should be out in the world but the belief that this is somehow the key or why the church is struggling? I don’t think so.

Which brings us to our third way to be an un-attractional church.

We could steal from Dr. Seuss here, well at least something that sounds very Dr. Seuss. We could meet in a garden or we could meet on the street, we could meet in the bathroom or we could meet in the bleet (you know you have to throw in some made up word at some point) and we could go on and on.

Don’t worry about the location. Don’t worry if it is cool or hip or it will be considered attractive to anyone. Stop trying to find just the sort of place where people will want to be or where you can meet people or whatever. Why is it you don’t hear of people making Waffle House their third place? Why is it always some trendy spot with cool lighting or outrageous because we are looking for the a response like, “you meet there.”

Old part of town. Who cares. Bad part of town. Who cares. Nice part of town. So what. Do we understand why McDonald’s and Walmart and the like care so much about location, location, location? Because they are often trying to sell you stuff you don’t need or items you would be better off without. They are trying to get you to do something that you shouldn’t and so they have to position themselves accordingly.

Don’t we believe that Jesus offers life changing truth? How is it that the guy we follow had people following him to remote places and yet we believe people can’t find him anywhere? How is it that we go to those places on their terms when the guy we follow entered theirs on HIS?

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:
” ‘My house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” Mark 11:15-17

To those who might point to Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). Please note that he clearly didn’t water down his message and the text says some sneered and only a few believed and in no way does it say he made the Areopagus his third place.

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