How to use your community’s ‘third places’ for the gospel

September 29, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a bit of a shake-up. But one thing that has become evident from this experience is the fact that the church is not a building, and it is not a program. We are the church, and we are called to love and serve both those who are inside and outside the church building.

One way to serve those who are outside the church is through the concept of a “third place,” made popular by Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place. A “third place” is defined as a place where people gather for social interaction and community outside of home (“first place”) and work (“second place”).

For Christians, church is a natural third place where we gather for fellowship, love and a common bond. But for people who are not connected to Jesus, church will never be their third place. So, in order to reach the unreached, we need to learn to use the other third places that exist in our culture.

As an example of using an existing third space to reach unbelievers, we can look to Jesus Himself in His encounter with the woman at the well. During that time, the well was a type of third place where people gathered for social interaction and community.

The ironic twist in this story, however, was that the woman He met was apparently an outcast in her community who came to the well at a time when others would not be there. But after meeting and talking with Jesus, this woman, an outcast, became the catalyst to bring many people from her community to Jesus. And that’s our goal in using third places — to see people connected to Jesus.

In order to reach the unreached, we need to learn to use the other third places that exist in our culture.

As a modern-day example, I live in the suburbs where a natural gathering place for the people and families we are trying to reach in our community is an ice cream shop. The business owner is not a believer, but he has invited us to come and host worship services in his parking lot.

Since we began these services in May 2020, our attendance has doubled and we have seen numerous people become connected to Jesus. Our hope and prayer is that this business owner will also become a believer who continues to take the gospel to this community once we find a permanent church home.

So, where is your third place? Where do people still gather in your area, even in the midst of COVID-19? Just as the prophet Jeremiah was told to instruct the Israelites to seek the welfare of the city to which they were being exiled, we are to seek the welfare of the communities where we live. One way to do that is to go to the places where people naturally gather — their third places — and shine the light of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You may not see results overnight. It will take time to build relationships and earn the trust of those in the community. But now is the time to start. As Jesus told His disciples in John 4:35, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (NIV).


by Corey Alley 
/  Catalyst with Church Planting NC  / Baptist State Convention of North Carolina

Considering a strategic vision for digital engagement

There is a difference between using something and leveraging something. You can use money to buy things you may or may not need. But that does not equate to leveraging it. Leveraging money as an investment could double or triple the initial investment. Using takes something at...

The beauty of adoption

Mom and dad never called me their adopted son. I was just their son. I was born into an unfortunate situation, but I was adopted into a blessed family. In 1966, adoption was not as highlighted in the American church as it is today. In the spring of 1998, I was a seminary student...

5 areas where pastors can grow in the new year

In the optometry profession, 20/20 means clarity or sharpness of vision.    For most people, the year 2020 was anything but clear. In fact, 2020 was as unclear as a year could be because of the repercussions of COVID-19, especially if you are leading in ministry as a pastor.   ...

NC mountain man returns home to plant new church

People say if you live in the North Carolina mountains, they’ll always call you back.   For Michael Childers, that’s pretty much what happened. Except it was God who called him back, not the hills, he says.   Drive to Brevard over in western North Carolina, and then head out of...

Resolve to pray for and encourage your pastor in the new year

Resolve to pray for and encourage your pastor in the new year Happy New Year! I know that those are welcome words for many of us, myself included. Given the events of the past year, we are all ready to return to some semblance of normal, although normal will undoubtedly look...

Speaker added, registration open for 2021 Disciple-making Conference

Church leadership coach, and author Will Mancini has been added to the lineup of speakers for the 2021 N.C. Baptist Disciple-making Conference, which is scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, Feb. 23-24, in a hybrid format. Registration for the conference is now open.   Mancini,...

20 ways to prevent and resolve conflict in the church

The COVID crisis, combined with heightened racial and political tension, has triggered unprecedented conflict throughout our nation, as well as in the local church.   Churches are literally dividing over masks, racial policies and political positions. As a result, pastors are...

How you can be an advocate for life

Throughout Scripture, God demonstrates that He has a particular love for orphans. Psalm 68:5 tells us, “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.” The brother of Jesus Christ, James, informs his readers in his epistle that orphan care is a...

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay connected by signing up for the N.C. Baptist monthly newsletter.

Select Language ^

Share This

Share this with your friends!