Monday, June 23, 2008

A Third Place

Today I read an article by Mark Batterson that dealt with how the church is and how it isn't changing in our culture. He is the pastor of a church in Washington D.C. (The Website is here) that meets in public places like movie theaters, even though it is a well established church. Batterson describes his church with Old testament jargon, so it requires some explanation. 

In old testament times, there were 2 main places of worship for jews. The Temple, and the tabernacle. The temple was the permanent place where a jew could go and worship the Lord. It was always there and always would be. The tabernacle was mobile. Wherever the cloud of God settled is where the priests would set up the tabernacle. This mobile place of worship is how Batterson describes his church, saying that the building doesn't make the church, but the people do. Also, there are a lot of benefits to meeting in a non-churchy location. (obviously there are cons as well) For example: everyone has gone to see a movie. Therefore, having church in a theater is a safe place psychologically and sociologically. 

Batterson calls for churches to begin to develop "third places" or "postmodern wells". He makes the point that the church has taken a huge step back from effecting culture and the media. We have hunkered down in our christian subculture for fear of corruption or temptation or sin in general. (i'm not really sure which) This isn't what Jesus called us to do in the great commission! As christians, we are supposed to be redeemers to not only people and relationships, but to culture and the world. I think its safe to say that as a whole, the church isn't doing this. Yes there are exceptions, and yes not all parts of culture should be redeemed, but we still aren't doing our jobs! Batterson sums it up nicely by saying, "as long as the church stays on the periphery, our culture will not experience an epiphany."

His church has developed a coffeehouse that sits at the business, cultural, and social crossroads of his community. Smack dab in the middle of downtown, Ebenezer's was just recently rated the #2 coffeehouse in all of Washington D.C. At this coffeehouse they don't have pictures of jesus holding a lamb plastered up on the wall, or have the gospel subtly being pumped through the speakers, but they just want to have a great coffeehouse that can serve a great cup of coffee. The people that work there serve the coffee with a christlike attitude, they don't beat the bible over the patron's heads. And yes, they do use the coffeehouse for church functions, but its primary use is simply a coffeehouse. 

What would the communities that we live in look like if all the resources, time, effort, planning, and manpower that goes into our churches went into a place where we could intersect culture as a church? What does Indianapolis need? A great coffeehouse? A vintage theater? A jazz club? What does Lexington, Kentucky need? A bar that hosts great music? What does Taylor University need? These are the questions that we should be asking! Where can my church intersect the culture that i'm a part of? 

This is the macro ideal, whereas it this question must be played out in the microcosm of our lives. Each person is gifted by God to do different things, and we must play off of those strengths and weaknesses. What makes you feel alive? What is your passion? If you can dance really well, use that for God's glory outside the church on sundays rather than just doing a dance for christians. Artists, make flippin' sweet art in the secular art field and credit it toward God. Open an art studio if that is what your culture needs. 

Jesus didn't hang out in the synagogues, but near the wells, where cultures, society, and people met. Lets follow that example.

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